From the opening scene we can see anti-Soviet propaganda. The Nazi slaughter of Soviet troops is treated with little music and normal speed indicating that it is a normal event. Once the soldiers turn back and are shot by their own side for retreating do we see the dramatic slow motion showing what a supposed atrocity it is. It deliberately paints the opposite. The returning soldiers are shot out of necessity to maintain and offensive against a losing battle, but treat as normal the actual atrocity of the Nazis that was the in invasion and slaughter of Europe. This may transcend from anti-Soviet propaganda to pro-Nazi propaganda.
In the battle over the woman Tania, Danilov is using his superior education and sophistication over Zaytsev who is an uneducated Sheppard boy from the Urals. Intended here is to show that classes still existed in the Soviet Union. Well, of course they did, the class antagonisms just took on a new form. The idea that the bourgeoisie only exist because they are anchored to private property was proven to be wrong. This was one of Mao’s theoretical breakthroughs in socialism, understanding that they continue to exist and the plan to combat it.
It even falsely claims that the Soviets were allies of the Nazis. As Zaytsev aims a shot at a Nazi telephone wire his partner Koulikov tells of how he was in Germany “when our Joseph and their Adolph were walking hand in hand.” This is a lie, the Soviets and the Nazis had the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement after every other country had an agreement with them. Stalin used it as time to build up a fighting force against the Nazis, while Belgian, Norway, Finland, Hungary and Bulgaria all joined the Nazi side. No criticism of them is ever made.
Koulikov then delivers a hilarious story of being tortured for being sent to Germany to study in German. Of course it is claimed that Stalin sent him and not one of thousands of subordinates. They claim he was tortured means nothing as no one tortures people for simply having been sent to another country to study. As well as the fact that this is a work of fiction. Its too obvious to mention the torture committed by Americans at Abu Ghraib prison, Guantanamo Bay and countless CIA black sites around the world.
Near the end of the movie Zaytsev makes the complaint that he’s “been made about to something he can’t live up to”. To me this reeks of an Atlas Shrugged moment. A moment in which the objectivist complains that the individual has too much to bear in contributing to others. However a war let alone a World War requires enormous team work and sacrifice. Interestingly, objecitivists rarely have to fight for anything, almost never are they even soldiers. They’d know nothing about what it means to sacrifice to save lives and defend. This moment is supposed to somehow justify the Virtue of Selfishness, by portraying Zaytsev as an oppressed great man being dragged down by the “stupid worthless mud” (to use her own words).
The propaganda at the end is the most hilarious, superficial and most detached from materialism. Danilov outright claims socialism can’t work because two men can love the same woman. Two men loving the same woman have nothing to do with the democratization of productive forces. The attempt made here is to claim that the romantic love between two people is the same thing as the general love that one can feel for all of humanity. These are two completely different things.
The movie was made political deliberately, I would have much preferred the movie simply be about the war and the man himself. Its too bad this anti-communist propaganda couldn’t have been placed in some other work so as not to detract from this great story.