Enemy at the Gates

Enemy at the Gates Information

Enemy at the Gates is a 2001 war film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, starring Joseph Fiennes, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Bob Hoskins and Ed Harris a fictional tale set during the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II.

The film's title is taken from William Craig's 1973 nonfiction book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad, which describes the events surrounding the Battle of Stalingrad from 1942"1943. It is loosely based on war stories told by Soviet sniper Vasily Zaitsev.


In 1942, Vasily Zaytsev (Jude Law), a shepherd from the Ural Mountains who is now a soldier in the Red Army, finds himself on the front lines of the Battle of Stalingrad. Sent on a suicidal charge against the invading Germans, he uses impressive marksmanship skills"?taught to him by his grandfather from a young age"?to save himself and commissar Danilov (Joseph Fiennes). Nikita Khrushchev (Bob Hoskins) arrives in Stalingrad to coordinate the city's defenses and demands ideas to improve morale. Danilov, now a Senior Lieutenant, suggests that the people need figures to idolize, and publishes tales of Vasili's exploits in the army's newspaper that paint him as a national hero and propaganda icon. Vasili is transferred to the sniper division, and he and Danilov become friends. They also both become romantically interested in Tania (Rachel Weisz), a citizen of Stalingrad who has become a Private in the local militia. Danilov has her transferred to an intelligence unit away from the battlefield.

With the Soviet snipers taking an increasing toll on the German forces, German Major Erwin König (Ed Harris) is deployed to Stalingrad to take out Vasili and thus crush Soviet morale. A renowned marksman and head of the German Army sniper school at Zossen, he lures Vasili into a trap and takes out two of his fellow snipers, but Vasili manages to escape. When the Red Army command learns of König's mission, they dispatch his former student Koulikov (Ron Perlman) to help Vasili kill him. However, König tricks Koulikov into revealing his position and kills him with a very skillful shot, shaking Vasili's spirits considerably. Khrushchev pressures Danilov to bring the sniper standoff to a conclusion.

Sasha, a young Soviet boy, volunteers to act as a double agent by passing König false information about Vasili's whereabouts, thus giving Vasili a chance to ambush the Major. Vasili sets a trap for König and manages to wound him, but during a second attempt Vasili falls asleep after many hours and his sniper log is taken by a looting German soldier. The German command takes the log as evidence of Vasili's death and plans to send König home, but the Major does not believe that Vasili is dead. He tells Sasha where he will be next, suspecting that the boy will tell Vasili. Tania and Vasili have meanwhile fallen in love, and the jealous Danilov disparages Vasili in a letter to his superiors.

König spots Tania and Vasili waiting for him at his next ambush, confirming his suspicions about Sasha. He kills the boy and hangs his body from a pole to bait Vasili. Vasili vows to kill König and sends Tania and Danilov to evacuate Sasha's mother (Eva Mattes) from the city, but Tania is wounded by shrapnel en route to the evacuation boats. Thinking her dead, Danilov regrets his jealousy of Vasili and his resulting disenchantment with the communist cause. Finding Vasili waiting to ambush König, Danilov intentionally exposes himself in order to provoke König into shooting him and exposing König's position. Thinking he has killed Vasili, König goes to inspect the body, but realizes too late that he has fallen into a trap and is in Vasili's sights. He turns to face Vasili, who then kills him. Two months later, after Stalingrad has been liberated and the German forces have surrendered, Vasili finds Tania recovering in a field hospital.

Main cast

  • Jude Law " Vassili Zaitsev
  • Joseph Fiennes " Commissar Danilov
  • Rachel Weisz " Tania Chernova
  • Bob Hoskins " Nikita Khrushchev
  • Ed Harris " Major Erwin König
  • Ron Perlman " Koulikov
  • Eva Mattes " Mother Fillipov
  • Gabriel Thomson " Sasha Filippov
  • Matthias Habich " General Friedrich Paulus
  • Sophie Rois " Ludmilla
  • Ivan Shvedoff " Volodya
  • Mario Bandi " Anton
  • Gennadi Vengerov " Starshina
  • Mikhail Matveyev " Grandfather


Historical accuracy

Historian Antony Beevor suggests in his book, Stalingrad, that, while Zaitsev was a real person, the story of his duel (dramatised in the film) with König is fictional. Although William Craig's book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad includes a "sniper's duel" between Zaitsev and König, the sequence of events in the film is fictional. Zaitsev, in an interview claimed to have engaged in a sniper duel over a number of days. Zaitsev, the only historical source for the story, stated that after killing the German sniper, and on collecting his tags, he found that he had killed the head of the Berlin Sniper School. No sniper named König has ever been identified in the German records.

In the film, Jude Law uses a 7.62x54r Mosin Model 1891/30 sniper rifle with a PU 3.5 power sniper scope (i.e. the image is magnified 3 and a half times). Vasily Zaitsev used a Model 1891/30 sniper rifle with an earlier and larger sniper telescope (his rifle is preserved in a museum in Russia). Also, the poster for the film reverses the Mosin 91/30 rifle photograph so that the bolt handle appears on the left side of the rifle, instead of the right side where it should be.

This movie also depicted a love story between Vassili and Tania. However Vassili claimed never to have any relationship with anyone during the war.


The film was poorly received in the former Soviet Union. Some Red Army Stalingrad veterans were so offended by inaccuracies in the film and how the Red Army was portrayed that on 7 May 2001, shortly after the film premiered in Russia, they expressed their displeasure in the Duma, demanding a ban of the film, but their request was not satisfied.

The film was received poorly in Germany. Critics claimed that it simplified history and glorified war. At the Berlinale film festival, it was booed. Annaud stated afterwards that he would not present another film at Berlinale, calling it a "slaughterhouse" and claiming that his film received much better reception elsewhere.

In the United States, the film received mixed reviews; the most common complaint among even the positive reviews was over the inclusion of what was seen as an unnecessary love-story that detracted from the main plot. Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four and wrote that it "is about two men placed in a situation where they have to try to use their intelligence and skills to kill each other. When Annaud focuses on that, the movie works with rare concentration. The additional plot stuff and the romance are kind of a shame". New York Magazine's Peter Ranier was less kind, declaring "It's as if an obsessed film nut had decided to collect every bad war-film convention on one computer and program it to spit out a script." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone admitted the film had faults, but that "any flaws in execution pale against those moments when the film brings history to vital life."

The Russo-German writer Wladimir Kaminer played an extra as a Soviet soldier in the film. In his book Russian Disco (2000), Kaminer criticises how the Soviet soldiers are portrayed as hooligans getting drunk and playing farting games.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Enemy_at_the_Gates" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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