Brestskaya krepost (Fortress of War) (2010)






Director:     Aleksandr Kott. 

Starring:    Aleksey Kopashov (Sashka Akimov), Andrey Merzlikin (Kizhevatov), Pavel Derevyanko (Fomin), Aleksandr Korshunov (Gavrilov), Maksim Kostromykin (Kolka), Anna Tsukanova (Sonya), Sergey Tsepov (Zubachev), Benik Arakelyan (Matevosyan), Mikhail Pavlik (Vaynshteyn), Sergey Vlasov (Kavalyonak), Aleksandr Sirin (Maslov), Evgeniy Tsyganov (Pochernikov), Tatyana Kamina (Shura Pochernikova), Veronika Nikonova (Anya Kizhevatova), Yana Esipovich (Zhena Kizhevatova), Madlen Dzhabrailova (Zhena Gavrilova), Dmitriy Kulichkov (Karelin), Aleksandr Saptsov (Leytenant Akimov).

Russian soldiers put up a determined defense at Brest Fortress on the eastern border with in Brest in the southwest corner of today's Belarus



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

"Brest Fortress was built in the middle of the 19th century at the western border of the Russian Empire. Powerful fortifications, fort systems made this citadel impregnable. New arms minimized the defensive qualities of the fortress, but not the people, who protected it. In about 20 years after the War is over, Sergey Smirnov's book revealed the truth about the fortress' defenders. In May 8, 1965 the Brest Fortress has been awarded an honorary title 'Hero Fortress'."

In memory of the fortress heroes, in memory of the motherland's defenders.

June 21, 1941. Brest. The city park. Men and women are dancing in the square. The narrator is Akimov Alexander. He says: "I remember everything. " He remembers the dancing in the park and he remembers that he, as a young boy, was playing the tuba in the band. He was a pupil of the Musical Platoon of the 333rd regiment.

His parents were killed during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Only he and his brother were left. He sees a girl that he really likes. Her name is Anya. He sees his brother coming for him and puts his tuba in a sack.

Older brother asks Sasha why isn't he is the military band unit? Sasha says: "Moska asked me to come. All the musicians left. The last trumpet player left on Wednesday. " Brother orders Sasha to return to the fortress immediately. Sasha asks him why is he yelling at him and brother tells Sasha to tell Kovalenko to punish him.

Sasha has to leave, while brother starts to have fun with a pretty girl on his arm. Sasha returns tio Brest Fortress. Inside the fortress is a huge place.

Brest. The railway station. The latest information is that there are no more railway tickets to be had. Commissar Fomin explains to the station master that his wife and little child are in Daugavpils. He has to bring them to his place of duty. The station master says he can't give him any tickets.

The commissar Fomin starts walking down the road. A man in a truck stops to pick him up.

They arrive at their destination. The truck driver goes to the store to see the girl that he loves.

Sasha has to tell Kovalenko the his brother says that he has to punish Sasha.

A lieutenant is a choreographer of dance comes into his office and asks a man: "And when do you think the war with Germany starts?" He asks Pyotr Mikhailovitch why is he spreading rumors of an oncoming war with Germany? The choreographer believes that it is someone else who spread the rumors, but Pyotr says it was him. He says he wasn't thinking when he said there will be war with Germany.

He says there are 8,000 people outside the fortress who will want to retreat into the fortress, bjut will not be enough time and space for them all. The biggest part of the garrison should be moved outside the fortress where the units are.

The lieutenant asks about the 4th Army. Surely they won't leave the fortress without protecting it? Pyotr says the 4th won't desert them as long as the commanders are with the men. He adds: "There is panic when a soldier is without a commander. " The lieutenant says the trial will take place on the 27th.

Many people inside the fortress go to see a film at night time.

A railway man checks on the locomotives. A German commanderdressed in a Russian uniform stops to light his cigarette. The railway man sees troops getting off the box cars of the train. The commander stabs the railway man in the mid-section.

Pytor's wife Katya goes to bed leaving her husband to think over his concerns.

