Ski Battalion

1938, Movie, NR, 73 mins


In 1921 the Soviet Bolshevists must defend their border from the Finnish army, among many other armies. The regiment marches and does its fighting while on skis, hence the title. This well-directed film has all the classic elements of the U.S.S.R.'s party-controlled propaganda filmmaking, complete with a nationalistic theme and the most evil of enemies. Unlike most films of this nature, though, the direction manages to overcome the dogma and present a reasonably entertaining package. Like many Soviet films intended for export, this one is best viewed in the historical context of the time of its release. Finland's Mannerheim line was being reinforced by German "advisors" with weapons that gave the Finns the capacity to raze Leningrad by shelling. In 1939, Soviet troops crossed the border and engaged the Finns in a bitter, costly war. This film was intended as a warning, just as ALEXANDER NEVSKY (1939) was intended to be a warning to the Germans. Oddly, the Soviets were no stars at ski touring at the time. The Finns were the accomplished skiers, as they demonstrated by soundly whipping the Red Army horse cavalry. That may be why this picture presented the bulk of the Bolshevik troops as expatriate Finns converted to the Leninist philosophy. The camerawork is creative, capturing the battle and ski sequences with real vigor. The acting, though obviously constrained by the humorless material, is pretty good. (In Russian; English subtitles.) leave a comment

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