Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Admiral is not a movie that would have been made 30-20-maybe even 10 years ago in Russia, but itseems lately that the time is come for Russia to rehabilitate some of her heroes from before - or in this case during - the revolution. Alexander Kolchak (played by Konstantin Khabenskiy, in a role that did not stretch him much) was leader of the White Russians, who vied for control of the country following the downfall of the Russian monarchy. Admiral tells the love story of Anna Kapel and Admiral Kolchak against the backdrop of the 1st World War and the revolution and subsequent battle for control of Russia.
As depicted in the film, Kolchak is not a sympathetic character, and I had a hard time rooting for either Anna or the admiral. Anna was the wife of a subordinate, very well portrayed by Sergei Bezrukov, and Kolchak himself was married. The affair, although unconsummated until after the two of them had separated from their spouses, broke up two marriages and was, I thought, unconscionable. More interesting to me was the glimpse into Russian history, although doubtless as skewed as such a movie would be in America. I am moved to know more about this period.
I think Andrei Kravchuk and Ron Maxwell must have had the same teacher in film school. As I watched the story of Admiral Kolchak played out in stylish vignettes with not much connecting story, I couldn't help but think that here was an opportunity wasted. Director Kravchuk certainly has an eye for setting a scene; the movie is gorgeously shot. Costumes and locations draw you into the period. Battlefield recreations are nicely done and if Admiral had a story to match, this might have been a great film. I swear that if a scene with Admiral Kravchuk praying with a negro cook had been included, I would not have been surprised.There was in fact a scene where Kolchak leads his sailors in prayer during a battle against a German battleship. At least Admiral moves right along, where Maxwell's Gods and Generals was insufferably slow-paced.
The problem with epics is that characters get lost. To properly develop characters, the movies have to run way long. It seems most directors never quite get the balance right.
The movie I saw was in Russian with English subtitles; I could be wrong, but given the packaging of the DVD I obtained, I imagine this was probably geared to Russian-American buyers. The included MP3 CD was all Russian dialogue and so was useless to me. I had rather hoped it contained a soundtrack or something - no such luck. I got a horrible recording - I watched large chunks of the movie in stop motion and no sound. I'm hoping to return it and get a good copy. Perhaps my opinion is colored by the problems I had with the disc.
I would recommend Admiral with some reservation. It is a beautifully shot movie, after all. As I understand it, Admiral was made on a budget of $20 million. If true, it's amazing what the Russians can do with a tenth of the budget of an American flick. After I get a clean copy of the DVD, I'll try it again and maybe offer a different take.
Elizaveta Boyarskay, who plays Anna is - well - HOT!
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