Friday, May 5, 2017

World War II Films

I have been watching Frank Capra's Why We Fight: The Battle for Russia.  As I would expect from a very skilled filmmaker like Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It's a Wonderful Life), it is spectacularly well done.  It is war propaganda however, constructed from Russian history films (such as Alexander Nevsky, which I recognize from my film class at USC, back when Nixon was President), and both German and Russian newsreels.  The courage of the Russians fighting the Germans to a standstill was very real and courageous as were German atrocities against civilians where they occupied.  The courage of the truck and train crews resupplying Leningrad over frozen Lake Ladoga is hard to exceed.

Where the film descends into coarse propaganda, intended to sway Americans to supporting the totalitarian Soviet Union:

1. Germany's stop halfway through Poland is explained as German need to invade France.  This is a lie; the partition of Poland between Germany and Russia in 1939 was the real reason.

2. The inability of Stalin to deal with the German invasion for several days out of shock that Hitler was a devious totalitarian thug (unlike Stalin, man of the people) is left out.

3. The Archbishop of Moscow praying for defeat of the Nazis fails to mention Soviet repression of religion.  I do not doubt that he did so; but giving the impression that this was widely accepted by the Soviet government is deceptive.

Still well worth watching.

2 comments:

Paul Sand said...

I haven't watched this, but the WSJ review and your post makes me think you might be interested: Five Came Back.

Clayton Cramer said...

Planning to watch it in full; started watching it. One of the modern filmmakers describes John Ford as an archconservatice. I womder why.