Enemy at the Gates......A review
The movie Enemy at the Gates shows the battle of Stalingrad, Russia through the Russian point of view. At the battle, the Germans and Russians fought over the ruined, once industrialized, city. The main idea that the movie portrayed, along with the brutality and reality of war, was how important one man could be in determining victory or defeat. Vassili Zaitsev, played by Jude Law, was a Russian sniper and main character of the movie.
In real life, Zaitsev had over 140 confirmed German kills. The fame of Zaitsev and his kills raised Russian morale and made the German’s propaganda and efforts fall to uselessness. Being such a threat to the German army, Major Konig, the top German sniper who probably also served in WWI, was sent to Stalingrad to eliminate Zaitsev.
After the two snipers played cat and mouse with each other for some days, Zaitsev began to underestimate his capability of defeating Konig. Konig, an older and wiser man, had Zaitsev trapped in a destroyed factory, but was saved by Tania, a girl who volunteered to fight and fell in love with Zaitsev. After this, the two played cat and mouse again and it seemed the game would never end. Sacha, a boy who helped spy on Konig for the Russians, led Konig into Zaitsev’s sights on more than one occasion. Having little patience for the boy, Konig hung him. As the movie reached the climax, Danilov, Zaitsev’s closest friend, having betrayed him because of his own selfish feelings for Tania, steps out of safety to do the one good thing he considers himself of being capable of-showing Zaitsev where Konig is by being shot. In the end, having lost Danilov, Sacha, and probably Tania, Zaitsev flanks Konig and shoots the German sniper just as he realizes he is as good as dead. With the battle over, Zaitsev finds his wounded Tania and must live on happily together.
Throughout the movie, Russian officers punished their own men’s “cowardice” by death. To be on the Russian side must have surely meant death to the average soldier. To me, having All-American ideals, the thought of these men being shot down by the enemy and the ally was horrifying.
In one scene at the beginning of the movie, as the Russian soldiers crossed the Volga River and being shot up by German planes and mortar, any man who jumped out of the passenger boat to try to escape the madness, if not shot by enemy guns, was shot by their leading officials as they swam away in fear. Another scene in which this harsh Russian military ideal was portrayed was when, once the remaining soldiers landed on the shore, they were told to rush the waiting Germans. With only half of the men carrying guns, they did as they were told. However, soon after they realized it was sure death to keep going, they turned around to retreat. Unfortunately for them, the way back was just as deadly. The Russian officers mowed down the cowards. Any soldier hoping to survive had to lie down amongst the dead bodies and play dead as well. The last and most evident episode that depicted this brutal way of honoring the “Mother Land” was when the head officer in charge of the Russian failure was told by his commander that he might as well shoot himself and save the commander’s time.
I’m sorry, for an army to be loosing thousands of men a day, loosing the appreciation of their own people, and need a raise in morale badly; it is just insane to kill one’s own men. I guess, however, the only reason I think this way is because I haven’t had to live like those officers did. Besides Vietnam I believe, our military has not had to draft unwilling men into their services. And even then, I can not recall a time when our men were shot if they ran away. True cowardice is not an un-honorable thing, but there are times when even the bravest of all men must feel a little insecure. With all the men who fought and died in our American wars, American soldiers must have believed in something they fight to the death over, but for the majority of those Russian men who ran away, the communist ideas of Stalin must not have been important enough to die for. I guess it must be that something that all those Americans died for that causes me to think the way I do.