Attack on Leningrad (2009)

 

 

 

Director:     Aleksandr Buravsky. 

Starring:    Gabriel Byrne (Phillip Parker), Mira Sorvino (Kate Davis), Aleksandr Abdulov (Chigasov), Vladimir Ilin (Malinin), Mikhail Efremov (Omelchenko), Mikhail Trukhin (Vernik), Evgeniy Sidikhin (Korneyev), Olga Sutulova (Nina Tsvetkova - militiaman), Kirill Lavrov (Radio announcer), Armin Mueller-Stahl (Von Leeb), Alexander Beyer (Walter Graf von Hoesdorff), Aleksandr Filippenko (Arkatov), Mariya Golubkina (Ageyeva), Sergey Nikonenko (Artillery captain), Valentina Talyzina (Valentina).

a Russian film of the Nazi siege of Leningrad in the winter of 1941

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

September, 1941, Russia, three months into the war.  Leningrad suburbs.  A couple of army trucks are trying to use the muddy road on a rainy day, while a man and woman up front yell at the fleeing refugees to move out of the way and let the army vehicles pass.  The trucks stop and men with rifles jump out of the back of the vehicles.  The men are brought to the trenches where fierce fighting is going on.  The trenches are not deep enough to provide good protection from the bullets of the enemy.  The lady yelling for people to get out of the way speaks with Lt. Gorkin.  She tells him she is Sgt. Tsvetkova and she brings him the new orders.  The lieutenant asks if they have run out of men and are now sending women to fight?  The sergeant explains that the messenger was killed. 

Now the civilian replacements (businessmen, workers, old men  -- it's quite the collection of different men) are brought over.  Lt. Gorkin is shocked at the low caliber of "soldiers" he has been sent.  He yells at Sgt. Tsvetkova saying that he did not ask for professors and students!  The sergeant shoots back that he is to take his men and attack.  The lieutenant responds:  "Shut your mouth, you snot-nose brat!"  She in turn grabs her pistol and places the barrel up to his neck saying:  "I have my orders too, lieutenant."  Gorkin pushes the pistol away and goes to work. 

The men follow Gorkin in the attack.  It seems fool-hardy because the Nazi soldiers are already attacking them.  The two groups meet together and the fighting is intense.  One civilian tries to creep back to the trenches but Tsvetkova yells at him to go back.  She shoots at him twice to warn him that she will kill him if he doesn't turn around.  He turns around, while Tsvetkova gets out of the trenches yelling:  "No more retreating!  Enough!  For the motherland!  For Stalin!  For Leningrad!" 

Gorkin thinks the Germans are retreating and starts to chase them, but all of a sudden huge German tanks go to the attack.  The civilians start running as some of them get run over by the tanks.  The lieutenant grabs a grenade and runs in front of a tank and throws the grenade right at the most vulnerable spot on a German tank, just below the turret. 

Hitler talks to his generals, saying that he is very disappointed because the military promised him that Leningrad (St. Petersburg) would fall to the Germans in July.  And now it's September.  A general tells Hitler that they have Leningrad completely surrounded.  This does not calm Hitler down a bit.  He says that he is moving the mass of German power to Moscow and Von Bok will lead the first and sixth tank divisions.   Gen. Von Leep is sweating and has to pause to wipe his forehead with a handkerchief.  Now Hitler introduces the group to a deputy secretary of the department of the army, who was promoted from his position as head of the Munich Food and Nutrition Institute.  The fellow starts saying that a person needs 2,000 calories per day in order to function effectually.   Right now the Russians are only receiving 500 calories per day. 

Up on a lookout tower, Tsvetkova yells down that the Germans are digging in .  She is ecstatic yelling:  "We've stopped them!!!"

The deputy secretary says with three months of siege around Leningrad two million Russians will die.  And that will be the end of Leningrad. 

Central Telegraph Office, Moscow.  The situation with the food is that only one in twenty barges with relief supplies makes it to Leningrad.  German planes bomb and strafe a dock where men are off-loading supplies. 

