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A strong 8 out of 10, because of the effort the filmmakers put into it.
The film (and the book) also illustrate that Samaritanism is not dead, and was not, even in Russia at this time. Forrell was, after all, a German soldier, but he would have been unable to cross Siberia without help from people of many diverse people. As Bettlemen related, "People will help a creature driven into the dust, even if it is their worst enemy."
Too unbelievable a story? "We suspected him to be a spy and wanted to hang him. But - if he really was spy he would have invented a more plausible story, wouldn't he?" The thing is: It's a TRUE story. Josef Martin Bauer wrote the book with the same title as this movie in the 1950s after having a series of long interviews with Clemens Forell. It was a great success and became translated in 15 languages. In 1959, there was a Mini-Series on German TV. This movie here is the first version for the "big screen".
"As Far As my Feet Will Carry Me" is really a movie worth seeing. It's very suspenseful like a thriller. And you can even get an insight into a topic quite rarely told in Western cinema: the many different peoples and landscapes in Siberia and Central Asia. As for landscapes: The late Pavel Lebechev (camera) does a great job showing the endless snow-covered width of Siberia - and (in contrast) the narrowness and confinement of the railway carriage during deportation.
A movie worth to see. If you can't find the DVD, please at least read the book by Josef Martin Bauer: "As Far As my Feet Will Carry Me" - a true page-turner.
This is counter-balanced by good acting, rather good cinematography and beautiful images of nature. "So weit die Füsse tragen" is fairly entertaining as an adventure film and I was strangely attracted by the story about travelling through endless wastes of Siberia. The portrayal of nature is captivating. The film isn't a remarkable masterpiece, but I'd still recommend seeing it if the subject sounds appealing. After all, German POWs in Russia isn't exactly the most worn subject of films.
Protagonist of movie is Clemens Forell, a German soldier in WWII, judged by Stalins Soviet Union to many years of "Arbeitslager" (you can also say "Gulag") in the most north-east of Siberia - what was normally equal to be judged to death (for example only 6000 from close to 100.000 POWs from the "Battle for Stalingrad" returned ever home - last ones in 1956 - 3 years after Stalin died).
So, this movie shows the escape of Forell, going (mostly) by feet thousands of miles to escape from this point in the Soviet Union, where no tree grows - East Siberia.
What is nice in this movie is the fact, that you realise, that not Forell, or the Russian people, have any hate against each other - its government, who made all this - the tyranny of Hitler and Stalin.
This movie is really nice made - you don't want to stop to watch - as you cant stop reading a good book - i recommend it for everybody who want to see something about a part of WWII, where nobody speaks too often about - or who want to watch only a really nice movie.
10 of 10 from me for this movie.
The film scores in its background & theme music,adds Chilling effect to the frozen sheet.The exotic locations is visual treat for eyes. Irina Pantaeva locks you in her charm and beauty.Even though the film ends in a positive note,you will suffer from the DISTANT WALK.This film made me look beyond the horizon Hollywood, and ignited a liking for German movies.A great movie if you have the TIME. If you like this movie you will also like THE GREAT ESCAPE(pow classic)
Immediately after watching "So weit die Füße tragen" an inescapable question popped into my head: Why did it take nearly half a century for this movie to get made? If ever there was a film that serves as irrefutable proof of the old adage "Truth is Stranger than Fiction", believe me, "As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me" is it!
Imagine trying to wrap your suspension of disbelief around all of the following elements: At the end of WWII, a German POW, Clemens Forell, is sent to a Siberian forced-labor camp, in the far northeast corner of the Soviet Union (Russia), only a few hundred miles west of Alaska. After years of the most inhumane treatment and paltry diet imaginable, Forell manages to escape with the aid of the camp Dr., his compatriot. Thusly, he becomes the most sought after fugitive in the Communist Bloc. His life-sustaining obsession: To reach his family in Germany, over 8,000 miles away, on foot!
