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Great Battles (2): 1631 – The Sack of Magdeburg

Script & direction: Anne Roerkohl
ARD, arte 2006, 45 Min.

The story of the battle takes center stage and forms the basic dramaturgy of the film. The focus is not on military strategy. The battle is told from the point of view of an ordinary soldier (Georg Ackermann, mercenary/captain in the Pappenheim regiment) and the civilian population (12-year-old Daniel Friese, son of the town clerk, with his family), in other words, from the perspective of the lower class. The protagonists are not fictitious but authentic. Their stories derive from historical sources. The story’s dynamic arises from the shifting perspectives between civilians and mercenaries, between the army camp and the situation inside the city, between attackers and defenders, and between the victors and the vanquished.

At the documentary level, the film situates the war into the historical context of the era, as well as the Battle of Magdeburg, and its impact on the European balance of power up to the Peace of Westphalia. Through flashbacks and inserted thematic scenes (mercenary life, archeology, media, medicine, war and weapons technology), the period of the Thirty Years’ War comes to life, including its social, economic, and cultural aspects.

The documentary’s reenactments (directed by Hannes Schuler) cover the four days of Magdeburg’s tragic downfall. The documentary portrays a range of perspectives of the battle (mercenaries/attackers – civilians/defenders) with the aid of authentic protagonists recounting some of their most emotional moments.

Production: Ottonia Media, Leipzig, commissioned by MDR/WDR/SR.

For more information:

Einnahme der Vorstädte durch die kaiserlichen Truppen im April 1631
Imperial troops capture the suburbs in April 1631
Eroberung Magdeburgs, 10. Mai 1631
Conquest of Magdeburg, May 10th 1631
Dreharbeiten, 2005
Shooting, 2005
Dreharbeiten, 2005
Shooting, 2005