Moscow, Hotel Savoy.  A band and a singer perform for a large group of dancers at the Hotel Savoy.  Among the dancers are Phillip Parker, a foreign correspondent, and Kate Davis, also a foreign correspondent by for right now having to be the telegraph operator.  Kate thinks she is going to get to go to the front with Phillip, but he tells her he tried, but there's just no way she can go to the front.  This makes Kate mad and she stops dancing with Phillip saying that she forgot about her real dancing partner. Her parting shot is that she will see Phil in Leningrad. 

Leningrad, two weeks later. The city continues to be shelled and bombed.  An official tells his men that foreign reporters are coming and there are to be no bread lines that they can see.  Among the men is Sgt. Tsvetkova.

Leningrad Communist Party HQ (Smolny).  Food is running out in Leningrad.  The journalists are there, including Kate Davis.  The journalists are to be divided into two groups to lessen the danger of all the foreign correspondents being wiped out at once.  Phil and Kate wind up in two different groups. 

Sgt. Tsvetkova sees Kate coming over to her group and she yells for everyone to hide!  She herself hides in an alleyway.  Kate comes over, drops her bag, bends down to pick it up and sees Tsvetkova's shoes.  She is about to investigate when another reporter grabs her, telling Kate that they have to go now! 

Gen. Von Leep comes out to the airport.  He is with his nephew Walter, who is a first rate pilot.  Uncle tells Walter to be thinking of getting that second cross medal.  Walter asks if Hitler has decided not to wipe Leningrad off the face of the earth?  Uncle replies that the change of plan has to do with the meaningless resistance of the Russians in Leningrad. 

A guide shows the foreign reporters a tiny bit of the battlefield with a ruined tank and dead soldiers on the ground. 

An air raid siren sounds in Leningrad and Tsvetkova and the others have to make sure people get down into the air raid shelters. 

Brought out in a bus, Kate takes photographs of the dead German faces.  When asked, she says she is not freaked out because she worked on the crime beat for two years and saw lots of dead bodies. 

The German planes arrive over Leningrad and start doing their damage. At the same time planes drop bombs in the area of the bus.  The Russians try to get all the correspondents back on the bus, but Kate is delayed as she yells at a reporter named Korneyev who is busy grabbing German war souvenirs, to stop it and get to the bus.  It's too late, Kate is caught out in the open and as the bombs start landing she has to run away from the bus.  She yells to her colleague to get away from the wreckage, but it's too late.  A bomb lands near him and blows him away from the wreckage. 

Tsvetkova asks her friend Ageeva where is she off to?  Ageeva explains that the bus with the foreign correspondents was hit and they have to give assistance.  The boss comes over and tells Tsvetkova to stay behind and if anyone calls to tell them that all the staff has gone out to render assistance. 

Phil arrives back on a different bus and he immediately asks what happened to the Kate's bus?  The fellow running the operation with the foreign correspondents says that her bus was hit by German airplanes.  He says he's sorry and goes on about his business. 

Kate is still alive.  She must have fallen into a bomb crater.  She sees a truck coming, rushes out to the road and collapses. The truck just stops in front of the body in the road.  Meanwhile, Phil hears the announcement that all foreign correspondents must get on the plane now because they have to get to Moscow before dawn..  The truck that picked up Kate is filled with Russian peasants.  They are shocked when Kate speaks in English.  One woman tells the others that this girl is not Russian. 

Ageeva tells Tsvetkova that they have caught someone suspicious.  So Tsvetkova says they should meet this "spy".  Of course, the "spy" is Kate Davis.  Tsvetkova recognizes her right away and is glad that she was found alive. 

Tsvetkova drives Kate in the side care of the motorcycle to get her back to the airport.  The airplane starts to take off.  It flies over the head of Kate.  Kate watches as the plane flies overhead. 

