The Fall of Berlin:  The Restored Soviet Two-Part WW 2 Epic (1949)

 

 

 

Director:     Mikhail Chiaureli.

Starring:     Mikheil Gelovani (Joseph Stalin) and Boris Andreyev (Alexei Ivanov).

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

 

Part One. 

School children run through the field and pick flowers.  Lenya has brought a huge bouquet for the teacher.  The teacher suggests that they go to the steel plant. 

In the steel plant a manager asks the foreman Aliosha how much steel did he produce during this shift?  The manager says that Aliosha is an industrial hero and that the foreman just broke a company record. 

The teacher and the children arrive at the plant.  Teacher says that the first metallurgical plants in Russia were built by Tsar Peter!  Peter the Great.  A reporter named Kostya comes over to asks if the teacher knows about Aliosha and his setting a world record for the production of steel?  No, they hadn't heard about that.

The news about Aliosha gets printed in the newspaper Pravda.  The secretary of the steel plant is all enthused about the news.  She goes in to see her boss Vasili Vasilevich.  She tells him that their steel plant has been decorated with the Order of the Labor Red Banner!  Celebrating people come in with the newspaper.  Aliosha Ivanov has been rewarded with the Order of Lenin. 

The workers give Aliosha flowers and plenty of congratulations.  The teacher and her students are there to congratulate the boss too.  Vasili tells the teacher that tonight she will give a speech about Comrade Ivanov at the club.  The teacher says she's not prepared to give a speech  Vasili says it's alright, go see the hero's mother and she will tell you everything about him. 

Mother tells the teacher that the family has been steel makers for generations.  They came originally from the Ural Mountains area.  Her son was born on the day of the revolution, October 25, 1917. 

The teacher, Natasha, gives a good speech that is met with a standing ovation.  Aliosha and his mother thank Natasha for the great speech.  Aliosha walks her to her house.  He invites her to the concert tomorrow.  She accepts. 

Natasha thoroughly enjoys the playing of the pianist, who she knows.  After he plays, Aliosha leaves his seat and the pianist sits down beside Natasha.  They watch the next performances together.  Sometime into the performance she realizes that Aliosha has left.  She looks a bit distressed at the situation.  Aliosha leaves the concert and goes down by the river.

Aliosha is still upset about the concert and he tells the boss that he wants to go on a vacation right now.  The boss says he's in luck, because they are both flying to Moscow.  There Aliosha will meet Stalin himself.  This makes Aliosha very nervous, but the boss says Aliosha doesn't need to speak at all because Stalin will be speaking to him. 

Stalin works a little bit in his garden.  An aide tells him that the steelmaker has arrived. Aliosha gets so frightened that he almost runs away.  Stalin greets him warmly.

Aliosha is back home and walks with Natasha through a field.  Natasha says that when he was away she didn't sleep at night.  Aliosha replies that he told Stalin that he loves Natasha.  Natasha says she loves him very much.  They laugh and hug each other.  Just then planes fly overhead.  Then they start dropping bombs.  Then German troops invade the village.  A bomb is dropped near Aliosha and he is hit by shrapnel from it.  He falls down.  The Nazis take the village. 

Three months later.  Kostya goes to see Aliosha in the hospital.  He tells Aliosha that the German are now marching toward Moscow.  Aliosha wants to know how could it have happened so quickly?  Kostya tells him that he has been out of it for three long months.  Aliosha demands to know about Natasha?  She's still alive, but the Germans hanged the kids from her school.  They took Natasha to Germany.  Aliosha gets out of bed.  He doesn't care about the production at the factory now.  He says his job now is to kill Fritzes.

Stalin listens as he hears how the German 3rd and 4th Panzer Divisions are moving up to the northwest of Moscow.  The leader says the Germans want to attack Moscow from two directions, but their blitzkrieg has failed.  In the center is the 4th German Army.  In the south at Tula is Guderian's 2nd Tank Division. In all about 50 divisions are coming together around Moscow.  Stalin comments they will wear down the German forces and then hit them with a counter-attack.  The main military officer says that he would like to get about 150 tanks.  Stalin can only give him 18 at this time.  And instead of getting 3,000 armor piercing rifles, Stalin can only give 200.

The digging of tank ditches goes on in front of Moscow.  Tscherbakov is in charge. 

