1944 (out now on DVD and Digital) is yet another film that reminds us that the Pearl Harbor to D-Day t0 Hiroshima/Nagasaki narrative we all know barely scratches the surface of the story of World War II. Here's the movie's opening scene:
History lesson: Estonia is a Baltic country tucked in between Latvia and Russia and across the sea from Finland and Sweden. Head NNE from Warsaw through Lithuania and you'll eventually get to Tallinn, the capital of the future Soviet state.
Russian annexed the country at the beginning of the war and conscripted 50,000 men to fight in the Red Army. Germany seized the country in 1941 and impressed 70,000 more men to fight for the German military. The movie follows Estonian troops fighting on both sides from July's battle of the Tannenberg Line to the Red Army's occupation of the Sorve peninsula at the end of November. It's a Civil War tale, with neighbors and brothers fighting against each other for a cause that neither really supports.
The movie was made by Estonian director Elmo Nüganen and it now stands as the country's biggest domestic box office success. Nüganen has studied old war movies and gives his tale an epic feel without the budget for modern effects or masses of extras. If you've watched a lot of WWII movies, there's not a lot to surprise you here, but it all works because it's made by Estonians telling their own war story.
You can watch the film dubbed into English but it's much better if you watch it with subtitles and the original Estonian soundtrack. The DVD is available exclusively at Walmart. Check out the full trailer below.