Djariskatsis mama (Father of a Soldier) (1964)
Director: Rezo Chkheidze.
Starring: Sergo Zaqariadze (Giorgi Makharashvili), Vladimir Privaltsev (Nikiforov), Aleksandr Nazarov (Arkadi), Aleksandr Lebedev, Yuri Drozdov (Vova), Vladimir Kolokoltsev (Grisha), Viktor Uralsky (Pachua), Qetevan Bochorishvili (Tamari, wife of Giorgi).
following Russian soldier Gregory, as he goes with the Russian army all the way to Berlin during WWII
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Georgy's wife asks him to find out where the hospital is. Youíre going to be late, she says. She tells him to be careful on the train because these are evil times. She keeps nagging him with things he should do and not do. Some of the villagers follow him to the train. One woman asks if he can find out what happened to her son. He was in the artillery. Georgy gets into the back of a truck. A young woman with a baby says maybe Georgy will run into her Mikha, if he is still living. Itís been one year of fighting and one man wants Georgy to ask when they will chase the Germans out of Russia? His wife says her son has been wounded twice now and that is enough. She wants her husband to get a furlough for their son. Georgy doesnít say anything. He says to himself the town is named Dubovo.
The villagers have to give the truck a push to get it started. The truck crosses a river on a ferry raft. The news of the day is that on September 11 Russian troops put up a stubborn resistance to the west and south-west of Stalingrad in the region of Mozdok and on the Volkhov sector. The town of Novorossiysk had to be abandoned.
Georgy finally reaches a town. Russian sailors come marching off a dock with the Navy band playing tunes. Georgy asks a man with no legs for a lift to Dubovo on his horse-drawn cart. The driver will give him a ride but Georgy will have to pay extra for his baggage. On the way he tells the driver and the others on the cart that his son is in the hospital wounded while in a tank.
They drop Georgy at the hospital. The driver doesnít charge him anything. Everyone says goodbye to him. He gives the name of his son, Goderdzi Makharashvili, at the front desk. The man looks up the son in his book and says that he has been discharged back to his unit. Heís not here anymore. Greorgy canít believe it. He insists on seeing the entry in the book, but he canít read it because he is illiterate.
Georgy starts walking up the stairs as the front desk man has to plead with him that he canít go up there. When they are up there, he has to plead with Georgy not to go into the operating rooms. Georgy will not be deterred. He goes in and starts speaking with one of the doctors. While he talks, the doctor falls asleep. He is awoken by a nurse and tells the front desk man to take the visitor to where his son was treated.
Grandpa shows a picture of his son to the men on the ward and they all recognize him. One of the men say sthat his unit is stationed in Demidovo. Georgy could go there. But Georgy doesnít want to ask the commandant where the place is. He will ask too many nosy questions. But the men insist that the fellow is a nice man and will help him. They convince Georgy to ask.
Georgy is down by the train yard. He tries to stop a locomotive, but it wonít stop. He tried to ask if they were going to Georgia. A soldier recently released from a hospital for battle fatigue asks Georgy what he is doing here. Georgy tells him. He says the commandant told him that his papers were no longer valid. The soldier urges Georgy to go to Demidovo because it is only two hours by train.
A train pulls in and the soldier tells Georgy to come with him. They will hop on the train and be in Demidovo in no time. Georgy wonít go. The train stops. A guard asks Georgy what he is doing here? He says heís taking a walk. The soldier tells Georgy to get on the train. He keeps telling him to get on. Quick! Fast! Georgy jumps on. The soldier says his name is Arkady Yershov. Georgy tells him his full name.
Walking with Arkady on the road Georgy is taken into custody by a guard. A colonel in a jeep stops to ask whatís going on. Arkady explains it quickly to the colonel. The colonel tells Georgy that this it is no time for visiting. He better go home. Georgy pleads with the colonel. The colonel tells him that Demidovo is now in the hands of the Germans. The colonel tells the guard to give Georgy shelter for the night and in the morning send him back in a car heading back toward Georgia.
In a farm house a bunch of soldiers lay or sit on the floor, including now Arkady and Georgy. Arkady asks a buddy about some of his friends from his unit. There is a lot of bad news. Many are dead already. One man got lucky and was sent home to his wife and brand new baby.
At night Georgy canít sleep. He hears the rumble of a lot of tanks. Georgy runs outside shouting his sonís name at the tanks as they roll by. There is no way in the world the tank soldiers could hear him.
Georgy is very sad about his inability to find his son. He says to himself that his son is in the front and he, his father, is in the rear. He wishes he could go to the front. Shelling near the farmhouse begins so all the soldiers rush out and Georgy goes with them. Arkady catches up with grandpa and tells him he must go to the station, not with them. Georgy turns around and heads the other way.