An official explains the desperate food situation for the residents and soldiers of Leningrad.  The last food will run out in nine days.  Stalin is shocked by the low number of days, but resigns himself to it saying:  "Nine days it is then."

Kate wakes up when a young boy named Yura watching her drops his chest set.  She asks if he is alright and he says yes.  The boy says that Tsvetkova asked him to look after her while she goes to speak to her boss.  Tsvetkova tells the boss to call headquarters immediately and tell them that they have English foreign correspondent Kate Davis and find out what they should do with her.  The boss, however, doesn't call.  He says he already reported to the higher-ups that he personally identified the dead body of an Englishwoman.  And now the woman shows up.  What are they going to do? 

The boss asks Tsvetkova to put her gun and gun belt on the table.  He then asks her where is the correspondent?  Tsvetkova refuses to answer because she is afraid that the boss will just kill Kate.  She finally says that the Englishwoman is still in the side car of the motorcycle.  When they see the motorcycle, Kate is not there.  Tsvetkova says that she must have run away.  The boss warns Tsvetkova that she is playing with fire.  Tsvetkova goes home and talks with Kate. 

Back at the Hotel Savoy Phil drinks as he thinks about Kate. He turns off the light and gets ready to be flown to London.  In London Phil will tell Kate's parents that their daughter is dead. 

Tsvetkova makes up a false passport for Kate.  She is to be a Spanish communist that escaped the bloody hell of the fascist Franco regime. Tsvetkova also tells Kate that Kate Davis is dead in all the government paperwork and that cannot be changed.  She must assume this false identity for she has no other choice. 

A bomb drops near Tsvetkova and a loud group of protestors protesting that the bread rations have been cut once again.  The people think that it is not a bomb, but something sent to them by the Germans.  They want to go over and look at it. Tsvetkova tries to hold them back, but they just get closer and closer.  Tsvetkova says it's a bomb on a time delay.  The people want to find out for themselves.  All of a sudden the bomb goes off  killing quite a few people.   

There is another air raid.  A statue of Lenin is destroyed. 

The people are slowly starving because there is so little to eat.  The little chess playing boy, Yura, just laid on the couch the whole day and didn't redeem his food coupons.  His mother gives his sister three slices of bread, but Yura only one.  Maybe she thinks Yura is going to die soon.  Kate goes to his room and gives him a piece of chocolate.

Tsvetkova gives Kate a typewriter so she can write her reports.  The two women drink some vodka, listen to music and dance.  Tsvetkova asks Kate for advice about men.  After that, she tells Kate that none of them are going to get out of Leningrad alive.  The blockade will never end. 

Eastbourne, England.  Phil goes to visit Kate's father and stepmother.  It turns out that Kate's father was a White general during the Russian Civil War following the Communist Revolution in Russia.  The Soviet officials discover a newspaper article Phil wrote in England about the death of Kate Davis and find out that Kate's father was the famous "enemy of the people". 

Now Tsvetkova's boss finds out about the White general being the father of Kate Davis.  He trips Tsvetkova walking in the snow and she plops down on a heap of snow.  He tells her what he found out and says that there is somebody hiding the woman, probably out of ignorance.  But now that everyone knows, anyone harboring this Kate Davis will be a crime against the people.  He walks away from Tsvetkova.

Kate talks with Yura's mother.  She says it is not right to give half of Yura's share of his food to his sister.  Mom just says that Yura, she herself and probably Kate will die, but her little girl still has a chance to live. 

An opera singer, Anastasia Andreevna, owns the house where Kate is staying.  Her servant tells her that the store refused their coupons today and the only thing she could get on the black market was an onion.  The cost of the onion was two fancy earrings. 

Gen. Von Leep estimates that Leningrad will be finished in about three weeks.  And the situation in Leningrad is very terrible.  Kate took Anastasia's ring to exchange for some food for Yura.  Anastasia complains to Tsvetkova about the theft.  When Kate returns, Tsvetkova forces her to put her hands on the wall.  The can of meat she traded for falls to the floor.  Tsvetkova questions Kate saying that she is a spy.  Of course, Kate easily argues that accusation away.  Meanwhile, Yura consumes the meat from the can.   