Now if this premise were presented as a work of fiction, it would seem so preposterous that, more than likely, it would have been laughed out of theaters. This film should appeal to several diverse groups: To those of you who seek out true stories; to fans of escape films; to those who enjoy Man vs. The Wild/Nature themes; to the fans of German and/or foreign cinema and to those with an interest in diverse cultures and film shoot locations.
One thing that really impressed me; Most "True Stories", in recent years, stretch the truth quite a bit, for "dramatic impact"! It is obvious that this film refuses to compromise the truth. This apparent faithfulness to the original true story was influential in my decision to give it a 9* rating. By the way, very solid ensemble acting and some very beautiful exotic locations.
9* Stars ....ENJOY/DISFRUTELA!
Although much touted for it's visual image, I was disappointed by the lack of little details. Many parts just didn't give one the feeling of being there. Forinstance, the train ride eastward; if it has been done like in Dr. Zhivago, it would have been great.
The Russian camp commander was a totally cardboard character. Evil and mean but with no depth. And he is supposed to have followed a single escaped prisoner for 3 years and 8000 miles. Where was his accountability to his superiors for taking off on his own like this. Surely they wouldn't have permitted his being away from his command for months on end in the pursuit of a single escaped prisoner. In reality, the searchers spent a couple of days scanning a 50 kilometer radius then gave the escapee up for dead.
And when; after dogging his prey for 3 years the commander finally catches up with him...and then lets him go? Oh please. I have seen better turns of a plot on womens afternoon shows.
And that Siberian woman who fell instantly in love with him and bedded down with him the same day he came to in her Tee-pee. She happened to be beautiful and wore only the finest quality "traditional" garb. This was a totally unnecessary addition to the film.
I know that a movie can't follow all the detail of a long book about a longer journey. But so much was glazed over.
The dramatic end was conversely wonderful. The reunion with his wife was a great scene and done so well. It brought to life what must have been the most powerful emotions. But was cut off short by the ending credits. if they'd have added a couple of minutes to the end, it might have gone a long way toward saving something of this movie.
Overall "As far as my feet will carry me" had me longing for my feet to carry me out of the theater. At best it is a medium quality "made for TV" production.
What I found most interesting is the plot of the film. There are so many German films about World War II, military operations, the Fuehrer, she suffering people, the chanting people etc. but this one here plays with the exception of the first couple minutes when everything is over. We see the protagonist spending time in a Soviet labor camp. The first third of the movie roughly is about the man's attempts to break free. Everything afterward is about how he succeeded, but is still fighting a really rough battle in order to survive and make it back to his family. This family background is the emotional aspect of the movie and this is also where it delivers pretty nicely. So as a whole the film includes really quite a few areas and works well in pretty much all of these: drama, war, survival, romance and history. I recommend this film. Go check it out. It is really impressive how it never dragged despite the massive runtime. Thumbs up.
How in the hell could a Russian NKWD officer be coming from the Iranian side of the bridge ? Perhaps he told the Russian border guards "Hi guys,please let me pass. I will go near the Iranian side to wait for a German POW who escaped from my camp. If he arrives and he surely will, I will tell him "I defeated you" and let him go". Behaviour of this guards suggests that nobody actually had crossed the border before Forell(this day of course) Then he told the Iranians"Excuse me, could you shine mirror at this man coming towards us? I have to appear out of nowhere,you see.And thanks for the tea".The only logical answer to this problem is Forell had hallucinations.So that scene occurred only in his mind. Why is it so important then?
I do not find the depiction of how ordinary Soviet citizens help an individual German soldier that incredible. Unlike the average German of the time, often indoctrinated with racial hatred, it seems ordinary Soviets were quite capable of distinguishing between the individual German soldier and the horrendous system that sent him. But life in general was cheap in Stalinist times, and this may go some way in explaining how the prisoners were treated.
