MOVIE: As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me (2001)

Ordinarily when I’m on vacation at the Wood Family B&B, my mom and I avoid renting movies that have subtitles because, like, yo, if we wanted to READ, we’d go to the library not Hollywood Video.  But we somehow managed to rent this one without realizing it was in German until it was too late, and then we decided, eh, might as well branch out and challenge our lazy selves a little bit.

The dumb part of this, of course, is that almost every foreign movie I’ve seen in the last several years has ended up being utterly amazing in some way, if not in every way, and this one was no exception.  So why this mental block about foreign films, I ask you?   It’s dumb.  And it’s definitely not the subtitles that are the problem — we frequently turn on the English ones when we watch movies that are IN ENGLISH, so it’s not like we aren’t reading our movies all the time anyway.  (Note: we do this because it helps prevent this otherwise frequently-recurring conversation:  Me: What?  Mom: I missed it.  Me: Should I rewind?  Mom: I. . .yeah, rewind.)

We’re dorks.  There — I’ve said it.  Not that you didn’t suspect this already, of course.

Anyway, this extremely wonderful film is about a German soldier, named Clemens Forell in the story, imprisoned as a POW in a Siberian gulag right at the tail-end of World War II.  Sentenced to 25 years of hard labor, Forell can think of nothing but getting back to his wife and daughter.  And so, with the help of the camp’s doctor, a fellow prisoner himself, Forell manages to escape.

Only, when you’re a German busting out of a Siberian gulag in the dead of winter, you’re really a LONG way from home and you’ve got some pretty harsh obstacles to overcome.  Such as:  freezing to death, walking 86 gazillion miles without decent footwear, getting caught by the gulag warden who is totally obsessed with you, starving to death, falling, breaking a limb, being eaten by a wolf — dude, the list goes on and on.  The bulk of this film is about Forell’s attempt to get past these obstacles and back home, something it takes him over three years to accomplish.  THREE YEARS, people.  Terrified and half-frozen the entire time, he manages to cross some of the most inhospitable terrain on the entire planet.  And then he FINALLY makes it to Iran, where he’s . . .

. . . Promptly arrested as a Soviet spy.  CURSES!

It’s quite a story.  And if you know me and my tastes in movies, you know it’s not going to end with you pulling out your hair and sobbing “Why? WHY?  WHYYYYYY?” into a hankie,  rest assured.

The box for the DVD said it was “based on a true story and novel,” which didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, so I looked Forell up at Wikipedia.  Turns out, he’s not a real guy — that is, there IS a real guy who actually did this, but when he told his story to author Josef Bauer, it was on the condition that his name be changed (for fear of KGB reprisals, apparently).  The book version of his story, published originally in 1955, riveted the German people and ended up being made into a German TV series in 1959 that was an enormous hit, bringing a lot of hope back to the German family members still waiting, even then, for their own relatives to somehow return home.

According to Wikipedia, the real Clemens Forell was named Cornelius Rost and died in 1983.  Cornelius, you da man.

(You know, except for the part where you were a Nazi.)

Recommended!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Drama, Foreign
Cast:  Bernhard Bettermann, Michael Mendl, Anatoli Kotenyov

Tags: ,

21 Responses to “MOVIE: As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me (2001)”

  1. Lorraine Says:

    You got me to add it to my Netflix queue! I don’t mind subtitles. There are some really great foreign films out there that should not be missed just because of subtitles. I’ll try to remember to write back after I’ve seen it.

  2. Lizzie Says:

    I’m awfully glad you tell us about these movies. This one does sound interesting, but, honestly, I really can’t read subtitles while watching a movie – I can barely read the subtitles themselves. I’m not being facetious or anything; I’m perfectly aware that I’m missing out. But it’s just not something I can do, and I hope no one thinks that I’m making a value judgment here. Please keep letting us know about foreign films that you happen upon, and I hope you guys enjoy them. I know you, Meg, appreciate hearing various opinions about these movies, and I think we all like to read them! I guess I’m safer with things that go “Grrrr-Arrrgh!”

  3. Ellen Says:

    Subtitles rule! Nazis, not so much.

  4. Lorraine Says:

    Meg, based on your recommendation I watched this film and I LOVED it! The first hour was one of the most beautifully filmed and intensely interesting sequences that I’ve ever seen in film. All the snow and ice scenes and those Siberian gulag scenes were breathtaking. I thought that once he met Irina it became a bit soapy and the film was rather uneven from that point. But, it definitely was extremely intense film watching. It was so harrowing that I had to take a break halfway through.

    This film was nowhere on my radar so thanks for bringing it to my attention. I definitely recommend this film to others.

    And without excusing anything about WWII Germany, it is not always true that “German soldier” equals “Nazi”. This story does not tell us enough to know if that was true in this case.

  5. megwood Says:

    Glad you liked the movie, Lorriane!

