Russian filmmaker Sergei Bondarchuk is both director and star of this melancholy wartime fable. Bondarchuk portrays Andrey Sokolov, a World War II-era Soviet citizen who is captured by Nazis. He goes through hell, but is sustained by the possibility that someday he'll be reunited with his loved ones. Upon his release, Sokolov discovers that his whole family has died during the war. Originally titled Sudba Cheloveka, Destiny of a Man represented Sergei Bondarchuk's directorial debut. Its international release in 1961 (two years after it was made) was a genuine eye-opener to film-critic curmudgeons who believed that Russian filmmakers, while brilliant in assembling propaganda pieces, were lacking in humanity and emotionalism. An enormous worldwide success, Destiny of a Man smoothed the path for the more spectacular Bondarchuk productions (War and Peace, Waterloo) still to come.
by Hal Erickson synopsis