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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Conscientious Look at The War
Vladimir Litvinov


ebruary is the month when Russia celebrates the day of the defenders of the Homeland (February 23, formerly known as the Day of the Soviet Army and Navy), and for the last few years at least one Russian movie this month has been a military drama or action film. This year is no exception. The most widely publicized domestic film scheduled for nationwide release in February is Alexander Atanesyans Rascals (Svolochi); a military action drama set in Russia at the height of World War II.

Based on an autobiographical novella by Vladimir Kunin, a Munich-based Russian author, the film tells the story of a commando unit formed in the Soviet Union in 1943 with the goal of countering the operations of the German elite mountaineer unit Edelweiss. The Russian unit consisted of 14-15 year old parentless delinquents who would not be missed by anyone. The rationale was that the boys aggressiveness and stubbornness, which got them into trouble in peace time, would be an asset at war. The boys were sent to a secret mountain military camp for several months of training, after which they were to be sent behind enemy lines to destroy a military base. None of the boys were expected to survive, as they had access to secret information the Russian military commanders didnt particularly want to be spread. However, two boys managed to survive.

With a budget of about $2.5 million, Rascals is one of the most expensive movies made in Russia and is expected to become another domestic blockbuster. It exposes some rough truths about WWII. In recent years, the war and the military in general have become a fashionable subject among Russian filmmakers, but it is not clear how many more films of this kind Russian audiences can take. Still, this one is made by people with substantial moviemaking experience. Screenwriter Vladimir Kunin is the author of about a dozen scripts, among which is that of the perestroika-time box-office leader Intergirl (Interdevochka). Meanwhile, director Alexander Atanesyan is known for several projects filmed over the last few years, including the action thriller 24 hours (24 chasa), the melodrama Summer Rain (Letni Dozhd) and the science fiction TV series Amphibian Man (Chelovek-amfibia).

Rascals is released on February 2 and will be shown in many Moscow movie theaters, including Rolan, Pyat Zvyezd at Paveletskaya and Pyat Zvyezd at Novokuznetskaya.


Another Russian film, the release of which has been timed to coincide with this heroic day, is Artyom Antonovs Mist (Polumgla), a military drama set in a remote village in Russias Far North in 1944. The main protagonist, senior lieutenant Yemelyan Anokhin, gets injured and can no longer continue service in regular units. He is therefore sent to manage construction of a radio beacon by captive German soldiers and has to fight his hatred for Germans developed while fighting them on the front line. The film tells a story of complicated relations between Anokhin, the captive Germans, and the villages residents, most of whom are women whose husbands and sons are at the front, touching upon the broader theme of finding a common language by different peoples. The films international premiere was at last years new Montreal film festival, where director Artyom Antonov was awarded a prize for the best debut. Mist will be released on February 22 in Rolan, Pyat Zvyezd at Paveletskaya and Pyat Zvyezd at Novokuznetskaya.

Meanwhile, feature length animated films have become increasingly popular in Russia in recent years, with domestic filmmakers cashing in on the success of imported animated films and developing new themes. Yuri Kulakov, the director of Prince Vladimir (Knyaz Vladimir), turned to Russian history ten centuries ago, telling the story of this famous ruler of ancient Russia, set against the background of picturesque landscapes, bloody battles, generous feasts and colorful fairs. The film is scheduled for release on February 22.

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