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German filmmaker Joseph Vilsmaier, creator of Stalingrad movie, dies aged 81

His 1993 masterpiece detailed the story of Wehrmacht troops in their losing battle against the Soviet Union.

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The Motherland Calls statue in Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad (Tim Goode/PA)

The Motherland Calls statue in Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad (Tim Goode/PA)

The Motherland Calls statue in Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad (Tim Goode/PA)

Joseph Vilsmaier, a German filmmaker whose striking portrayal of the Battle of Stalingrad brought home the horrors of war to a new generation, has died aged 81.

His agent confirmed that Vilsmaier “died peacefully at his home” in Bavaria on Tuesday.

Vilsmaier’s 1993 film Stalingrad painted a grim picture of the fate of a group of Wehrmacht soldiers sent to the eastern front in 1942 to fight what would become a losing battle against the Soviet Army.

The months-long siege of the city, now known as Volgograd, cost the lives of millions of soldiers and civilians and marked a turning point for Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

German filmmaker Joseph Vilsmaier, creator of Stalingrad movie, dies aged 81 Code 1

Born 1939 in Munich, Vilsmaier studied music and worked as a technician before gaining a foothold in the film business in the early 1960s as a runner and later making a name for himself as a cameraman for German television.

Vilsmaier made his debut as a director in 1988 with Herbstmilch, or Autumn Milk, the story of a Bavarian peasant woman that became a box office hit in Germany.

Many of his films focused on tumultuous periods in German history, often from the perspective of ordinary people, a notable exception being Marlene (2000) about the life of actress and singer Marlene Dietrich.

Vilsmaier is survived by three daughters, Janina, Theresa and Josephina.

His second wife, Czech actress and director Dana Vavrova, died in 2009.

PA