Hitler sees himself  now as the conqueror of nearly all of Europe. He gloats over his victories in Russia.  He says he will make the Slavic people slaves for the new Reich.  He shows the leaders the masses of Slavic slaves they have already captured.  Hitler gets upset when a commander says that the army needs a little rest before they attack Moscow.  He starts shouting saying that he orders the army to enter Moscow on November 7, and that day is today. 

Hitler is furious again when he learns that Stalin is holding a parade as usual in Moscow.  He orders a thousand planes bomb Moscow. 

Not a single German aircraft broke through to Moscow.  Not a single German soldier moved closer to Moscow.

Hitler is furious again.  He fires Field Marshal Brauchitsch, and appoints Rundstedt to be in command of the army.  Rundstedt says he declines the offer because it's insane to fight against Russia.  So Hitler says he will now be the commander of the army.  Goebbels and Herman Goring tell Hitler that he needs a rest.  Hitler agrees and goes to see Eva.  He tells her that he will eventually destroy Moscow.  He then says he will end the war at Stalingrad. 

Hitler returns to his war map and tells his generals he will take Stalingrad and crush Moscow and that will tear Russia into two parts.  Goring is worried about lack of resources.  He asks to talk with British industrialist Bedstone because he has very good contacts in Britain and in Sweden.  For instance, Bedstone can open up the Swedish tungsten and chromium markets to Germany.  Hitler likes the idea.

Goring and Bedstone meet.  Bedstone says now the war is not going too well for Hitler.  He even doubts that Hitler can take Stalingrad.  Goring is of the attitude that they must take Stalingrad.  He pressures Bedstone and Bedstone will set up the business exchange for the Germans. 

Russian Commander Chuikov comes out to congratulate the troops on their recent victory.  He gives Aliosha the Order of the Red Banner for his bravery in battle.  The commander is very happy because the Donskoy and Stalingrad fronts merged today.  The Germans got themselves in a trap. 

Another happy man is Stalin.  He congratulates his generals. 

Aliosha catches a German officer, who will be interrogated.  He finds his old house, now almost completely in ruins.  He gets very emotional thinking of his old home, his family and Natasha.  Some older women recognize him and make a fuss over him.  He hears his captive bragging about the Russians being in retreat and the Germans moving forward.  Aliosha asks where does the officer live?  Berlin on Frederick Street.  Aliosha swears to him that he will be in Berlin and will go to Frederick Street and makes sure it is totally destroyed.  Now huge waves of Russian airplanes fly overhead and all kinds of trucks and troops head west toward Berlin. 

The famous Yalta Conference is in process.  The Battle of the Bulge in the west is ongoing and the Soviets plan to start a big push on the Germans in the east no later than the middle of January.  The Russian military man says that within 18 days, the Soviet Army destroyed 45 German divisions and moved west by 570 kilometers.  Right now the Soviet army is on the Oder River (the border with Poland).  Due to this pressure, the German army moved 16 divisions from the western front and to the eastern front.  In the conference itself, Stalin wants the USA and Britain to strike harder at the Germans.  Churchill wants the Soviets to not be in such a hurry to be in Berlin first.  He wants the Soviets to engage in mopping up operations to slow their progress.  He wants all the Allies to get to Berlin at about the same time.  And he wants a more detailed agreement on how they should share the control of Germany after the war is won.  Churchill says he doesn't like haste.  Stalin wants the war finished quickly.  FDR is portrayed as more on the side of Stalin than Churchill. 

 

Part Two. 

Stalin talks to his generals.  They all agree that the Soviets should be the first to enter Berlin.  Stalin agrees that they will be ready for the final strike by April 16.  The 1st Belorussian Front will directly attack Berlin.  The 1st Ukrainian Front will attack form the left. 

Aliosha can't stand that they are waiting to move forward.  He is worried about Natasha.

The Soviets prepare for the attack.  The attack begins with artillery and rockets.  The trains now start rolling forward.  Aliosha is right up there in the front when the soldiers start to move. 

And Herr Hitler is very worried indeed.  The Russians break through the right flanks of Army Corps 101.  Hitler paces nervously back and forth and then shouts:  "I declare full mobilization!"  He puts command for the defense of Berlin in the hands of Goebbels. 

