Bernhard Bettermann in As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me (2001)

A Long Walk Home

review

Following WWII, Clemens Forell (Bernhard Bettermann) is one of many German soldiers who are captured by the Russians and transported to Siberia to work in a labour camp where Lieutenant Colonel Kamenev (Anatoliy Kotenyov) is in charge of breaking men like Clemens. But Kamenev knows that Clemens is different as no matter what treatment he dishes out on him he refuses to be beaten. So when Clemens gets the chance to escape he takes it and starts making the long walk home across Russia to get back to his wife and daughter. It is a trek which not only takes three years but has Kamenev on his trail.

Can you imagine trying to sell "As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me" to a studio back in the 1950s; here is a story about a Nazi soldier escaping from a Gulag and we watch his slow, dangerous journey home. It just wouldn't have happened and thankfully times have moved on so that we can now have movies like this which don't dwell on the rights and wrongs of a person's time during war but focuses on him being a man and his devotion to loved ones that he will put himself through hell to be with them. Yes that does sound romantic and epic and in a way "As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me" is both epic and romanticized as we follows Clemens' long walk home.

Now ironically whilst technically "As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me" is a prison escape movie as we have Clemens trying to get home, hunted down by Kamenev it actually reminded me more of one of those amazing adventure movies of the 80s where we follow a young person's journey across country and all the people they encounter along the way. And it is certainly entertaining with a wonderful smattering of adventure and danger from almost drowning in a fast flowing river to Kamenev carrying bullet shells in one hand to help create heat and then transferring them to his other.

But here is the problem I have with "As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me" and it seems to me that director Hardy Martins set about to make an epic movie in a David Lean style using the various landscape as a backdrop. The trouble is that whilst it is an epic journey the production doesn't deliver that and attempts to impress only end up making this feel drawn out and trying to be something it isn't. In truth at 158 minutes "As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me" is too long at would have worked a lot better as a 2 hour movie which kept things ticking over rather than trying to impress with long scenic shots.

What this all boils down to is that "As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me" is entertaining and the angle of it being a German soldier trying to escape and get back home gives it an entertaining angle. But the attempts to make this an epic movie don't work for me and sadly makes it feel drawn out and forced in some places.