Thieves see Anastasia leaving her building for good.  She and the other actors are being evacuated from the city.  The thieves break into her apartment and start taking everything of value.  The servant, who is the mother of Tsvetkova, and Yura's little girl arrive back at the apartment and the thieves prepare to greet them. 

Tsetkova tells Kate that from now on, she doesn't know her.  After all, on paper Kate is already dead.  If Kate survives, good.  She adds:  "Do your best."

Yura develops a bad stomach ache.  He starts throwing up the food.  Kate goes in to check on Yura. 

Yura's mother tells Anastasia that Kate asked her to get a note to a journalist in London.  Anastasia is still here.  She was the only one not shipped to Kazakhstan.   Anastasia looks at the note and sees that it is addressed to Phil Parker in care of the Hotel Savoy, to be given to the New York Times Foreign Bureau.  Yura's mother tells Anastasia that they are flying out the actors tomorrow and asks if Anastasia will fly out with her?  All of a sudden, the two thieves come bursting out of the building door followed by Tsvetkova.  She shoots one of the men, but another gets away.  She chases after this man.  The man slips into a building.  Tsvetkova follows him and gets hit on the head with a pipe.  Her thick hat protects her from real harm and she is able to kick the man off her. She now chases him shooting and missing.  Tsvetkova catches up with the fellow and sees that the fellow is a teen-ager and she turns her back to him.  He grabs his knife and tries to stab her, but she then kills him with a brick to the head over and over again. 

Tsvetkova returns to the apartment to find her mother dead.  She cries over her mother.  People are dying in Leningrad and the bodies are lying in the streets. 

Kate uses the typewriter to write the story of the siege of Leningrad. 

Von Leep speaks with his nephew Walter who has asked for a furlough.  The general says that Walter has been seen drunk quite a number of times and he is avoiding flying more missions.  Walter doesn't like bombing "starving grandmothers".  Von Leep gets mad at Walter and tells him today he will fly! 

Tsvetkova walks with Anastasia to her pick-up point to make sure she is not accosted.  Anastasia gives Tsvetkova the key to her jewelry box, but Tsvetkova says she doesn't need anything.  Anastasia tells her that she wants to insure that Tsvetkova and the others in her little group survive.  Tsvetkova accepts the key.  They both start crying. 

Walter flies over Leningrad.  It's his turn to dive down and strafe the streets.  Walter flies straight for the Russian anti-aircraft gun.  The gun fires and hits Walter's plane  -- suicide by anti-aircraft gun. 

Stalin and his military staff decide to send out from Leningrad three groups of soldiers, twelve in each group to immediately "foot-search across the lake".

Kate gets up in the morning and is there to see Sonia, Yura's mother, die.

Kate sits on a bench outside and has a delusion that Phil is there telling her to get on the airplane.  A little later she has more delusions.  She sees Sonia still alive and calling to her.  As she slowly walks down a street a man who has a car sees her and recognizes her.  It is the journalist Korneyev that was picking up souvenirs when a bomb went off.  Somehow, he, like Kate, survived.  He tells her to get in the car.  There is a plane she can get on with him.  Kate gets in and they drive by her apartment building.  She tells the driver to stop.  Kate gets out of the car. Her colleague begs her to get back in the car, but she goes to get the children.  She is so weak that she can't climb the stairs.  Her colleague has to drive away in order to make the plane. 

Tsvetkova is in one of the three groups selected to try and find a safe way across the iced lake.  One of her group, Sanya, falls through the ice and Tsvetkova does her all to complete a rescue. 

Kate's colleague informs the Russians that Kate is still alive and in Leningrad.  He now wants to fly back to Leningrad to get her, but the official tells him to go catch a flight out  -- he will take care of Kate.  Kate stands outside her apartment building.  Someone grabs her food coupons.  She tries to chase after the thief, but falls over a raised piece of earth.  She sees a man cutting off the leg of a dead person to engage in cannibalism in order to survive. 

