Leningrad Symphony

During the Leningrad Blockade the conductor Karl Eliasberg receives an unbelievable assignment: surrounded by hunger, cold, and death he must conduct Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony with his surviving orchestra. Against all odds he accomplishes the impossible: For a short moment the war is interrupted by the sounds of the „Leningrad Symphony“ waft through the city all the way to German trenches. It is the heroic story of an orchestra and the symbolic triumph of art over the savagery of war.

Leningrad Symphony

Leningrad in the winter of 1942: a city of three million people facing death by starvation. Hitler’s orders were simple: besiege Leningrad, supported by bombs and artillery, and exterminate its population by cutting off its food supplies. The German generals and their troops obeyed. The siege of Leningrad lasted a staggering 872 days. The resulting genocide constituted one of the Wehrmacht’s most heinous crimes, as hundreds of thousands of men, women and children died during the siege induced famine. Almost miraculously, not everyone died. One of the forces that helped to keep the city’s survivors alive was Leningrad’s radio station, broadcasting poetry and live music, even though its members of staff were facing starvation like everyone else in the city. For many ordinary people, the radio’s daily broadcasts became a last lifeline, as they struggled to maintain their will to live in the face of extreme famine. It was during the darkest days of the siege, in March 1942, that the emaciated conductor of the city’s radio orchestra, Karl Eliasberg, was given a seemingly impossible assignment: surrounded by extreme hunger, cold and death he was to rehearse Shostakovich’s brand new 7th Symphony, one of the most powerful and epic wartime compositions of the 20th century. The symphony would have to be performed by the few surviving members of his radio orchestra, some of them too weak to lift their instruments. It was to be broadcast live by Leningrad’s radio station, as a sign that the city refused to die. Against all odds, Eliasberg and a handful of courageous musicians and radio producers would manage the impossible. On August 9th 1942, after months of painful rehearsals and preparation, the war was interrupted by the stirring sounds of the “Leningrad Symphony”, broadcast to the city’s homes and in the streets, and all the way to the Soviet and German trenches. In Russia, the performance is remembered as a psychological turning point in the war, the moment that Leningrad manifested its unwavering resolve to withstand the forces of Nazism. Impressive interviews with contemporary witnesses, unique archive recordings from the occupied Leningrad and elaborately produced reenacted scenes tell the shocking story of one of the most famous symphonies of the last century. The siege of Leningrad was one of the greatest war crimes of the Second World War and a great propag anda campaign at the same time: The performance of the Leningrad Symphony is still regarded as a turning point in the war by the Russians. „Leningrad Symphony“ describes this tragedy as a gripping documentary from the perspective of the besieged and the besieger and shows the cruel everyday life of a city that seems to be devoted to death. In addition to the interviews with contemporary witnesses such as Olga Kvade and Joachim Buff, (the brother of the soldier), the film is fundamentally underpinned by expert interviews with the historian Prof. Dr. Sönke Neitzel and the British journalist and writer Anna Reid („Leningrad: The Epic Victory of World War II, 1941-1944 „).

Mercedes Müller
Markus Brandl
Matthias Bundschuh
Florian Panzner

Script: Christian Frey
Director: Christian Frey (documental), Carsten Gutschmidt (scenic)

Production Manager: Stefan Hoffmann
Production Assistant: Lilly Hartmann, Leonie Rüschoff
Production Office: Rebecca Zaubel
Film Accountant: Sandra Zentgraf
Producer: Ira Beetz
Associate Producer: Paul Wiederhold
Assistant Editor: Juliane Pohl
Unit Manager: Jörn Stiefermann
Assistant Director: Mo Jäger
Set Manager: Axel Bierstedt
Set Assistant: Mirco Zurek
DOP documental: Tom Bresinsky, Michael Kern, Yuri Ermolin
DOP scenic: Jürgen Rehberg
DOP Assistant: Jens Mattner
DOP 2nd Assistant: Carolin Jahn, Max Rainer
Dolly: Rene Zander
Sound Editor: Thomas Funk
Boom Operator: Evgenij Ussach
CGI: Eike Wichmann
Film Editor: Marcel Martens
Film Editing Assistant: Malte Hadeler
Gaffer: Torsten Häfner
Best Boy: Niko Mölter, Tobias Langhof
Set Design: Dennis Duis, André Barthel
Props Manager: Sabine Richter
Set Construction: Marius Jacob
Costume Designer: Stefanie Jauß
Costume Design Assistant: Gina Jauß
Make up Artist: Yvonne Oppermann, Ina Charanza, Kai Rudat
Production Driver: Steffen Ehlers
Composer: Nils Kacirek, Latvian National Symphony Orchestra

Executive Producer: Reinhardt Beetz
Commissioning Editors: Marc Brasse (NDR), Ulrike Dotzer (NDR/Arte)




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