German subversives appear in Russian uniforms in Brest. They switch off the city's electrify.

Sasha lets Anya play his tuba while he smokes a cigarette. The truck driver and his love kiss. He excuses himself to go get something and rushes away to another building. He is picking marigolds from a public garden bed.

A man comes up behind him. He is the German commander. The man lets him go on about his way.

June 22, 1941. 03:58 a.m. Sasha and Anya are fishing by the river. Their fishing line gets caught up high in a tree. Sasha sees and hears German airplane coming to the attack. A bomb falls into the river. Sasha drops out of the tree and into the river. Anya starts running for cover. Sasha catches up with her and forces her to the ground. He tells Anya that it is just a training exercise.

And so also says the truck driver Kolya to his girl Sonya. But he is worried, puts on his pants and goes out to look at what's going on. It doesn't look like practice outside. People are being killed by German bombs dropped from the airplanes.

He takes cover under a truck. Meanwhile, his girl is still in the building hiding from the combat.

Anya's family wonders where she is as they struggle to get to safe shelter. Katya yells to her husband that the war has started. They run outside with their son seeking shelter. Buildings all around them are being blown up.

The military men have to leave their families behind and report to their units.

Sasha is caught in the middle of all this. Everywhere he looks he sees people being killed by German bombs. As narrator Sasha says: "I imagined war before. But I couldn't imagine war. The war like this. Everybody was waiting for it, but nobody expected it so suddenly. It was scary." The boy appears to be in shock. He takes cover to avoid getting killed.

Sasha tries to make it to the designated meeting place in case of war, but before he can reach it, it is demolished by bombs.

06:30. German soldiers cross the river on rubber rafts to get to the Brest Fortress. The Germans come inside and start further destruction with items like hand grenades.

The Fortress. Volhynia's fortification. The hospital. The German troops start stopping surgeries from proceeding and they manhandle the hospital staff.

The Fortress. Kobrinsk fortification. The northern gate. People are running to the northern gate, but the Germans start machine-gunning them down.

Pyotr is determined to stop the general panic. He yells at the men to stop the panic and report to their barracks. He takes out his pistol and fires into the air which stops some of the men from running. He yells that all commanders come to him. He shuts for the men to: "Take your arms and take up defensive positions."

The Fortress. The Kholmsk gate. The commissar asks where is the commander? His question is met with silence. So the commissar takes the command.

The Fortress. The 9th frontier post. Anya's father takes command where he is. And just then the Germans show up. The men rush to the windows to confirm the report of the arrival of the Germans. As the Germans get closer the Russian commander leads his group on an attack on the enemy troops. A lot of Russians are killed but they keep coming and overrun the Germans. There is a lot of hand to hand combat, especially considering that many Russians did not have any rifles or pistols. The Germans are swamped by Russians coming at them from all directions.

The Fortress. The barracks of the 132nd battalion of NKVD. The German imposter rushes into the barracks and orders the sergeant to leave the barracks and cut his way out of the fortress. The Russian soldiers say this is not right. It would allow the German to enter the heart of the fortress. The imposter reminds the lieutenant choreographer and the sergeants that there are severe penalties for disobeying orders. The lieutenant now asks the imposter for his papers and he wants to see the bottom of the man's boots. German nails are square and Russian are round. A sergeant rushes over and examines one of the boots. He says the nails are square. The imposter panics and shoots the lieutenant and then runs for a window from which to escape. The lieutenant tells him to stop and when the imposter is about to launch himself out of the room to the outside, the lieutenant shoots him with his pistol three times. The man falls back into the room. The sergeant tells the lieutenant that actually the nails in the boot were round.

Kolya runs from his safe position to the building where Sonya is. They are separated by rubble and they start digging toward each other. Meanwhile the Germans retreat into the very building where Kolya and Sonya are located. Kolya rushes over to see them pouring into the building.

Anya's father, who has been in the thick of the fighting and has killed many Germans, can't believe his eyes when he sees them leaving the field of battle.

