World War II holds seemingly endless stories that portray the best and worst of human beings. If stripped of all propaganda, the tales left are the ones which communicate a motivation to which all people can relate. In Director Igor Grabovsky’s Katusha, the intersection of love, commitment, and bravery is personified via Maria Medun. Australian actress Suzanne Gullabovska is inspiring and heart-wrenching as this geography teacher turner soldier. Maria is not a molded and conformed combatant, she’s a woman who is slowly losing the physical manifestations of love in her life and is prepared to fight even unto the greatest costs. In this production, the director has shown greater illumination into the undeniable losses and contributions of the Russian people against Germany in the war which was said to “end all wars.” Suzanne Gullabovska’s charisma on the screen makes her a constant focal point. Katusha boasts talent behind the camera such as such as Julian Ellingworth (of the 1985 Australian Drama Rebel starring Oscar Nominated Actor Matt Dillon which won multiple AFI Awards) and Mark Newnham (of Avatar-winner of 3 Oscars in including Best Motion Picture of the Year and Peter Jackson’s District 9-nominated for 4 Oscars) making it well balanced with those in front of the camera.
To most people these days, the word Katusha doesn’t mean anything but in the early 1940s it was a new type of rocket launcher (named after a soldier) that threated German forces in a massive way. Katusha the film is the story behind Germany’s attempts to destroy this weaponry innovation in its early days. However, the true heart of this film is the depiction of the lives of those who fought to ensure Nazi’s would not obliterate the Katusha. History testifies to the valor of Russians during World War II. Maria Medun is a moving presentation of this. Her life is torn apart when her son dies. Maria leaves her life as a Geography teacher to enlist in the army and try to find her husband, an active duty soldier fighting in the field. Her knowledge of topography gains her access to fighting on the frontlines where her husband is, but also places her in an hourly confrontation with death at the hands of the enemy.
Thanks to Suzanne Gullabovska, Maria Medun is accessible to the audience. She’s not a steely-eyed Tom Cruise inspired alpha character. Far from it, Maria often experiences moments of overwhelming fear. Hear bravery comes from her commitment to her husband and gains perspective from the loss of her son. Watching Suzanne’s performance, it’s strikingly apparent how the most extraordinary of actors can make a character someone you feel you already know; a sister, a wife, a daughter. There is a multidimensional aspect to Maria, one in which we see the person we most identify with. The complexity is astounding yet in no way cumbersome for Gullabovska. As a result of this mesmerizing portrayal, Maria becomes an intense focal point of the action of this film. Sadly, there is no happy ending for Maria Medun but the film benefits greatly from the passion and heart that Suzanne Gullabovska infuses into a woman who personifies love and duty.