What added to my enjoyment was that, untypical for most German movies, most of the Soviet protagonists actually spoke Russian. It's a pity that the makers caved in when characters had more dialog, so we inexplicably hear the two Siberian trappers speak heavily-accented German with Forell. Overall, the authentic period feel and beautiful scenery make for an entertaining 2.5 hours of viewing a forgotten piece of history.
Beginning in the summer of 1944, Clemens Forell bids farewell to his pregnant wife and young daughter, as he ventures off to the Russian front during the last 12 months of the war in Europe. The film then jumps forward a year, with the war over and German POW's in Russia being transported to the GULAG's in Siberia. The scenes on board the train showing the appalling conditions mirror those that you would expect to see in most Holocaust films.
Upon arrival at the end of the line, the prisoners then embark on a march through the snow until they reach their final destination and the very eastern tip of the USSR. Once at the GULAG at Cape Dezhnev, the prisoners are sent down lead mines where, historically, most perished over the next 10 years.
The film effectively shows the harsh conditions imposed on the prisoners, although at this early stage of the film, the viewer is still deciding whether or not they feel sorry for the central character and his countrymen, who's exact crimes are not made clear in the film. During WW2, the USSR witnessed the very worst atrocities carried out by the Nazis, so feeling sympathy for these guys is hard to do if you know the history.
When Forell makes his successful escape, following an unsuccessful one, the journey that follows is truly remarkable. From the desolate barren landscapes of Arctic Siberia, Forell encounters a variety of characters, including a tribe of Siberian Eskimos that thankfully only took up a small portion of the film. The romance with the Siberian girl was silly and unnecessary.
The remainder of the journey leads Forell to eventually cross the border into Iran, but not before another silly scene with the GULAG camp commander, who has supposedly chased the escapee for 3 years only to meet up with him on the bridge between the border posts. This was daft and took away a lot of credibility that the film does earn at different stages. A large chunk of the story them seems to disappear as Forell finds himself in a prison in Tehran waiting to be executed for being a Soviet spy. This part of the story could have been the subject of a film on its own.
I'm not going to spoil the end, but it was quite effective, if not brief. I will say that the viewer will be left still thinking whether or not the hero of the film really is a hero. Watch a film like "Come and See," then see how you feel about the Nazi POW's portrayed in this film.
Overall, the film was a good watch, not a great one as it could have been had a few more details been provided for the audience. Hardy Martins' direction has its moments. The acting was generally good, although Anatoly Kotenyov was wishy-washy in the role as Kamenev, the Soviet officer who chases Forell throughout the film. Michael Mendl in his brief role as Stauffer was memorable. Bernhard Bettermenn in the lead role was solid, although the true nature of his character is never fully realised. As a Nazi officer fighting on the Russian front, the good-guy persona needed to be more toughened up. Realistically, only the hardened of men could have survived what Clemens Forell did.
Leave artistic considerations out when you bring yourself to watch this. Not that its a poorly made film; if this is a low-budget film, it doesn't show. The camerawork is good, the acting too (don't expect a POW on the lam to have of profound interactions with people every minute) but the main draw ought to be the story itself. Where the movie succeeds is that its polished enough not to be a distraction from the telling; that is, you could easily and comfortably forget its a movie, and just sit back and watch. After all, there's not a whole lot of complexity with an escapee on a journey home.
**mild spoilers below**
Upon watching it, you may have objections, such as: how could this guy not've known what the Nazis were doing in the war? can he really be as pure as the driven snow around him, the only one of the POWs seen to be nobly helping others and connecting with people? isn't that "wigwam" scene with the squaw --I mean, Yakut girl-- too cliche? what of the feel-good scene where the Jew helps the German? All I can say is, if the part about a guy trudging 13,000(?)km from the eastern tip of Siberia to Iran is verifiable, who's to say the rest of the story didn't transpire as shown? Nothing would be too far-fetched. In fact, the dignity with which Clemens treats friend and foe alike could go a long way toward explaining the strength of character necessary for such a feat.