Kolya and Sonya sees each other through a slight opening. She is panicking so Kolya tells her to be quiets. She cries: "I can't take it anymore!" He tells her that she is brave and can handle this, but she must be quiet.

A German soldier grabs Kolya and throws him over the balcony to the floor below. The truck driver is either dead or unconscious. A German moves the body with his foot but Kolya appears to the soldiers as a dead man. Now the German upstairsstarts to bust into the room where Sonya is located.

The Germans from the hospital now drive their hospital captives toward the Kholmsk gate where the commissar is in command. The commissar and a sergeant go out with their hands up to speak with the Germans.

The commissar gives a signal to the men in the fortress to get ready to fire. He then yells to the captives to lie down. They obey and the Russians open fire on the German soldiers. The Russian sergeant saves the life of the commissar by forcing him behind some metal equipment.

The Germans are being forced back and their numbers are now drastically reduced. Some of the captives start running toward the fortress but are shot down by the Germans. A Russian machine gun hits the Germans hard and then the captives all start running for the fortress. The Russian sergeants yells for them to go to the basement.

The commissar and sergeant return to the fortress. The commissar appears to be in a state of shock and robotically puts his pistol and holster back on. After a period of silence he says that they are going to have to enter the town of Brest to check on the situation there.

Two Russian soldiers take a drive into Brest in an armored car. A woman rushes out to them but she is not asking for a ride but for ammunition. She ignores the order to get into the armored car and keeps asking for ammunition. What ammunition? Hearing this the woman runs back to where she came from. The Germans start shelling near the armored car.

The car now heads for the northern gate. Sasha is hiding behind a tree still clutching his tuba. When the coast seems clear he runs into the Kobrinsk fortifications, the house of the officers. He is looking for his brother. He remember that he and his family lived here at one time along with other families that he remembers.

All of a sudden the Germans are shooting at Sasha and his Uncle Vanya forces him to the ground. His wife Shura, the one looking for ammunition, shoots some oncoming German soldiers through a window and then collapses on top of Uncle Vanya. Now Vanya tells Sasha to run for it, but Sasha says no. Uncle tells him that's an order. Sasha leaves.

The husband and wife decide to die fighting, which probably won't be long now since the Germans are about to reach the building. Vanya tells Shura to look to see where the Germans are. She seems to know what's coming. She gets up to go and Vanya shoots her dead. He now shoots himself. Sasha is in hiding when he hears the shots from upstairs.

The armored car reaches the northern gate but it is all blocked up by all the dead from the earlier fighting. A tanks rolls over the dead bodies. The armored car heads back where the men report to the commissar that they could not get through to Brest.

Pyotr learns that German tanks are coming. He gives the order for the men to grab the grenades. And now they head out of their protected positions to meet the oncoming Germans.

As the Germans gets closer artillery shells start killing some of the soldiers. Pyotr looks around and sees the one piece of Russian artillery being used to fire shells at the Germans. A German tank also spots the position and rushes forward to get into position to fire on the artillery gun. Pyotr sends a man out with a number of grenades taped together. The tank fires and destroys the artillery position.

Pyotr orders a full frontal attack and the Russians respond heroically. Again the Germans are overwhelmed. Pyotr now goes over to check on the wounded at the artillery position. He asks the name of the young boy and he says Lt. Akimov. The boy dies.

The narrator says: "This is how my brother died. At the very first day. At the first endless day. The first retreat order during the war was given by the Germans on the 22nd of June, 941 at 11 a.m. Here, in Brest Fortress."

Lt. Vaynshteyn, the choreographer, is down to just eighteen men ready and able to defend their post. He is asked what should they tell the men. The lieutenant says to tell them: "They'll be here by morning."

Pyotr has his dead soldiers buried. His men have very little water left.

Anya's father goes into the basement where he finds a lot of women and children hiding. He tells them that it is not safe here as the building has been badly damaged. They must come with him to stay in the barracks. He finds his wife and children among the group. He asks his wife where is Anya and the wife says she thought Anya was with him.

