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Military Breakdown: Film Representation of the Final Years of the Second World War.

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Presentation on theme: "Military Breakdown: Film Representation of the Final Years of the Second World War."— Presentation transcript:

1 Military Breakdown: Film Representation of the Final Years of the Second World War

2 War on the Eastern Front 22 June Operation Barbarossa: The first phase of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.22 June Operation Barbarossa: The first phase of the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Initially successful due to the three-pronged attack from the north, center and south. In the early stages German troops encircled the cities of Minsk, Zitomir and Berdicev.Initially successful due to the three-pronged attack from the north, center and south. In the early stages German troops encircled the cities of Minsk, Zitomir and Berdicev.

3 War on the Eastern Front: A Turn for the Worse Early reports from the front estimating that less than half of the one hundred sixty-four Soviet military divisions were capable of combat proved too low. Ninety-three of the divisions remained intact and capable of participating in combat missions. Quick reinforcement of the Soviet defenses helped to stall the German advance.

4 Winter Descends As the war on the eastern front dragged into the winter months German troops continued the battle into Leningrad and Stalingrad. The elongated German front (stretching from the Black to Baltic Sea) left the troops vulnerable in the rear. This vulnerability, apparent to the Soviets, eventually sparked the Soviet winter offensive strike that trapped the 6 th Army in Stalingrad.

5 Stalingrad: Introduction to the Film Stalingrad, the 1993 film by Joseph Vilsmaier, is a film of intense imagery that portrays the realism of war. Four focal characters: GeGe, Lt. Hans von Witzland, Fritz Reiser and Manfred Rohleder. The characters are easy to confuse, as the plot focuses more on the horror and eventual collective disdain for war than the multiple personal struggles of one or two individuals. Forced to ask whether or not a soldier can have values and still ruthlessly kill people, the viewer must also question the character of a man fighting for something in which he says he no longer believes.

6 Stalingrad: Dramatic Elements The drama of the film draws from vivid displays of battlefield confrontation, interaction with leaders and the disillusionment of soldiers. It reminds the viewer that the nature of hand to hand combat embodies no glory; that the kill or be killed mentality sparked by such activity commonly desensitizes a soldier to further combat.

7 Stalingrad: Letter from a Soldier “You were supposed to die heroically, inspiringly, movingly, from inner conviction and for a great cause. But what is death in reality here? Here they croak, starve to death, freeze to death – it’s nothing but a biological fact like eating and drinking. They drop like flies; nobody cares and nobody buries them. Without arms or legs and without eyes, with bellies torn open, they lie around everywhere. One should make a movie of it; it would make “the most beautiful death in the world” impossible once and for all.” - Letter from a soldier in Stalingrad

8 From a motivational standpoint, most of the officials represented in the film base their decisions on fervent faith in Adolf Hitler and his ideologies. The captain (who antagonizes Lt. Witzland) and Müller clearly represent Nazi sentiments. Both individuals discriminate against non- Aryans as well as Aryans they deem sub-par in loyalty to Hitler. Lt. Witzland and his soldiers symbolize the disillusioned Germans in Stalingrad; intelligent enough to see the baseness of their superiors, yet unable to break away from their rule entirely. Stalingrad: In Hitler we trust?

9 Before Lt. Witzland and his soldiers leave for the eastern front (fresh from the battlefield in Africa) they believe that they will conquer Stalingrad in a matter of days. However once they reach the city, they realize the hopelessness of their situation and that they serve only as pawns in offensive and defensive actions. Any belief in Hitler and his promises to send relief no longer carry weight. The soldiers know that they have no way out, as Hitler forbade capitulation to the Soviets. When the characters finally attempt to desert the army they do not meet success, and eventually freeze to death in a Soviet field. Stalingrad: A Lost Cause

10 Der Untergang The decisive loss at Stalingrad and disgraceful capitulation of the 6 th Army by General Paulus on 3 February 1943 did not stop Hitler from continuing to wage war against Russia and later the Allied forces in the west. However, as seen in Der Untergang, Hitler’s inability to position troops to defend Germany (and specifically Berlin) led to betrayal in the upper echelons of the Nazi party and the further senseless sacrifice of German soldiers and civilians.

11 Der Untergang: Betrayal Heinrich Himmler

12 Der Untergang: Desertion Albert Speer

13 „Wenn der Krieg verloren geht, ist es vollkommen egal, wenn das Volk mit untergeht. Ich könnte darüber noch keine Träne weinen, denn es hätte nichts anderes verdient.” Adolf Hitler


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