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Remembered Today:

We the Russian People 1965 premiered January 31 1966 Moscow Russia MUST SEE FILM ON EASTERN FRONT from the SOVIET COLD WAR ERA


John Gilinsky

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Whilst there are usually a short few minutes or less duration of scenes in a variety of movies both Eastern European and otherwise including Western depicting front line life or combat on the Eastern front(s) here is a gem of a movie produced during 1965 and premiered in Moscow Russia on January 31, 1966 "We the Russian People" which plays for just over 2 hours.  The script, most of the acting, general historical accuracy at least for the visuals and direction and cinematography are of a very high standard and stand the test of time despite or indeed arguably because the film was produced when it was.  The 50th Anniversary of WWI outbreak 1964 etc... did not go completely unnoticed in the former Soviet Union.  The Russian spring from the post-mortem Stalinist period and loosening also in part caused by modern technologies such as television, further Soviet citizens being exposed outside non-communist influences for better or for worse, etc...along with the "socialist realism" stamp of cultural orthodoxy coalesce into a fascinating what I currently believe to be a semi-repressed movie.  I have not done further research in this last but I believe that despite clearly a propaganda film showing how good natured if flawed the people were (read the male soldiers or masses of peasantry as well as the officers) all of the characters are portrayed as believable imperfect human beings.  All are caught up in war, death, suffering, revolution, breakdown of their social norms/society, etc....  

 

Do not prejudge, stereotype or simply dismiss this as just another Soviet era propaganda film which of course it is.  Rather watch, listen and reflect with an open mind as to how the Russian army and the soldiers and officers in the front lines likely responded as events unfolded from the winter of 1916 to the spring of 1917.  

 

Unfortunately currently there is NO English language version and no English language subtitles but the visuals and your prior understandings will be both enhanced by watching and re-watching this fascinating film.  This film graphically illustrates such modern book titles as "Cannon Fodder..."(in Russian) and "Bayonets Before Bullets..."

 

https://yandex.ru/video/preview?text=%D0%9C%D1%8B%2C%20%D1%80%D1%83%D1%81%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B9%20%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B4%20%281965%29.&path=wizard&parent-reqid=1599337610924584-13491289701393652500280-production-app-host-vla-web-yp-19&wiz_type=vital&filmId=7926301286901349987

 

John Gilinsky

Toronto

 

 

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Thanks, John : that’s an interesting contribution, appreciated.

 

I remember watching - in the mid 1960s -  that David Lean film Doctor Zhivago, which was pretty contemporaneous with the film you’ve provided us here.  The Great War scenes in that lovely film were only short vignettes, but they  made their impact.

 

What I’ve seen from your pitch is a wide array of different sequences, so I just selected a five minute battle scene to get the flavour.  It was definitely “ caricatured “, and depicted the primitive equipment and the terrifically hierarchical authority of the officer class over the peasant soldiers.  I note that the Germans were wearing the spiked helmets  we associate with the earlier part of the war, so I wonder whether the thing is erroneous if it’s supposed to be the winter of 1916-17, or if it’s conforming to the stereotype pickelhaube depicting Imperial Germany .

 

I think you’re right to emphasise the thing as best assessed against the prevailing Soviet conditions of that time.

 

I wonder how it will compare with current Russian perceptions.

 

The sequence showing the soldiers struggling through the wire entanglements is very effective.  

 

I look forward to doing this justice and watching it properly.

 

Again, my thanks.

 

Phil

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1 minute ago, phil andrade said:

Thanks, John : that’s an interesting contribution, appreciated.

 

I remember watching - in the mid 1960s -  that David Lean film Doctor Zhivago, which was pretty contemporaneous with the film you’ve provided us here.  The Great War scenes in that lovely film were only short vignettes, but they  made their impact.

 

What I’ve seen from your pitch is a wide array of different sequences, so I just selected a five minute battle scene to get the flavour.  It was definitely “ caricatured “, and depicted the primitive equipment and the terrifically hierarchical authority of the officer class over the peasant soldiers.  I note that the Germans were wearing the spiked helmets  we associate with the earlier part of the war, so I wonder whether the thing is erroneous if it’s supposed to be the winter of 1916-17, or if it’s conforming to the stereotype pickelhaube depicting Imperial Germany .

 

I think you’re right to emphasise the thing as more than a mere expression of  prevailing Soviet conditions and perceptions of that time.....although that Is, of course, an attribute of the film.

 

I wonder how it will compare with current Russian perceptions.

 

The sequence showing the soldiers struggling through the wire entanglements is very effective.  

 

I look forward to doing this justice and watching it properly.

 

Again, my thanks.

 

Phil

 

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Definitely one for the watchlist and shot in 70mm I believe, a format quite popular in the 1960s (known as Sovscope in the Soviet Union). The format is hardly used today Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight' was the first American film shot in 70mm Cinerama since 1970. Thanks for the tip John.

Edited by ajsmith
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Tanks Phil and Tony.  Yes there are historical inaccuracies and remember this is a dramatic film.  The film script was based on a well known indeed Stalin Prize for Literature 1941 award Soviet soldier, military journalist Vsevolod Vitalievich Vishnevsky (1900 - 1950) of his novel of the same film title and

who was a combatant participant in the First World War, the Revolution and took part in the defence of Leningrad WW2.  It is important to remember that 2 out of the 3 scriptwriters were women and that other factors I contend helped to contribute to an overall excellent script where human emotions grounded in multiple conflicts coalesce in a cinematic representation of realistic and believable portrayals thereby elevating this film far above the typical yeah yeah workers paradise propaganda.  Note for example how the people are portrayed with faults: drunkenness, pride, indifference, base pleasures, lack of self-control whilst always present are how is one to exist on the Eastern Front to fulfill ones basic necessities: food, water, shelter, clothing ....  

John

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  • 5 weeks later...

Luke I quite understand the hesitancy given the cited URL but unfortunately I have not tried to search for another URL that may be ... cough, cough, more secure!  You might wish to watch and download it on an institutional computer to a USB stick (perhaps even a fresh virgin one!) and test for any bad stuff!  Sorry but that is the best that I can do right now -!

John

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James A Pratt III

Note the Germans were still wearing the old spiked helmet on the Eastern Front in the 1916-17 period. The stell helmet was first issued to troops on the Western front in the summer of 1916 the Eastern front troops did not get them until 1917.

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I do not think that this calendar year distinction between 1916 and 1917 for spiked helmets withdrawals for the vast majority of German and AH troops is correct.  I noticed this as well: could have been in 1960s Soviet Russia that wearing captured WW2 helmets would have been unsettling; or that there were no available WW1 or WW1 plus German style helmets to be had.  However I truly believe that the real value in this 1960s production is the circumstances and contexts of its production and the visual and visceral portrayal of the near and imminent collapse of a particular infantry unit and the social costs of the war.  Everything from war trauma, war hunger, war discipline, family disruptions, etc... are admittedly portrayed within a propaganda vehicle (may make interesting comparisons to similar propaganda films certain scenes emotionalism appealing for family partriotism such as Kolberg 1944-1945 etc...).  

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