Sasha walks around, not knowing where to go. He is thinking that tomorrow their reinforcements will arrive and they'll push the Germans out of the fortress. He sleeps in the open among the Russian dead.

In the morning Sasha sees many men walking toward the Germans to surrender under a flag of surrender. Sasha himself runs over to the barracks to ask Anya's father where is Anya? He says that he last saw her running toward her father. Father tells one of his men to put Sasha in the basement. When he hears this, Sasha jumps out the window saying he is going to find Anya.

Kolya awakens to find himself surrounded by German soldiers. He sees and hears Sonya being sexually assaulted. He suddenly gets up and runs out of the barracks door, he is able to dive into a bomb crater before he is shot by German bullets.

Sonya breaks away and runs out the barrack's door, but she trips and falls and two German soldiers drag her back to the barracks. Kolya cries as he is powerless to help her.

Sasha moves through the ruins of a barracks while the Germans shoot at him. He finds a pistol among the ruins and grabs it. He sees his first German captive. A medical doctor translates from the German that it is most lely that Minsk will be taken.

A Russian plane flies over the fortress. The Russians head to the windows for a good look. Then they see the plane shot down. The pilot jumps from the plane and lands in the fortress. He rolls into a bomb crater. There, under fire, he is saved by the Russians.

He tells the commissar that his name is Lt. Karelin. 123rd air force. Commissar Fomin asks what's happening in Brest? He also asks where are the Russian planes? Ltr. Karelin reports that there are no Russian airfields in the area. They are all destroyed. The Germans occupy Brest and the Russian soldiers retreat towards Minsk. The Russians at the fortress and shocked and upset by the bad news.

Pyotr tells his men that they could surrender but they are Russian soldiers and they will fight to the death to save the motherland.

June 24. Commissar Fomin has a message taken down. The situation at the fortress is critical. Commissar Fomin is in charge. Captain Zubachev, Lt. Vinogradov have decided the unit for forces that are left. Tonight they will break out of the fortress in order to connect with the Red Army regulars. The message taking is interrupted by he beginning of German shelling.

The Germans are trying to cross the bridge of get at the commissar and his men. The commissar tells two soldiers to make their way over to the northern gate and make contact with the soldiers there. Tell them about the break out scheduled for tonight.

Sasha is sent to the basement with water for the doctor. The doctor pours it into an open container. The patient on the table says that they had gotten some mineral water to the shop on Saturday. Sasha with his pistol goes out the window, while German dive bombers start bombing the fortress again.

Anya's father orders his troops into the basement. Sasha survives the bombing. He starts crawling on the ground past a severed arm. A badly wounded Russian soldier tells Sasha to go to the Eastern fort and tell them about the plans to break out tonight. While crawling through a building heading for the Eastern fort, Sasha finds Anya still alive. She is absolutely shocked to see him.

A German soldier comes searching the building. Sasha shoots him in the head. He then tells Anya to stay hidden here because he has an order to carry out.

Sasha reaches the barracks of Lt. V , but it appears that everyone is dead. He swims down the river under water. He finds a dead soldier with a container still stuck in his hands. He pries the man's fingers from the container and gets a drink. Then he brings the rest of the water to Pyotr and his men.

Sasha tells Pyotr his name and the message and then collapses. Pyotr grabs the boy's head and says: "I am lucky to meet Akimovs."

June 25. 01:55. The men are waiting for the red rocket signal. A flare is shot up into the sky and the Russian soldiers start their break out attempt. The Commissar and his men make it to the bridge, but there they meet machine gun fire from the Germans. They are pinned down.

Pyotr and his men reach the base of a large hill. They make a suicidal rush at the hill -- suicidal because German troops line the top of the hill.

Still another group of Russian soldiers try to cross over the river. Again the Germans are just waiting for them. The Russians are being massacred by machine gun fire.

