Immediately after Germany's surrender in WW2, Russia had too many
German POWs and neither enough facilities to house them, nor personnel to
process them. The captured Germans were thus dispatched to whatever
makeshift accommodations might be remotely suitable for the task. In
the case presented in this film, 51 Germans were shipped to
an empty Russian woman's prison which was staffed by an all-female
skeleton crew. The assignment of those prisoners to that location was
probably intentional, a scheme by a crafty KGB colonel to use the
sexier female staffers to extract information from the prisoners in
whatever manner might be effective. (Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.) The
stakes were higher than first assumed by the women, because among the
scruffy, rag-tag band of Germans were several high-ranking SS officers
who would not be mere prisoners of war, but rather war criminals to be
The colonel places his strongest hopes on the camp's doctor, a sexy
redhead whose feminine charms are familiar to him personally, having
been exchanged for a promise to allow her brain-damaged husband to
stay in the camp rather than to be shipped to a sanitarium.
The situation is fictional, but is said to be inspired by an actual
case. I don't know whether every single detail is historically
accurate, but I did learn an important historical lesson from this film. Who could
have guessed that being a prisoner of war in Russia was so sweet? Oh,
sure, there were some rough patches at first, but by
the end of the film, these prisoners were holding mixers with the
local women, playing musical instruments, hanging out in the Romanov
palaces, wearing new clothing, and
getting laid more than Hugh Hefner. What fools were those Germans who rushed to
the western front at the last minute so they could surrender to the
British and Americans. The eastern front was where it
was at! Life in the Russian POW camps was like going to Club Med,
except colder. Damn, I wish I could have been a prisoner of war in
Russia! They had it so much better than webmasters and
That isn't the only element of the story that is less than convincing.
When the prisoners are first transported to the camp, four or five women with
rifles have absolutely no trouble maintaining control over 50
battle-hardened Germans. Soon, the doctor is examining each patient privately,
with no armed guard to protect her. It's not just those sorts of
details that seem unrealistic. There are also problems with the film's
internal logic. The incredibly evil guy is eventually outed, but
earlier in the film he says to another guy, in order to secure his
conspiratorial silence, "Remember, Max, I know who you are and what
you did." He says this when they are alone together, so it obviously
means that Max really does have some awful secrets of his own. But
when the Russians finally arrest Max, they end up letting him go back
to the camp, and thence back to Germany. So are we to assume the Russians just gave
people the benefit of the doubt? Hell, not only did the Russians not
exercise such generosity with their enemies, they didn't even treat
their allies and their own soldiers that well!
There are also several moments in the film that are not developed
or supported by earlier events. For example, there is a point where
the bad Nazi is
just about to kill the good Nazi while the KGB officer is driving toward
their location, too far away to prevent it. Suddenly, the sexy camp
doctor (who fell in love with the good Nazi), comes out of nowhere and
jumps the bad guy from behind. Besides the fact that it's hackneyed
scripting and an obvious deus ex machina, there are two major
problems with that: (1) She was farther away than the KGB guy, and she
was on foot while he was driving. How did she get there before him?
(2) She could have had no way to know where the two Nazis were in the
first place. The KGB guy only knew because the
doctor's crazy husband saw where they were heading and told KGB. That's only one example
of many such gaps in logic. There were several times when I
felt I must have missed a scene which explained how person "A" could
possibly have been aware of circumstance "B" or gotten to point "C."
I suppose there may well be some scenes missing, given the shabby
quality of the Russian DVD in general. It's not even in the correct
aspect ratio. It is rendered in 1.8:1, but the trailer (see below)
shows that the exact same framing should be stretched to 2.3:1. Even if the trailer were not available, it just should have been
obvious to the men mastering the DVD that the faces and bodies were
not in correct proportions. Sloppy work!
Those negatives are regrettable, because this film could have been
a contender. On the plus side, the director of this film did a marvelous job in
creating an appropriately bleak atmosphere. The camp is rickety and
forbidding. The trains are old and noisy. The prisoners stay within one large hall, with no shelter
against the cold except the four flimsy walls around them. The staff's
quarters are not significantly better. The vehicles seem to be held
together with bailing wire, the fences seem to be rotting, and
everything is covered with layers of snow and ice. Audiences will
probably be shivering sympathetically.
The idea is excellent. It's dripping with atmosphere. There's a
cast headed by Vera Farmiga (the doctor), John Malkovich (the KGB
officer), and some European stars. The is location shooting in St.
Petersburg. The film had lots of potential ...
but the team produced a mediocre result ...
It's a so-so movie that should have been great.