The Russians Are Coming

(Die Russen kommen)

GDR, 1968/1987, 90 min, B&W
In German; English subtitles
Credits:
Director
Script
Editor
Camera
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)
Cast

Synopsis

The end of WWII is fast approaching and 16-year-old Günter, a member of the Hitler Youth, still believes in a German victory. He is drafted into Nazi Germany’s last-ditch effort to resist the approaching Soviet Army. When he is captured and accused of killing a Soviet forced laborer, Günter faces an intense psychological crisis.

 

Heiner Carow’s semi-autobiographical film was not approved for final production. Officials argued it focused on an ordinary Nazi follower, rather than an antifascist hero, and that it was “contaminated with modernism.” The film, which includes clips from the Nazi propaganda film Kolberg (1945), was finally reconstructed and released in 1987. This DVD presents a new digitally-restored 2K-transfer of the film.

 

See the trailer for The Russians Are Coming!

 

Bonus Film: Career (Karriere, GDR, 1970, dir. Heiner Carow, 84 min, b/w).

After officials banned The Russians Are Coming, Heiner Carow decided to use footage from the banned film as flashbacks in a new film. Set in contemporary West Germany at the end of the 1960s, Career is an interesting story in its own right. A few years after its release, however, the director vehemently distanced himself from its conformity to the party line.

 

 

 

Commentary

 

Awards

2016 Berlinale Classics, Berlin International Film Festival
1988 Panorama, Berlin International Film Festival
1988 Best Director (Heiner Carow), GDR National Feature Film Festival, Karl-Marx-Stadt
1988 Best Costume Design (Werner Bergemann), GDR National Feature Film Festival, Karl-Marx-Stadt
1988 Best Editing (Evelyn Carow), GDR National Feature Film Festival, Karl-Marx-Stadt

Press comments

“As an anguished meditation on wartime lies, guilt, and madness, The Russians Are Coming is every bit the equal of Konrad Wolf’s I Was Nineteen and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood.” 

To Save and Project: The 2016 MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation

 

“Banned even before it was completed and unseen for a generation, this fast-paced drama about a teenager who still believed in military victory in the spring of 1945 is an invigorating revelation of what was the brilliant promise of East German cinema in the late 1960s.”                  

—Laurence Kardish, Senior Curator Emeritus, Department of Film at MoMA

 

“With clips from Kolberg, Carow demonstrates how fascist propaganda influenced the minds of the people and how they misused art for their destructive means. Technical limitations in restoring the film give Jürgen Brauer’s contrasting photography an additional graphic and documentary look. Carow dedicated his film to Konrad Wolf, whose masterly I Was Nineteen was filmed at about the same time and describes the same historical situation, but seen from the victor’s point of view.”       

International Film Guide, 1989

 

“Formally oriented toward the nouvelle vague (Godard, Truffaut), the film enthralls with its haunting imagery and its honest ‘mourning’ for a misled youth.” 

Filmdienst

 

“A psychogram of a destroyed childhood in the year 1945. Impressive and suggestive images clearly capture the hysteria of an atmosphere, making an education of fanaticism and racial hatred physically tangible.”

—film.at

 

“Carow captures the dreamlike experience [of the boy] in expressive images and a concurrently insistent and retarding montage. […] This film is the counterpart to [Konrad Wolf’s] I Was Nineteen.”  —Klaus Wischnewski, Das zweite Leben der Filmstadt Babelsberg

 

“Carow and his cinematographer Jürgen Brauer describe the doomed mood of 1945 with suggestive scenes filled with symbolism. A psychogram of a person misled    by the seductive machinery of the Nazis.”­           

—dhm.de

 

“Sometimes, we stop half way… When I was working on I Was Nineteen there was another film, The Russians Are Coming, in the make. This film told the same story from a different point of view. However, the film was not released in its original version. It could have shown the other side of the coin, and could have complemented I Was Nineteen. The topic was in the air. And if you will, both films were the continuation of the successful film The Adventures of Werner Holt. We had a chance. But this the problem of our history: We take one step forward, maybe another half, but then we stop!”       

—Konrad Wolf, director of I Was Nineteen, interview in Film und Fersehen, 7/80

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