Friday, July 21, 2017

WWII Epic 1944

A little known chapter in World War II history pitted brother against brother in one of the bloodiest conflicts of the war. From director Elmo Nüganen comes 1944, Estonia's biggest domestic box office success and the country's Official Entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2016 Academy Awards®. On August 1, this "gritty war epic" 
(Variety) debuts on DVD and Digital from Film Movement.
Revealing the tragic aftermath of the invasion and occupation of Estonia after the onset of WWII, 1944 recounts one of the most painful chapters of 20th century history for the beleaguered Baltic country. First seized by Soviet Russia, then by Nazi Germany, Estonia ended up with more than 50,000 men of combat age conscripted to fight for the Red Army and over 70,000 for the German military. The result was effectively a civil war, with former friends and neighbors forced to slaughter each other on the battlefield.
From July's battle of the Tannenberg Line to the Red Army's occupation of the Sorve peninsula at the end of November, 1944 is depicted through the eyes of Estonians fighting on opposing sides.  With the Russians on the offensive, the outnumbered SS dig in to repel the Soviet advance on the Third Reich. Yet, half of their infantry are local Estonian recruits, drafted from Siberian Labor camps and sent back to their homeland wearing enemy uniforms; now, they must find a way to survive one of the deadliest battles of World War II. Humanizing the conflict, director Nüganen chooses to focus on two high ranking officers:  Karl (Kaspar Velberg), a country boy turned SS officer, also haunted by his inability to prevent his family's deportation to Siberia and Juri (Kristjan Ukskula), son of a communist collaborator, recruited from the Estonian Defense Forces by the Soviet Red Army. 
The Hollywood Reporter says that Nüganen, who made his feature-length debut with 2003's historic Names in Marble (which, until 1944 held the Estonian box office record) "stages battlefield action with an impressively kinetic in-your-face energy" and has "a flare for directing action with tense scenes of trench warfare." They go on to say that the script, penned by Leo Kunnas, a novelist and former high-ranking Estonian military officer, is "rich in historical detail."
The 1944 DVD features the original Estonian language version with English subtitles, as well as an English dubbed track. The DVD also includes the bonus animated short, Le Deux Vies de Nate Hill (The Two Lives of Nate Hill) from director Jeanne Joseph, examining the dualities of chance and fate.

My Thoughts 

1944 is an amazing film inspired by actual events of WWII. It's set during the Battle of Tannenberg. Soldiers are trapped in a terrifying crossfire and fighting or their lives.  Though they are outnumbered, a group of soldiers fight off the advance of the Third Reich. Many of the soldiers were forced into service from labor camps. They have to fight their own countryman in a desperate battle to survive. 

My grandfather and all of my great uncles were WWII veterans. Somehow, amazingly, all the seven of the men in my family who served during the war survived, but a few were wounded. My grandparents met when my grandmother was a nurse caring for the wounded soldiers. Watching this film really brought the war to life for me, and made me understand just a little of what my family members lived through. My own family were fighting their cousins in Italy.  They are all gone now, but the legacy they left for us lives on and is honored through films like this one. The effects are amazing.  You really feel like you're there on the battlefield.  The story line was compelling, and the actors all gave stellar performances. This is a fantastic historical film that can't be missed. History needs to be remembered so the mistakes of the past aren't repeated.


Jackie said...

I've never heard of this film, but based on your review, I'd love to see it. I do like to watch movies based on history and this is a story I'm not familiar with.

VickieC said...

sounds like a very interesting film

CSeppala said...

This sounds like an amazing movie. I would like to watch it with my kids because of its historical nature.

Christina Graham said...

My husband would love this movie. Once my kids are a bit older I think this would be great to use as a reflection of the war in our homeschooling.

Velvetwhip said...

I have not heard of this film until now, but it's definitely going on my "must see" list. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Also, I love the story of how your grandparents met.

Lauryn Rescoe said...

Thanks for sharing this movie, I have never heard of it! It definitely seems like a great piece of history to know.