As an aside, I once read an account of a Polish POW who escaped a prison camp after WWII and walked -the whole way- to India with two companions; it hasn't been independently verified and bears so many similarities to Clemens real-life adventure that I wonder whether the Polish guy's story is just a knock-off.
The film is on the long side. That should be the case; its about a very long and lonely journey over harsh landscapes in difficult circumstances. What would've been nice is to use that length to get to know the character's psyche, his drive and what must've been very fierce doubts at times.
My vote: ***1/2 of ****
tiny gripe: the family's saga in Germany was too marginal to the rest of the story. It also would've been interesting to see what in the way of international news this man could glean during his journey.
"So Weit die Füße Tragen" is amazing. Clemens' struggle to survive is almost unbelievable. His initial journey across Siberia is a lonely and hard one. The joy he experiences (and I completely feel it too) when he sees a bare tree is overwhelming. In the land of pure wilderness, the simplest item can exhilarate. It is a stark reminder of how materialistic the world has become, and we are taking so many things for granted.
It is heartbreaking to see that he learns not to trust anyone, as his escape is filled with prosecution and betrayal. This keeps the thrill and suspense throughout. In fact, I had to pause the film several times to calm myself down.
The execution of the film is also very good. It does not feel like 2.5 hours, in fact I think no scene can be cut away without harming the integrity of it. There are many memorable scenes, such as the raft on rapids, and the many concentration camp scenes. The most striking scene is the final bridge scene. The immense natural beauty is contrasted with the most dreaded encounter. The suspense and emotion of it is beyond words.
Apart from the tight and intense plot, and the excellent execution, "So Weit die Füße Tragen" is filled with very touching elements. The ending will surely bring anyone to tears. To think that Clemens have suffered three years of unimaginable hardship to achieve this one solitary goal is inspiring and moving.
"So Weit die Füße Tragen" is inspiring and thought provoking. It celebrates the will power to struggle and to survive. I will remember this film as one of the most touching and powerful film I have ever watched.
We do not know what the German soldier in this movie knew or did not know about his country and what they did at the time he went to the war.
All we really know is that he was called upon to serve his country and so he did. Did the American soldiers during the Viet Nam war know that their fellow soldiers would commit atrocities? Did they know that later, historians would consider it an unjust and useless war for the U.S. to have been involved in, even though we bombed Cambodia and North Viet Nam to hell? So, for the sake of this movie we are to assume that this was a man serving his country, nothing more. We only know that he himself was treated very unfairly and cruelly by the Russians in a P.O.W. camp and that he endured great suffering in order to escape and arrive back home.
So in that sense it is a beautiful movie about the human will to survive and get back to one's family.
This movie is about a human being who suffers. Aren't we all human beings who suffer? I am not apologizing for or minimizing the horror of what the Nazis did, and I don't think the movie is meant to do that, either. It's just a story about a German who happened to endure an amazing journey, that's all. And as such it is a very good movie and an amazing story.
Seems like the camp comendant drops everything and follows the hero to the very end of his journey. The hero changes his clothes so many times... how does he shave? At least occasionally, he is shaved.
The idea that he could escape the trap by just jumping on a train... that's Indiana Jones. We were supposed to listen to a true story.
Anybody checked whether there's a railroad to Chukotka? But most of all, I don't know how about the general public, but a hero that was executing guerillas... he is just a war criminal. The fact that the German public kind of sympathises with him, it is pretty sad.
In short - it is full of lies.
Without any scroll-work, the film shows the way of Clemens Forell from his way from Munich to Stalingrad in the last year of World War II, then his deportation to a Stalinistic Concentration Camp in Siberia, afterward his flight, made possible by a terminally ill German physician who provides him with the preparatory work originally intended for himself, then his basically indescribably pains on his unimaginable long and excruciating way through ten thousands of miles of Ice deserts, the taiga, downwards to the South into an Iranian prison, and then his miraculous, yet not fairy-tale-like release and return to his family after more than eight years of absence on Christmas Eve, like scheduled for Midnight Mass.