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Night Watch (2004)

by on 2012/10/29

“You should be careful what you say – ‘damned’ is more than just a word.”

* * * *

I have made up my mind. I will follow Timur Bekmambetov wherever he may go. Filmically speaking.

There’s something about the look of his films. First, I crazily adore Wanted.  I have said on this site that Wanted is the entertainment equivalent of beef jerky in my movie Armageddon pantry.

Now that I’ve seen Night Watch, the low-budget film ($4.2-million) made in Russia, I know this director is just about as supernatural as his films. Considered a Russian big-budget blockbuster, the first after the Soviet Union’s collapse, this film makes magic with its relatively limited funding.

The magic I’ve decided is pure Bekmambetov. You can see his signature brushstrokes in every dark, moody scene.

It starts simply enough. Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky) is a drab man with an all-too-common problem – his wife is cheating on him. Worse still, she’s pregnant.

But this is a Bekmambetov universe. So Anton goes to visit a witch, more specifically, a Dark Other to curse his faithless spouse.

This opening sequence grabs you by the cheap tracksuit and takes you on a labyrinthine journey through the drab corridors of Russian apartment buildings and industrial buildings. But this worlds hold more interest than the gaudy wallpaper, they are inhabited with vampires, witches, cursed virgins and a key to the end of the world.

The characters even watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the episode where Buffy meets Dracula – in Russian.

I was home.

Bekmambetov has some consistent, gorgeous, visceral visual motifs. Punch-savaged but fiercely brave male faces. Splintering wood, in doors and whole buildings. Bullet time on steroids – and not just even bullets in this case. Witness a bolt from a passing airplane traveling from the plane’s fuselage down into an ordinary apartment building.

And of course, massive vehicles being up-ended.

Some of these things make my Slavic heart sing.

Beyond the incredible visual interest of this film, the script was so good, the subtitles were laugh-out-loud funny.

I watched this gorgeous, dark masterpiece with my favourite teenager Miss_Tree and was gratified how much she appreciated the Russian language film with English-subtitles, laughing and startling on cue.

Timur Bekmambetov creates dark magic worlds that I want to return to, again and again.

* * * *

114 min

Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images and language

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