Enemy at the Gates is an
American War thriller pr...
Enemy at the Gates is an
American War thriller produced in 2001 and directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. The
title of the book is borrowed from a novel by William Craig, which is a
nonfiction book titled: Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad (1973), describing
the events that surrounded the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942 to
1943. The book is based on nonfiction stories told by Soviet sniper Vasily
Zaytsev. However, the film itself is a fictional account of the Vasilii
Zaitsev, the Soviet sniper who became famous during the Battle of Stalingrad.
The action of the film revolves about the duel between Zaitsev and a German
sniper sent out to get rid of him. In the process, the director also relies on
the battle of Stalingrad to illustrate the horrors of the Nazi-Soviet conflict
that stemmed from the analysis of the Soviet soldier of which it was a valuable
corrective to the overpoweringly German point of view of the Russo-German
conflict in both the film and the print.
In the movie,Vasily Zaytsev
finds himself and fellow soldiers in a tight spot in the Battle of Stalingrad,
he uses some impressive marksmanship skills learned from his grandfather to
save himself and Danilov, which warrants his favor from him. Upon arrival of
Nikita Khrushchev to Stalingrad wishing to boost the morale of the soldiers,
Danilov, who was now senior ranking, suggests to him that it is important to
create a hero who becomes an icon for the other soldiers to emulate and hence
prints stories of Vasily’s prowess. Vasily is then moved to the sniper unit
where they become friends with Danilop and are both romantically interested in
Tania a citizen of Stalingrad, who had become a private local militia and
Danilop transfers her to an intelligence unit away from the battlefield. With
the Soviet snipers taking a toll on the German forces, a German major named
Erwin König a renown German Army sniper is deployed to Stalingrad to take out
Vasily so as to kill the morale of the Soviet forces and the entire film
revolves around the two running after one another.
The film contains accurate
and inaccurate historical events and is hence moderately accurate although it
is a fiction. Its accuracy is demonstrated in the fact that there was a place
called Stalingrad where there was an ongoing war between the Soviets and the
Nazis during the Second World War just as is indicated in the book. The battle
of Stalingrad was gruesome and brutal as depicted in the film; in fact, some
historians would say that the movie underplayed it. Moreover, the movie is
accurate in fact that there existed a Russian sniper that was one of the
best-known snipers in the Red Army at the period. His success was trumpeted
across the Russian military to promote interest for soldiers to join sniper
role. As for the duel in the film, there is not an accurate account of the
phase between Vasily and the German sniper. It is because, the Soviet sources
claim that Vasily shot down the German sniper after a hunt for several days
and, in fact, the rifle used is kept as a treasured trophy in the Moscow armed
forces museum. However, there is not such documentation from the reports by
Shcherbakov, who ensured that every act of ‘sniperism’ was reported with
relish. Therefore, it remains a case of speculation, and the story is unconvincing.
The character of Tania was also heavily fictionalized. Historically, she was a
sniper herself and trained under Vasily and became one of the ruthless and
infamous snipers herself. She had joined the war after the Nazis murdered her
grandparents and hence sought revenge for their death.
The film was made at a time
that the world was facing a threat of a possible armed conflict yet again. The
film acts as a very good documentation of the futility of war and as a reminder
of the ugliness of war. Even with the Arab Spring uprising gathering momentum,
watching the film would make one rethink having to go to war as it portrays war
as being brutal and gruesome and the beginning scenes are horrific enough to
deter one to advocate for war.
The film is topnotch entertainment
and would not recommend for anyone to watch it in search of accurate historical
events. Enemy at the Gates is a historical drama that is purely entertaining
and has twisted the past to ensure that it remains thrilling to the audience.
The film successfully immerses the viewer into the tense drama of the war. Its
tight focus, uncompromising realism and the excellent characterization of the
principal actors will keep every audience at the edge of their seats. It is a
thrilling account t of war that gets the look and the feel of a war right
getting the viewer to understand the situation of war at times. However, it had
flaws also of a plot on romance as it felt misplaced and the lovers of history
would feel that the film glorified war at the expense of accuracy in
history. I, therefore, recommend it as a
form of entertainment and not a documentation of the past.