As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me is a German film, originally released in 2001, that tells the story of Clemens Forell, a soldier who, after being sent to a prison camp in World War II, escapes and attempts the mammoth journey home – by foot – to his pregnant wife Kathrin and (not pregnant) daughter. Absolutely not remastered and re-released on DVD to cash in on the cinematic release of The Way Back, this ten year old film has not aged well and fails to really touch us in any meaningful way over it’s 150 minute runtime.
From the get-go it’s clear that this film will tread the same tediously familiar territory that a million films before it have – swelling, emphatic music alongside images of brave young men with their side-partings and pregnant wives going off to fight for Fuhrer and country. The Soviets, who are portrayed cartoonishly and as totally, irretrievably evil, soon crack down on Our Hero for one boring reason or another and he finds himself on the fast train to Siberia, where a painfully snowy death awaits.
The only thing notable about this film is that it portrays German soldiers as sympathetic creatures, with families and feelings. This is a far cry from the Nazi Stormtroopers we’re used to seeing on-screen, whose presence is normally only required to use up a few of the main characters bullets (see any English language war film ever). This puts a viewer in a country associated with the Allied forces – England, the former Soviet Union, France, the USA, Australia, etc. – in the strange position of seeing the Soviets as the bad guys in a WWII setting. Seeing as the Soviets provided a much needed second line of offence against the Nazis, it’s difficult to take against them. Hence the Soviets are portrayed as two-dimensional sadists whose only intention is to cause pain to these innocent soldiers.
As the film chugs towards it’s inevitable climax, the film ramps up the cheap emotion. The finale is a triumph of cloying sentiment and by the end your heartstrings will have been pulled on so hard that it’ll feel like you’re having a coronary. Not that nice a feeling.
There is some innovation – the lack of subtitles for some of the foreigners that Clemens runs into during his three year trek is a nice touch that conveys the helplessness and utter confusion that he must have been feeling, but aside from that this film is a little bit too long for the casual viewer, and a little bit too dull for the interested WWII buff.