Siege of Leningrad
BSSB.BE icarusfilms.com/ 12.04.2016
Battle of LeningradOne of the greatest tragedies of the war, Leningrad, exemplified Soviet sacrifice and perseverance. During the 872 day Siege of Leningrad (from September 9, 1941 until January 27, 1944), over one million of the city’s three million civilians died of starvation, exposure and German shelling. Another 300,000 Soviet soldiers died in the defense and liberation of the city.
Leningrad was named a Hero City by Stalin on May 1, 1945
* * *
In this film a director, 40 operators and 2 and a half million of heroes …
The film is about how life is compressed in the Leningrad blockade, yielding the space of death, and the fact that wars are no winners, and the fact that in war everybody loses. Dispassionate look at the period of siege of the city, the director shows the gradual metamorphosis of life of citizens, without imposing their own views in the film, parts of which were archival footage. Without words, without music – just the sounds and pictures of a dying city.
“The Blockade” for filmmakers a real lesson not only in the degree of naturalness and almost unbelievable elusive hyperreality of what is happening, but first and foremost – on epic thinking.
…As he did with his critically-acclaimed BLOCKADE, a documentary re-creation of the WWII siege of Leningrad, filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa has once again scoured the Russian film archives for REVUE, selecting excerpts from newsreels, propaganda films, TV shows and feature films that present an evocative portrait of Soviet life during the 1950s and 1960s.
The Siege of Leningrad which endured a little short of 900 days and nights under the Nazi blockade during World War Two has long been of interest to me. I have viewed extensive footage over the years and was greatly looking forward to seeing this ‘new approach with never-before seen archival footage’. This is how it was billed at the 2007 Sydney Film Festival. While it may be true that this actual camera footage may not have been shown before, the subject of the shots are not new. Nevertheless, the power of the film lies in its minimalist ambient approach. Narrator telling you what the film-maker wants you to know. No dramatic music to overlay the images. One could say that the greatest technical contribution came from the Foley artists and their effective application of natural effects. Furthermore, the long lasting shots with very little editor’s intrusion, capture the tedium of everyday survival.
This is a true Socialist film in that it gives centre stage to the ‘common people’ going about their daily lives in degenerating circumstances. The great disappointment for me is its brief length of 52 minutes covering only four seasons, and not the ten seasons of the siege.
Sadly, this worthy film, with its style exemplifying minimalism and UNsensationalism at its best, shot itself in the foot by not following through with the full magnitude of the event, and pulled its punches by excluding certain horrendous aspects committed by some of the starving citizens. The film-maker’s ‘distant’ approach assumed the viewer’s familiarity with the subject . Those of us who are familiar with the subject felt short-changed. Those not familiar were confused. But still worth seeing.
REVIEW EXCERPT “Loznitsa’s narration-free compilation of documentary scenes from the Soviet way of life is a must for anyone interested in glimpsing the disappeared Soviet experience. An unorthodox iconography of society, culture and politics in the old U.S.S.R.” —Louis Menashe, Polytechnic Institute of New York University.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER Sergei Loznitsa was born on September 5th, 1964 in Baranovitchi, in Belarus, which at that time was part of the Soviet Union. His family later moved to Kiev, Ukraine, where Loznitsa attended high school and later graduated with a degree in engineering and mathematics from the Kiev Polytechnic Institute.
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