A young girl comes galloping on a horse and tells grandpa not to go to the left. The Germans are there! So Georgy goes back the way he came in. The fields are being shelled now and grandpa goes down. The wheat catches fire and Georgy starts yelling that the wheat is burning and they must put out the fire. The Russian are retreating and start running past grandpa. Arkady tells him he is crazy and to get down. He tells Georgy to head for the forest. Arkady falls wounded and Georgy picks him up and heads for the forest. He canít make it in time so he dives into the wheat field. Arkady tells him to leave him behind. Georgy starts to go for some water. German soldiers walk right past Georgy. But another German soldier finds Arkady and kills him. Grandpa is in disbelief and is very angry. He yells to the killer to wait and walks toward him. The German tries to shoot him with his automatic weapon but it jams. The broad-shouldered Georgy overpowers him, knocks him to the ground and hits him in the face with the weapon.
Officers confer over a map. Vassiliev has only 640 men left. The men who know Georgy beg their officer to let him stay with them. They say heís as good a fighter as any of them. The officer goes to the latrine, but when he comes out he is besieged again by the men. They beg him for this favor to them. The officer finally says he will try again for approval.
Georgy is called in to speak with the officers. He asks why canít he fight? Itís no harder for him to fight that for young boys or women to fight. Everyone is impressed by the old manís spirit. He even challenges everyone to wrestle him to show them he is strong and fit. They all laugh. The highest ranking officer says itís not necessary to wrestle. He can see the man is fit. He accepts him into the unit and wishes him good luck.
Grandpa is put on guard duty watching over the laundresses. He gets water for them. He does not look happy about his assignment. German shells start getting closer. Grandpa takes off for the front. He dives into a trench. The sergeant scolds him, but Georgy defends himself verbally very well. He charges forward when the men charge forward. They overrun a German trench and Georgy keeps going with the men.
Musicians have been sent to play for the unit Georgy is with. But everyone is asleep except for the sergeant, who asks the musicians to start with a Georgian peace. They know one. The sergeant falls asleep listening to the piece.
The next morning the men are up and moving in a long convoy. Russian bomber planes fly overhead on their way to bomb the Germans. Sarge takes Georgy and three other men forward with him to do some reconnaissance. Georgy finds a sign saying CCCP laying in the snow. They have reached the border of the Soviet Union. The men re-erect the sign.
Traveling in a truck across a bridge Georgy sees a huge painted message: "The tanks of Lt. Makharashvili were the first to cross this bridge." He causes a traffic jam when he jumps from the truck to see the sign close up. He is very proud of his son and very happy that he is here.
Georgy checks out a vineyard. He goes over to some tanks nearby. He asks if the guys know his son. No, they donít. When the tanks go through a vineyard, Georgy stops them. He resists so strongly that they have to back up and go around the vineyard.
Georgy tells his sergeant that he wants to know what kind of a man his son has become? He was so gentle as a youngster.
Georgyís unit is clearing the bottom floor of a government building of German soldiers to save the Soviet troops on a higher floor. April 14, 1945. The Soviet High Command tells the Germans soldiers to surrender. If they donít they will be exterminated. A cease-fire of two hours is called. During the cease-fire Georgy communicates with another fellow from Georgia that turns out to be his son. The son wants to know how his father got here? Dad says heíll tell him everything later. Georgy asks his son whereís his tank? It got hit very close to the building they are in. While talking to his father an explosion goes off on the sonís floor. The Russians say the filthy rats have broken the truce. Georgy keeps calling out the name of his son but hears nothing. He grabs his weapon and heads up the huge flight of stairs. His compatriots come rushing up behind him. They overwhelm the Germans. Georgy finds his son, but he is not moving. He lays down beside him and strokes his face. Slowly the son opens his eyes. He says: "Papa." He dies. Georgy says sadly: "And now I must tell your mother."
As his unit marches back over the bridge there is a new sign saying: "The tanks of Lt. Makharashvili, hero of the Soviet Union, were the first to cross this bridge."
Terrific movie. It was very enjoyable. The actor playing the father looking for his son during wartime has a very sweet face and can really pull off a sad-sack look that almost automatically makes a person root for him. It's a heart-warming story in that it celebrates the wonderful spirit of Georgy who looks desperately for his son. Many of the soldiers who meet him want to take care of him, while others admire his never-quit spirit. The story follows Georgy from Georgia (now independent from the Soviet Union) to Berlin, Germany. It's quite the road-trip he takes, except it's a road-train-cart-ferry-walking-fighting trip.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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