Stalingrad or Dogs Do Yo Want To Live Forever? – Hunde wollt ihr ewig leben (1958) The first Stalingrad

Dogs Do You Want to Live Forever? – Hunde wollt ihr ewig leben? is a German black and white movie from the 50s. Although the newer movie Stalingrad is generally seen as a remake I cannot agree with this view. Both movies focus on Stalingrad but the way they are told, the point of view is very different. While a modern movie will often appeal more to us because it’s not black and white, we know the actors and the special effects are normally superior, this first Stalingrad is an excellent movie and I would say as good as the one from 1993, if not in parts better.

The movie opens with Hitler watching a German army parade. A voice in the off which we will hear all through the movie, criticizing the decisions of Hitler and the high command, tells us that these marching soldiers will soon be dying in the Russian snow. After a while we leave the parading soldiers and the camera shows men dying in the snow. After that the story as such begins.

The movie tells of the encirclement of the 6th Army in Stalingrad from the point of view of a young, idealistic and likable first lieutenant. In 1942, just before the Russian offensive which will encircle the 6th Army, Wisse has been commandeered to an outpost, not far from Stalingrad where he is liaising with a Rumanian corps which fights along with the Germans.

When it is clear that the Russians have started the offensive, Wisse is posted in Stalingrad. The town is half-destroyed, the German soldiers are freezing as they are not equipped for the Russian winter and there is hardly any food left. In the end high command gives the order to stop feeding the wounded.

It is obvious from the beginning of the movie that Hitler miscalculated the whole campaign and that the only way the 6th Army could have been saved would have been to break out of the circle and retreat as fast as possible. The Russian army entrapped a Germany army which was lacking winter gear, ammunition and was almost starving. The generals and commanding officers pleaded with the Führer but he was adamant. Still, the German command refused to break rank and disobey Hitler to save the army.  By the time General Paulus decided to surrender, 60’000 soldiers were dead. 110’000 were left, of which only 6’000 would return to Germany after the war.

What is particularly harrowing in this dark chapter is the fact that Stalingrad had no strategic importance whatsoever. It was a purely political decision and for the same reasons Stalin decided to hold the city. What followed was probably the most infamous battle of WWII.

There are many reasons which make Dogs Do You Want to Live Forever? a great movie. In focussing on one man, first lieutenant Wisse, it exemplifies the disintegration of the whole army and illustrates the disillusionment and the realization of Hitler’s misguided megalomania. While Wisse is true to the party in the beginning, he, like all the other soldiers based in Stalingrad, becomes aware that Hitler doesn’t care what happens to them. He breaks his promises and as soon as he realizes the fight might be lost, he abandons them completely.

Wisse isn’t the only interesting character, there is the cowardly  commanding officer Linkman, the priest who speaks up and fight for justice and some secondary characters which are all well-rounded too.

While Stalingrad (1993) is a great movie, this one feels even more authentic because a lot of what we see is original footage and it’s blended in so well that we often only realize that we are back to the movie when we can make out one of the actors. I have rarely seen this type of blending done so seamlessly and well. The effect is not only realistic but chilling.

What was better in this one than in the new movie was the way the street fighting and the combat in the city was shown. That must have been so chaotic and both sides were battle weary and would have liked to stop fighting.

Stalingrad – Dogs Do You Want to Live Forever? is one of the top war movies, one nobody should miss. It’s well worth pairing the viewing with the 1993 version as they complement each other.

While finishing this post I discovered that there will be a new, Russian Stalingrad which should be released in 2013. Directed by Fedor Bondarchuk, starring August Diehl. I’m really looking forward to that.

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9 thoughts on “Stalingrad or Dogs Do Yo Want To Live Forever? – Hunde wollt ihr ewig leben (1958) The first Stalingrad

  1. Alexander S. says:

    There is Soviet movie “Stalingrad” (1989) directed by Yuri Ozerov:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalingrad_(1989_film)

    // What is particularly harrowing in this dark chapter is the fact that Stalingrad had no strategic importance whatsoever. It was a purely political decision and for the same reasons Stalin decided to hold the city. What followed was probably the most infamous battle of WWII. //

    Some war historians demand that Nazi Germany and Turkey (perhaps, Japan also) had the secret agreement of as German army will cross Volga River, its allies enter into the war against Soviet Union.

    • Thanks, for this Alexander. I’m sure you will be interested in the upcoming one as well.
      I see what you mean. The way I see it, both, Hotler and Stalin did ultimatelynot care how many lives this cost. I have no idea about the Russian numbers but I’m sure there were numerous deaths as well. The prize paid by both armies was not worth the outcome. What I still don’t understand is why the war was not over soon after this but went on for so much longer.

      • Alexander S. says:

        // The way I see it, both, Hotler and Stalin did ultimatelynot care how many lives this cost. I have no idea about the Russian numbers but I’m sure there were numerous deaths as well. //

        yes, very numerous…

        // The prize paid by both armies was not worth the outcome. What I still don’t understand is why the war was not over soon after this but went on for so much longer. //

        I think that not any war cost human lives, even modern “humanitarian bombings”.
        Alas, Soviet Union is not an island or separately continent from Europe, so Soviet citizens forced to defend own country from German armies by “any cost” – though, on present-day view it might be seemed inhumane. For example, in 1940 France government preferred to surrender Paris and in fact the all country. Churchill also preferred to save British expedition corpus and evacuate it from France. As result, before German Blitz to East, the war industry of whole European continent worked against USSR.

        I agree that it would be great if after Stalingrad Nazi Germany capitulated. I’m sure it would be rather if the United States and British Empire both open the Second Front in Europe in 1942. By the way, that it Dictator Stalin asked Prime Minister Churchill in the same 1942 about – that before Stalingrad battle.

      • I tend to forget thst looking back on history always makes things look logical. Seeing it from here we know that the defeat and bad decisions Hitler made in Stalingrad already pointed towards a possible losing of the war.
        It’s a sad history but I would really like to watch a movie from th Russian persepctive. We always ever see it from a German point of view. I’ll see if I can watch the one you suggest or I will have to wait until the new one is out.

  2. Guy Savage says:

    I haven’t seen this one, Caroline, and it would be interesting to see this from the German perspective. I’d heard about the upcoming Stalingrad film and I’m hoping I locate a copy.

  3. the war movie buff says:

    Excellent review. I had never heard of this movie so once again you have clued me in to a movie I would like to watch. And once again it is not available. Curse you, Caroline. Just kidding. I found it on Amazon. In the process I found another Stalingrad released in 2009. Do you know anything about it? It would appear that with “Enemy at the Gates”, the Battle of Stalingrad has a high percentage of quality movies. The quantity is amazing, too.

  4. […] Stalingrad or Dogs, do you want to live forever? […]

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