I remember vividly seeing the opening scenes where the Russian troops travel on a boat into a war zone, riddled with bullets and explosions in their direction, most of the men don’t make it ashore. That’s all I had seen before tonight, knowing that Jude Law probably played an important role to play in Enemy at the Gates (2001).
A rare film that takes the traditional casting of the Nazi enemy by British actors, which are suited down to the ground to play the baddies (it’s just an unspoken rule) whilst he rest are played by anyone. However the reds are played by British actors whilst Americans play the Germans. Our perceptions are thrown straight away.
After an almost certain wipe-out of soviet forces trying to keep hold of the sacred city of Stalingrad either by enemy or friendly fire in the face of retreat. There is no room for cowardice in this army. The ground is littered in fallen men filled with bullets from either side. When the air has cleared we discover a surprise among the pile of corpse, a man Vassili Zaitsev (Law) born to shoot at the enemy, saving a journalist Commisar Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) from death.
Almost immediately Zaitsev is raised to the level of national hero, raising the troops moral that has been almost wiped out after seeing most of Russia in enemy hands. Zaitsev is just what is needed, through the Russian newspapers who eat up the news of a skilled sniper taking out the enemy, one by one, scaring the enemy, catching them out.
This is something that should be stopped, if your on the side of the Nazi’s, calling in one of their highly skilled snipers Major König (Ed Harris) who is seen as Zaitsev‘s equal in the field. This is where things get more exciting and deadly for both sides, as Zaitsev is taking the enemy out, Major König is learning about his prey, studying him to find a weakness, something he believes he has found in young Sacha Filipov (Gabriel Thomas) who gives him information “betraying” his country.
At times the action is tense as we see both Law and Harris pitted against each other is matched by a great soundtrack courtesy of James Horner who is borrowing heavily from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) that saw a fun game of cat and mouse. What spoils the film slightly is the inclusion of Tania Chernova (Rachel Weisz) as the love interest, reaching a real low point when she has the best sex of her life towards the end. It seems tacked on to bring in the female audience who are already there because of Law. One of the films that could do with a fan edit (unless it already exists).
A tense war film that focuses for once on not the British or the American’s, to see a legend made out of a man, a vital part of the war effort to increase morale. Complete with some top-notch acting all round by the cast, It’s also good fun to see another aspect of warfare in film. A country who like Japan have a different ethic to fighting for your country.
- Enemy at the Gates (devilofhistory.wordpress.com)
I felt when I was beginning this film, that I had watched it before, feeling familiar in tone to Ocean Waves (1993) which I saw earlier this year. Even thought this was released two years later than Only Yesterday (1991). A reflective film, more adult in tone than the usual output by Studio Ghibli. They are not my favourite, probably because of this really, the fantasy that they are known for takes a back-seat for more intelligent and thoughtful films that focus on one person, namely Taeko who we find aged 27 on her way out of Tokyo for a working holiday in the countryside. Something she really looks forward, ever since she was a 10 year old girl.
This really is the premise for the film, that goes back and forth, through a young girl who struggles at school and at home, informs the young woman we find working on a farm. Her second time out there, Where she meets the friend of a cousin Toshio who she spends a lot of time with whilst on the farm. Taeko goes on a journey of self discovery through her recollection of ten year old self, Usually a Ghibli would focus on the young girl for the duration. The time spent with her is more entertaining and insightful, compared to the young woman.
I suppose this aspect of Ghibli’s output is just not for me. There is however a strand that focuses on organic farming, talking about the reliance on nature and how not to disturb that balance. Something which over the past 20 plus years may have gotten worse. At home agriculture is in a state of emergency, hit by the recession, government cuts and imports of cheaper food, the farming community is traditionally the backbone of the country, keeping it fed, now even the likes of dairy companies are reducing costs, not considering the farmers who are affected. I wonder how we would find Takeo and Toshio today, how would their farm look?
- A Trailer For Studio Ghibli’s The Wind Rises, Now With English Subtitles! (themarysue.com)
- Stevie Reviews: Ocean Waves, Ponyo and Whisper to the Heart (steviegamingworld.wordpress.com)
- Studio Ghibli: Japan’s dream factory (telegraph.co.uk)