They never met but were constantly fixated on each other: Hitler and Stalin. The malevolence of their systems tore everything to pieces. They went on to become leaders of dictatorships that with bloody violence exceeded every level of cruelty that the human will to power had seen up to that point.
For the first time, a documentary attempts to paint a double portrait. The ninety-minute film essay by Ulrich H. Kasten tells a the story of a melee thousands of miles apart – that the soldiers of both armies on the 22nd of June, 1941 play out in shocking immediacy on the battlefields. The battles for Moscow, Leningrad, Stalingrad and Berlin are taken as an opportunity to bring documentary material into a surprising correspondency: as if an imminent duel is taking place. The narrative is aimed to depict the action and reaction of both dictators as a political psychological drama, the tension increasing and driving towards disaster. Reliable knowledge provides new insights into old questions: How do people become dictators? What are the causes behind the differences and similarities of both rulers and systems? How did they observe and lie to each other? How did the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 come into existence? How did they arrange the brutal terror and fanatical beliefs that bound millions of people to a particular system? Why did Moscow still fear Hitler after his death? Who wept at Stalin’s grave? Parallel montages of partly unreleased archive film from international archives and modern footage of original locations of former historical events create – almost movie-like – an embattled picture: Hitler and Stalin were on opposite poles in the ideology that they preached, but brothers in the blood that they had shed. Germany and the Soviet Union under their rule were cult-of-personality party states, terrorist regimes, commando economies, concentration camps, military superpowers. The film stays close to the protagonists, follows their programs and paranoia and takes an enlightening look at phenomena that completely shook and changed the 20th Century and continues to reverberate into the 21st.
Bettina Offermann | email@example.com
A co-production by
LOOKSfilm, ZDF/Arte, Istituto Luce S.P.A., Transit Film GmbH, Discovery Communications Europe
Ullrich H. Kasten
Ullrich H. Kasten, Hans-Dieter Schütt