Russian Historic Film Dominates World Box Office
A Russian battleship depicted in the historic drama Admiral
Russia Blog's review available here.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox International-distributed Russian film Kolchak (The Admiral) dominated the international box office in Russia and Ukraine with a take of $12.8 million from 1,088 screens; Russia was the key driver with $11.4 million. The only other movie that came close was the DreamWorks/Paramount thriller Eagle Eye ($10.7 million from 36 territories) -- thanks to 11 new openings and a screen count of 2,969.
The Admiral is Russia's most ambitious blockbuster to date with a price-tag of 20 million dollars, produced by the same team that had tremendous success with the fantasy horror films Night Watch and Day Watch. While the film's budget does not sound big to a U.S. audience, Russian filmmakers have proved once again that they can outpace Hollywood's production with a tenth of a Hollywood film's budget. Also, unlike Hollywood, most of Russia's blockbusters are historic novels put on film. The historical epic Admiral hit screens last week with a rousing call to national pride and a popular revision of the Bolshevik revolution, with the good guys clearly on the losing side.
The dedication of the admiral by the White Russian forces
Visit the extended post to read the film review and watch the trailer.
Watch the trailer for Admiral (with English subtitles).
Lead actor Konstantin Khabensky starred in Timur Bekmanbetov's Night Watch (2005), Day Watch (2006) and the Angelina Jolie action movie Wanted (2008).
MOSCOW (St. Petersburg Times) -- Russia's latest blockbuster film hopes to woo big foreign audiences with an epic tale of doomed love set amid the chaos of the Russian Civil War; its politics conveniently chime with a Kremlin-sponsored mood of patriotism.
"Admiral," which had its world premiere on Monday evening, glorifies Alexander Kolchak, a former naval hero who led White Russian forces into battle against the Bolsheviks in Siberia and briefly became Supreme Governor of Russia before meeting an untimely end at the hands of a communist firing squad.
Despised in Soviet times as a Tsarist enemy of the people, Kolchak is back in fashion as the Kremlin tries to reconnect today's resurgent Russia with its glorious imperial past and bury the 74 years of communism which came in between.
"It's very important we talk about our history, our country, our officers," director Andrei Kravchuk said in an interview.
"If we understand that we had such a history, such people... we can fill ourselves with dignity, and the notion of motherland and patriotism, which can seem worn and tarnished, gains new, concrete, visible meaning."
The film's backers hope that the epic, which opened in Russian cinemas on Thursday in a record 1,250 prints, will secure the same success at home and abroad as an earlier hit by the same producers, the 2004 fantasy horror film "Night Watch."
Boasting a $20 million budget -- huge by Russian standards -- "Admiral" portrays Kolchak as a fearless naval commander, loving father, dashing lover and principled leader of the doomed White Russians as they make a final stand in the winter snow.
After a fond farewell to his lover -- his best friend's wife -- he faces the Bolshevik firing squad bravely in the winter night standing in front of a cathedral and refusing a blindfold. His executioners wrap his body in a white shroud and throw it into a river through a hole cut in the ice.
The film's promoters are pitching it as Russia's answer to the Hollywood blockbuster "Titanic," stressing the common theme of doomed love amid tragedy and also hoping to emulate some of the American film's huge box-office success.
Like "Titanic," "Admiral" "is a story of love amid extreme catastrophe but this time it's not a ship which is sinking, it's the entire country," co-producer Anatoly Maximov told Reuters.
As so often in today's Russia there is a political subtext.
Mostly funded by state-run First Channel television, "Admiral" is the latest in a series of historical epics that resurrect pre-revolutionary Russian heroes who battle bravely against impossible odds, dogged by foreign villains.
Audiences have already been treated to "1612" showing Polish troops thrown back from Moscow and "Alexander: The Battle on the Neva" where the hero fights off marauding Swedes; a new look at Ivan the Terrible is promised.
Echoing the anti-foreigner theme, "Admiral" opens with Kolchak commanding an imperial Russian warship in the Baltic as it lures a German enemy vessel to destruction in a minefield. It closes with Kolchak betrayed to the Reds by a French general who was supposed to be his ally.
The film is not the first attempt at rehabilitating Kolchak. After the fall of the Soviet Union, at least two statues were erected to the admiral and an island named after him, though attempts to pardon him in court have not yet succeeded.
A "Civic Movement For The Legacy Of Admiral Kolchak" tried in August to gain him posthumous membership of the prestigious Academy of Science for his early career as a polar explorer, with backing from an influential ruling United Russia deputy.
"A new historical truth is opening and through this film we are trying to give an emotional argument for this historical truth," said Maximov.
Historians are not so sure.
"Kolchak has been judged differently at different times in history," said historian Roy Medvedev. "...Most Russians know little of him so the film will have a big influence on them."