The Russians have broken into the zone of Infantry Division 303.  Hitler orders his last reserve into the battle.

The Russians have cut their way between the 11th and 56th Armored Corps.  Then news comes in that the 11th and 56th are falling back to Berlin. 

Aliosha and his men are at the Seelow Heights.  The Russians take the Heights.  Aliosha captures a Waffen-SS soldier for interrogation.  General Zhukov learns from the prisoner that Hitler has ordered them to fight to the last man.  Zhukov orders that this information be sent to Stalin at once.  Stalin sends a message to Zhukov to discount the information from the corporal.  Hitler is just trying to spin a web around Berlin so that the Americans and the British clash with the Soviets.  Take Berlin!  Stalin is going to surround all of Berlin with his forces. 

Inmates of the concentration camps are moved away as the Russians bomb the camps.  Katya is one of those in the camp.  She realizes that the planes doing the bombing are Russian planes.  A hurrah comes up from her little group.  But now the order is given to annihilate the remaining prisoners.  Aliosha reaches the camp.  He shouts out for Natasha.  A Russian tank barrels right through the gates and the soldiers pour into the camp.  Aliosha and Natasha will be reunited.  And yet, Aliosha can't find her among the masses of prisoners. 

Hitler and his men have to retire to the bunker as the bomb and shell explosions draw ever near them.  And then Hitler has to move deeper and deeper into the bunker system.  He is still dreaming of victory. 

The Russian tanks break through to Luckenwalde.  Goring is planning a get away from Berlin.  Gobbels reports this to Hitler.   And Goring wants Hitler to transfer the command to him.  Hitler says he will have Goring executed publicly. 

Two groups of Russian soldiers meet up with each other in Berlin.  They have a celebration. 

On April 25, 1945, to the west of Potsdam, the 1st Belorussian Front merged with the 1st Ukrainian Front, tightening the ring around Berlin, once and for all. 

Now Himmler offers peace terms to the Americans.  Hitler sees everyone betraying him now. Hitler finally admits that this is the end.  Eva asks him to make her his wife.  Hitler says yes. 

The Russians are in the Metro (subway) so Hitler orders that the Metro be flooded.  His secretary begs him not to do this because so many German civilians will be killed too.  Hitler doesn't care.  He feels that the German people betrayed him.  The flood waters are let in and wounded German soldiers, children and women drown in the Metro.  Meanwhile, Hitler gets married to Eva Braun.  Now the German people start cursing Hitler. 

Hitler tells his staff that he is leaving them.  Eva takes a pill and puts it inside a sweet and feeds the sweet to the German Shepherd Blondie.  The dog dies. 

General Krebs surrenders to the Russians.  He has an important message for the Russians.  Hitler has killed himself.  Stalin is told and he comments in disgust:  "He escaped from the people's justice."  Stalin insists on unconditional surrender. 

Aliosha and his group get the honor of hoisting the Soviet flag over Berlin.  The men rush up the steps of the Reichstag.  Kostya is killed in action.  Jusup is killed in action.  Aliosha kisses his corpse goodbye.  Aliosha sees the red flag hoisted over Berlin.  Huge screams of hurrah are heard.  It's victory!

The soldiers start dancing.  Katya joins in the celebration.  Aliosha too is there in the thick of it.  The German soldiers surrender and are marched off to confinement. 

Stalin makes an appearance in Berlin to the great cheers of the soldiers and former Russian prisoners.  He gives a nice message for everyone.  And finally, Aliosha and Natasha find each other.  They hug and kiss.  Katya asks permission and gets to kiss Comrade Stalin for all that he has done for the Russian people. 

 

There's quite a bit of hype in the film.  They praise Stalin to the heavens.  And they praise a Russian hero who broke the record for producing the most steel in a given period of time.  And then the heroine falls in love with the industrial hero, Aliosha.  The Germans intrude on this happy scene by attacking the Soviet Union.  Aliosha now becomes a super soldier as he was a super worker before that.  The film follows Aliosha all the way to the fall of Berlin.  Nice to see Hitler getting so furious and worried about the Russian advances toward Berlin.  It sounds a little too much like propaganda, but I must admit that I liked the story and the film.  And I loved seeing the Germans getting trounced by the Russians.  I'll never tire of that story.  The acting was okay also. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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