    But, I do disagree with your last paragraph. The character Forell, as well as the real guy he was based on, was an officer in the German army. An oberleutnant, to be exact, which I believe translates into “senior lieutenant.” In order to achieve that rank, he would’ve had to swear allegiance to Hitler and Nazi Germany and also, one would assume, demonstrate that allegiance more than once in order to get promoted. In fact, I’m pretty sure I remember learning that ALL soldiers in Germany during WWII had to swear allegiance to Hitler, although it’s also true that in many cases, they either swore their allegiance or they got shot. Regardless, unless I’m wrong about this (possible — do correct me if I am), I’d say that in order to be a senior anything in the military you have to show you’re pretty willing to be a party to the party, so to speak. I don’t think it’s much of a leap to call Forell a Nazi. If he’d been a footsoldier, drafted and forced to pledge allegiance to Hitler or die, I might be willing to take your point.

  6. Lorraine Says:

    Meg, I do remember that Forell had a higher rank. I agree that in some cases, soldiers had to swear allegiance or get shot. I’m sure each of them had varying knowledge, beliefs and motivations. The movie never showed that Forell was anything other than a soldier the on the eastern front. I just wanted to make that distinction as opposed to someone who committed violence against civilians or was obviously political.

    In general, I don’t like to label people and I try to look at each person as a complex individual. After what Rost experienced, I hope that he realized the danger of dehumanizing groups of people.

    Again, thanks for bringing the movie to my attention.

  7. Lorraine Says:

    Oh, I did want to add that it is possible that the filmmakers downplayed Forell’s Nazi leanings so we would sympathize with him.

  8. Trip Says:

    I hate Illinois Nazis.

  9. megwood Says:

    Oh, Trip — how I need this today.

    “We got two honkies out there, dressed like Hasidic diamond merchants. . .”

  10. Trip Says:

    Gimme four fried chickens and a Coke.

  11. megwood Says:

    “1060 West Addison? That’s Wrigley Field!”

  12. Trip Says:

    I bet these cops got SCMODS.

  13. megwood Says:

    It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank ‘a gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses. HIT IT.

  14. Trip Says:

    Jesus H. Tap Dancing Christ! I have seen the light!

  15. megwood Says:

    If the shit fits, wear it.

  16. Jo Boehm Says:

    I would like some information that doesn’t interest anyone.
    What city did he have to get to cross the border into Iran? What is the name of the bridge.? I pressume it is over the Caspian Sea but I don’t find the name anywhere. And why was the Soviet soldier waiting for him in the Iranian side after he crossed the border into Iran? Were the Iranians cooperating with the Soviets? An why were the Iranians worried about German spies. The movie leaves a lot of questions unanswered or I missed them all. Maybe all that is answere if you know the WWW ll history.
    Would appreciate your answer. Hope I can find you again.Jo

  17. megwood Says:

    Hi, Jo — my suggestion is that you get a copy of the book that the film was based on (it can be found at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Far-Feet-Will-Carry-Extraordinary/dp/0786712074). I’m sure it would have the answers you are looking for, as well as a lot more information about the history of the region during WWII than they could fit into the film.

  18. blake Says:

    it looks good i just hope the German dies a slow painful death

    • Ilse Says:

      Hey Blake are you aware that the American Armed Forces are viewed by a lot of people around the world as murderous, torturing conquerors? Also a lot of people do think that the tortures & abuses at Abu Ghraib and at Guantanamo as wells other instances of horrible excesses by the US army are the rule rather than the exeption? I ask these questions hoping that you’ll know that there are good and bad people in any Army, even in Nazi Germany and I hope that you know that the German Armed forces: the Werhmach, the Kriegsmarines and the Luftwaffe were for the most part made up of young men and veterans who were called up by their country to fight and to do their duty which is what armies do. Addiitionally Hitler HATED the German High Command, he hated the armed forces and they were not too fond of him either. I’m not saying that there weren’t any Nazi soldiers or that there weren’t any fanatical murdering Nazis either. What I am saying is that there is a VAST difference between the regular army and the SS. I am also saying that most of these men were answering their call of duty and that’s what EVERY ARMY does in war time. Not all American soldiers are bad people, not by a long run; but try to convince the mother, sister, son or daughter of an Abu Ghraib victim of that fact. Not all Germans were Nazis and many, many of them suffered when Hitler came to power and continued to suffer after Germany lost the war.

      • Meg Says:

        Great point, Ilse. My dad’s a US Marine (retired now), and I have to say, I grew up around Marines and they were easily the best people I have ever known in my entire 37 years of life. I was confused about the German Army vs. the Nazis myself when I first saw this film — I’ve since done a lot of reading to clarify things. Blake’s reaction is pretty normal for people, though, I’d say. That sort of negative gut-reaction. It’s understandable, I think. We aren’t taught much about the other Army in Germany during WWII — we’re mostly taught about the Nazis. So, thank you for your excellent clarification, Ilse! I really appreciate it!

  19. Stephan Wilkinson Says:

    Though the book (and film) “As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me” is certainly -based- on a true story, it’s a fictionalized version that has in fact been called by some “a novel.” It’s about as accurate as the Disney version of the story of Davy Crockett.

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