Friday, November 4, 2011

Nochnoi Dozor (Night Watch) (2005)
RUSSIA --- fantasy

Dir: Timur Bekamambetov

“Sorcerers in Moscow . . . silly.” Anton Gorodestsky

The anemic Russian cinema movement has returned, with a bang. "Nochoi Dozor" (or Night Watch) was the top grossing film in Russia in 2004, making it the first blockbuster in post Soviet Union Russia. When I first read about Night Watch in the papers glaring at the riveting movie poster, I was intrigued. I was even more intrigued when I found out it was the first of a trilogy. I didn’t get a chance to see it in its limited U.S. release, so I had to wait for the DVD. The wait was well worth it. I was at once astounded at not only its unique premise, but as a film, in its innovative visual amalgam of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the “Blade” films, with a little bit of the vibe of “Underworld” and “Ghostbusters” thrown in for good measure. I finished the movie and I wanted more from this world. I immediately went scouring the net for info on who came up with this terrific cinematic wonder.

Nochnoi Dozor is definitely no Ptushko or Tarkovsky film. Director Timur Bekamambetov gives an adrenaline shot to this film in every frame with stunning visual effects that are not used like condiments on a bland burger like some of Hollywood’s films, but are used to tell the story. The 1998 novel, by science fiction/fantasy author Sergey Lukyanenko, is slightly different from the fim in story structure. The 2004 film unweaves the existence of two powerful forces among us; the “Others”. One is light and the other is dark. They control the day and the night. But many years ago, they came to a truce. Geser (according to the author is named after Gesser the Tibetan hero of legend), the lord of light, and Zavulon, the general of darkness agree to never give any new “Others” the right to freewill – to be what they want. Be that good, or evil. Hmmm, yes, I detect some post communist controlled USSR inspiration there.

They also set up two separate mystical factions that exist in the world, still until today, complete with rules. Basically they were set up to make sure neither breaks the truce. The light forces became known as the Night Watch, while the dark became Day Watch. Our hero in the story is Anton Gorodetsky, who in the film we see him try to win his ex-lover back through the assistance of a witch. The witch is an Other and has just broken a rule of the Nightwatch. But in the process, we find out Anton happens to be an Other. He becomes a Light Mage, as he is a magician.

Fast forward years later, we find that Anton is indeed working for the Night Watch, and his latest mission is to find a vampire who has broken the truce. A vampire has bitten a woman, turning her into one of them. But she must feed, and the vampire has her lure a young boy for her consumption. Anton seeks the assistance of his neighbors who happen to be vampires too. He must think and behave like a vampire in order to find and track down the boy. This is considered to be field work by the Night Watch, and Anton dislikes it. In the subway, Anton runs into another problem; a woman he believes is an Other, but he lets it go in order to complete his current mission with the boy. Upon finding the vampire, his attempt to apprehend the vampires goes sideways as one of them is killed and the chick escapes. This doesn’t make things good for the truce any better, on either side. Anton returns to Geser mortally wounded and on top of this, Geser takes a look into Anton’s mind finding the woman on the train. He discovers that this woman is about to bring about the apocalypse. Meanwhile, Zavulon is designing an elaborate plot to take advantage of an ancient prophecy that tells of a Great One, that will choose to become an Other that will either destroy the light within or battle the surrounding darkness. It is that choice that will decide the fate of the world.

The film is intriguing with its plot, and it’s at once jaw-dropping to watch the special effects utilized to the hilt. Timur Bekamambetov has created an ultra-slick and highly stylized "New Weird" film. I can watch the movie over and over. What’s even more exciting is that Fox Searchlight funneled (of course) an American appeasing version, and that there is an original Russian cut out there to be had. KOOL! I also have to track down the Region 0 PAL 3-discer set available, and maybe even the novel at some point. This website is an English ready fan site and is pretty informative of the Night Watch saga: A sequel was made, but as of this writing, the trilogy is incomplete.