A powerfully evocative film set on the Russian front in World War II, The Last Train turns its grim subject matter into electrifying filmmaking. In its relentless realism and gripping moral power, this first feature by Alexei German, Jr. brings to mind the work his father, acclaimed St. Petersburg director Alexei German, and his masterpiece Twenty Days Without War. Making a clean break with old-style Soviet patriotism, the film recounts the tragedy of war without taking sides. The main characters, in fact, are not Russians at all, but soldiers of the Third Reich. The corpulent and far from heroic doctor Paul Fishbach (Pavel Romanov), drafted late in the war when Germany's defeat was already evident, arrives too late to take part in the conflict. He reaches his field hospital in the midst of a blizzard and a general evacuation, and spends the rest of the film trudging through the woods with an idealistic, half-crazed soldier towards an invisible front line. In their determination to show the real face of war on the Eastern Front, the actors cough, wheeze, and gasp for breath. Bundled in army coats against the Russian winter, they create a sense of misery and dread without firing a shot; death, when it comes, is ignoble and disgusting. Much of the film's power comes from cinematographer Oleg Lukichev's striking black and white images and long tracking shots that gradually reveal details in the driving snow.
Director's Statement Collapse
While my grandmother and mother were being transferred in a cargo wagon to Germany the train stopped by a halt. A German soldier disobeyed army laws and let them out of the wagon. Thus, he saved their lives. Approximately at this same time, my grandfather--a Soviet Army soldier--died. He was shot by the Nazis. That's the way it was. I decided to make this movie because of the German who saved my relatives. The movie was supposed to be about a division of Third Reich soldiers stationed at the Eastern Front--not about those who raped and killed, but those who did not willfully choose to get to war. However as I was writing the screenplay the plot changed, and the movie turned into a story about a German doctor who was a kind man unwilling to accept the idea of war. The type of man who would always, in any war, be doomed to die without ever firing a bullet to hit another man. The movie is about intelligent people who were forced to fight and in the end absolutely senselessly and futilely die.
About the Director(s)Collapse
Aleksei German, Jr. was born in 1976 in Moscow and raised in St. Petersburg. In 1996, he was accepted to the VGIK (State Institute of Cinema), in Moscow, and graduated in 2001. Since then, German has worked at the Lenfilm Studio, and directed the short films Standard (1998), The Large Autumn Field (1999), and Little Fools (2001). His first feature film, The Last Train (2003), won the Amnesty International - DOEN Award at the 2004 International Film Festival Rotterdam.