In fact, everywhere the escapees are being killed. Orders are given to retreat. The commissar gets back. The doctor in the basement is asleep standing up by the operating table. The commissar awakens him and the doctor says he did his best. He walks away around the corner. The commissar hears a shot and sees the doctor fall.

Pyotr is still alive and so are some of his troops.

Sasha is still alive. He goes back to where Anya was hiding.

Anya's father tells his wife to lead the women and children away. She says she won't leave, but her husband says that she's the commander's wife. When she leaves, the others will follow her. He tells she must go. She must raise their children. They hug and kiss.

Sasha finds a battered Anya and tells her she must go because her father is waiting for her.

Anya's father watches as his wife departs taking the women and children with her. She carries a white flag stained with blood.

Sasha and Anya sees the women and children and come outside. Her father sees her and rushes over to her. He hugs and kisses her saying that she's alive. He tells Sasha to come over to him. He now tells the two young people that they must go with the women and children. Sasha says he's a soldier and will not leave, but father tells him that this is an order that he must carry out. He then whispers in the boy's right ear: "And she will not go without you." Sasha agrees to go. He has to pull Anya away fro her father. He father sits down and cries.

June 26. 15:58. The Germans drop a two-kilogram bomb on Brest Fortress. Tanks start coming through along with German soldiers. They use flame throwers to drive out or kill any survivors. Kolya is still alive walking around. He is given the job of taking the stars off the uniforms of the dead Russians and putting them in a helmet. He finds his Sonya dead on the ground. Terribly upset, he picks up a grenade, puts it in the helmet, pulls the pin and holds the helmet out for the German officer to take. The explosion kills both men.

There are still some Russian soldiers left alive. They are marched out of their buildings. The commissar is still alive but he is shot by a firing squad.

The narrator says: "Commissar Efim Moiseevitch Fomin was executed by a firing squad at Kholmskiy gate at the end of June 1941. In 1957 he was decorated with a Lenin order. Posthumously."

Pyotr has a few men left. He tells them to leave one at a time.

"Mayor Pyotr Mikhailovitch Gavrilov, was captured, being seriously wounded at the 32nd day of the war. As the majority, he was the victim of repressions and expelled from the party. And only in 1957 was he awarded a rank of the Soviet Union Hero."

Anya's father is still alive. He is flabbergasted when he sees Sasha returns to him and the few men left to him with a canteen of water. Sasha explains: "I escaped." He escaped just before a bomb was dropped on the women and children. And now Sasha can't hear anything.

Anya's father orders all his men out to try to escape. Sasha stays with him. Anya's father now tells Sasha he wants him to escape to tell the story of what happened here at Brest Fortress. Sasha with a banner leaves.

The Germans approach the barracks and the commander opens fire on them with a machine gun. He fires until he runs out of ammunition. He takes out the photo of his family that was taken at the city park of Brest.

"In 1965 Lt. Andrei Mitrofanovitch Kizhivatov was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union. Posthumously."

A German soldier tosses a grenade through the window and that's the end of Lt. Kizhivatov.

Sasha makes it out. And now it starts raining.

Sasha tells his grandson: "My Anya and all the Kizhevatovs, as well as other families, were killed by the German in autumn 1942." A tear falls down from his face as he looks at the memorial to the dead of Brest Fortress. He goes on to say: "I kept the banner, which Kizhevatov gave me, as well as my memories and my faith. I still keep believing. And you believe too, they are alive. Everyone whom I told you about, and those whom I don't know much about. They are still alive. Somewhere. And I was about the same age as you now."



Inspiring film about the defense put up by the Russian soldiers at Brest Fortress during the German invasion of Russia in World War II.  There were many heroes in those days of the fortress defense, including the young boy Sasha who was in the military band.  Sasha's brother was also a hero.   There were many touching scenes of Russian families trying to keep together through a real nightmare.  Of course, knowing the Nazis, most of the people, including women and children were killed by the Germans.  Sasha survived to later write a book about what happened at Brest Fortress.  Overall, the acting was good and there were a lot of actors in the film.   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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