Kate keeps typing her story of Leningrad under siege.  She tells Sonia's two children that she gave the wrong address in her note to her colleague.  The kids talk about it being their time to die. 

Some Soviet official in Leningrad now goes to that false address, but realizes that the address is wrong. 

Tsvetkova returns alive.  Only eight of the skiers returned to Leningrad.  Now the Soviets are trying to evacuate the skiers to safety.  Then the trucks will return with food supplies.  The trucks are ready to pull out, but Tsvetkova says she must get her family.  Kate grabs the last of their food and tells the kids they are going to get on one of those trucks.  The problem is that everyone is so weak that they can't get outside. 

In Moscow Korneyev finds Phil Parker.  He hands Phil a note, then turns and leaves.  The note says:  "Tomorrow Kate will be at Lake Ladoga  --  Be there!"  Phil runs after Korneyev only to see men in a car deliberately run him down . Apparently, the Soviet officials are trying to kill everyone who knows anything about Kate.  Another of their targets is Tsetkova, but she has been "transferred out".  

Yura and his sister Sima  tell Kate to leave them behind and save herself.  It's her only real option. 

Tsvetkova's boss asks her to take his little girl with her.  She agrees to take Dasha with her.  All of a sudden, Tsetkova sees Kate in the crowd.  Only Sima is with her.  Kate was too weak to carry Yura down the stairs. 

Lake Ladoga, eastern shore.  A car pulls up at the point where the trucks are crossing the lake.  Phil Parker is riding in the passenger seat. 

The trucks stop and everyone gets off.  Phil looks for Kate.  They see each other and they come together.  They hug.  Tsvetkova comes up on the lake bank with two girls. 

The Soviet assassins are desperate to locate Kate.  The leader is afraid that tomorrow Kate will show up at the British Embassy. 

Kate talks to Tsvetkova about her going back and bringing Yura out.  Tsvetkova, however, tells Kate that she has to go back to Leningrad, but that they won't let her come out again.  Kate says goodbye to Sonia's little girl and then gets on the truck with Tsvetkova going back to Leningrad.  She yells goodbye to a bewildered Phil. 

In 1964 Sima tracked down Phil Parker and informed him of Kate's fate. 

Annual Siege of Leningrad Commemoration Day, 1965.  A white-haired Phil and Sima walk along the sidewalk.  Yura rushes up to them and greets Sima and then introduces himself to Phil.  Phil is a little shocked because he did not think Yura had survived. They go to a memorial wall where they see the name of Tsvetkova Nina Konstantinovna, 1915-1943. 

"The siege of Leningrad lasted 882 days.  Over 1,500,000 people died.  On January 27th 1944, Leningrad was liberated by the Soviet army.  Nina Tsvetkova was killed during a Nazi air raid in 1943 in Leningrad.  Kate Davis continued to share her food rations with Yuri Krasko to keep him alive.  She became so weak that she died in 1943." 

 

Good movie and a sad one.  The Germans have virtually surrounded Leningrad and are slowly starving the city residents to death.  There are scenes of great suffering among the residents of the city, including a case of cannibalism. I always wondered what exactly happened at Leningrad and now I know.  We always hear about the great victory of the Soviets at Stalingrad, but not much of anything about the other cities like Leningrad and Moscow.  The film is also a love story between two foreign war correspondents in Leningrad.  And it's a story about the love of a family for each of its members and even about friendship that becomes love for the suffering children of the family.  Some of the everyday people of Leningrad become real heroes when they stand up for right against wrong, while many others around them are engaging in theft and other criminal acts.  The film kept my interest throughout and I liked every bit of it.  Mira Sorvino (Kate Davis) was good and Olga Sutulova (Nina Tsvetkova) was excellent in their roles. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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