Battle of Neretva (Serbo-Croatian: Bitka na Neretvi / Битка на Неретви, Slovene: Bitka na Neretvi,) is a 1969 Yugoslavian partisan film. The film was written by Stevan Bulajić and Veljko Bulajić, and directed by Veljko Bulajić. It is based on the true events of World War II. The Battle of the Neretva was due to a strategic plan for a combined Axis powers attack in 1943 against the Yugoslav Partisans. The plan was also known as the Fourth Enemy Offensive and occurred in the area of the Neretva river in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Battle of Neretva is the most expensive motion picture made in the SFR Yugoslavia. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the year after Sergei Bondarchuk (playing the role of Martin in Neretva) won the honour for War and Peace. The score for the English-speaking versions was composed by Bernard Herrmann. Its soundtrack was released by Entr'acte Recording Society in 1974. It was re-released on Southern Cross Records on CD.
One of the original posters for the English version of the movie was made by Pablo Picasso, which, according to Bulajić, the famous painter agreed to do without payment, only requesting a case of the best Yugoslav wines.
Sergei Bondarchuk as Martin
Yul Brynner as Vlado
Curt Jürgens as Gen. Lohring
Bata Živojinović as Stole
Sylva Koscina as Danica
Boris Dvornik as Stipe
Hardy Krüger as Col. Kranzer
Franco Nero as Capt. Michele Riva
Lojze Rozman as Ivan
Ljubiša Samardžić as Novak
Orson Welles as Chetnik senator
Milena Dravić as Nada
Špela Rozin as Aide
Pavle Vuisić as Jordan
Fabijan Šovagović as Mad Boško
Anthony Dawson as Gen. Morelli
Dušan Bulajić as Chetnik Commander
Renato Rossini as Sgt. Mario
Oleg Vidov as Nikola
Kole Angelovski as Žika
Stole Aranđelović as Šumadinac
Demeter Bitenc as Capt. Schröder
Ralph Persson as Lt. Horst
Miha Baloh as Ustasha Commander
Faruk Begolli as Stevo
Zaim Muzaferija as tall peasant in the Partisans column
Battle of Neretva was first of the huge state-sponsored World War II film productions. It had a staggering budget approved personally by Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito. Different sources put it anywhere between $4.5 million and $12 million. Global stars such as Sergei Bondarchuk, Yul Brynner, Franco Nero, Orson Welles, etc. flocked to communist Yugoslavia attracted by the huge sums of money being offered.
Shot over 16 months with funds put up in largest part by over 58 self-managed companies in Yugoslavia, the movie featured a combined battalion of 10,000 actual Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) soldiers. Four villages and a fortress were constructed for the film, and subsequently destroyed. Several army-inventory Soviet T-34 tanks, touched up to look like German panzers, met the same fate.
Additionally, an actual railway bridge over Neretva River in Jablanica was destroyed. Director Bulajić's justification for taking down an actual bridge rather than getting the shots in studio was that a destroyed bridge would later become a tourist attraction. The bridge was thus blown up, but because none of the footage was usable due to the billowing smoke that made it impossible to see anything, it was decided that the bridge should be repaired and destroyed again. However, the problem with the excessive smoke occurred even when the bridge was blown up for the second time. Finally, the scenes of the bridge being blown up that eventually ended up in the film were shot using a small scale table-size replica at a sound stage in Prague.
Throughout the movie's production, the Yugoslav public was updated on the shooting progress via pieces in the country's print media.
In 1999, a poll of Croatian film fans found it to be one of the best Yugoslavian films ever made. People still enjoy it and it is praised for being historically correct and entertaining at the same time. It still has fans all over the former SFRY.