At the conclusion of World War II, the war lingered a bit in the hearts and minds of many of the survivors of Leningrad (formerly St. Petersburg) in the old Soviet Union. The Siege of Leningrad, conducted by the German Wehrmacht and Woffen SS, lasted an agonizing 872 days, which eventually cost the lives of an estimated 1.5 million Soviet soldiers and civilians (many women and children). "In Tranzit" is the story of how these same women soldiers of Leningrad dealt with the tending of Male Wehrmacht prisoners nearly a year after the end of the war.
Vera Farmiga as Natalia, the camp's doctor, was superb in her role, as she is in most every role she takes on, and was one of the two American actors cast in leading roles - the other, the enigmatic John Malkovich as Pavlov, the local communist party boss. Most of the rest of the cast consisted of actors of Germanic and Slavic descent. The film, shot in entirely in what is now again St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad while Soviet) was never distributed in the United States - only in limited release in Europe. Most particularly good is Thomas Kretschmann as Max, the German soldier that softens the hardened heart of Natalia.
Irrespective of those shared human kindness, it is a dark, brooding film, with all enveloping atmosphere of a long Russian Novel that begins in a pool of grief and finishes in cold, dank despondent waves of uninterrupted sadness. There is no comic relief in this film, and maybe, there should not be. After the horrors of the Siege of Leningrad: Why should anyone find the blithe happiness of knowing survival, and can't we all understand why the female camp guards could still be a little pissed with the haggard Wehrmacht soldiers, who just want to return to what little remains of the Germany they left so many years ago?
The film is only 113 minutes, and even though this picture is not perfect, it is made well enough to tell a story that needs to be understood.
Rated R. Release to DVD sometime in 2009?
This post appears courtesy of our sister site, Beaufort County NOW, with their expressed permission.