Monday, July 13, 2015

White Tiger (orig. Белый тигр / Belyy Tigr) [2012]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing* listing* listing* (P. Pryadkin) review* (S. Sinyakov) review* (R. Volokhov) review* (S. Mezenov) review* (A. Trunov) review*
RIA Novosti (M. Ganiyants) review* (S. Stepnova) review* (V. Ramm) review*

White Tiger (orig. Белый тигр / Belyy Tigr) [2012] [IMDb] []*[]*[]* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Karen Shakhnazarov [IMDb] []*[]*[]* along with Aleksandr Borodyanskiy [IMDb] []*[]*[]* based on the novel [GR]*[WCat] [Amzn]* by Ilya Boyashov [ru-wikip]*[GR-eng] [GR-rus]*[Amzn] [IMDb]) was Russia's submission to the 2013 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.  Additionally, it was nominated for (but did not win) three Nika Awards (the Russian equivalent of the Oscars).  Though the most "conventional" of the contemporary Russian movies that I viewed / reviewed as part of my 2015 Russian Film Tour, I did feel that it did have the official acclaim to include it in my tour. 

The film (fictional, of course) plays like a Russian adaptation of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick set in the context of World War II: In the closing months of the war, Soviet tank formations come to be terrorized _occasionally_ by a mysterious (ghostly) WHITE Tiger Tank, that appears out of the mists, destroying many tanks, causing havoc in their ranks, before disappearing into the mists / swamps once more.

ALTERNATIVELY, the film could be understood as something of a Russian X-Men / Captain America style superhero movie, because the Russian tank commander Ivan Nadeynov (played by Aleksey Vertkov [IMDb] []*) who comes to be chosen to lead the crew of a specially designed/souped-up  T-34 "super tank" to find / battle this white/mystical Tiger Tank, had battled it before and had been severely wounded, suffering burns over 90% of his body.  YET, at every step of the way in his recovery when superiors / medical personnel were content to dismiss him first as dead, then as hopelessly mortally wounded ("why waste time on him when he's going to die in a few hours anyway?") and finally as destined to be a severely wounded invalid, HE PROVED THEM (almost miraculously) WRONG, EVENTUALLY BECOMING (save for a few scars) COMPLETELY HEALED.  Indeed, he came to be something of a "tank whisperer" claiming to his superiors that "tanks talked to him" and were helping him to hunt down this white, mechanical abomination.

And so with his tank crew, he encounters and battles this tank at least two more times.  And yet, when the War ends, neither he nor his superiors, from his immediate superior Major Federov (played by Vitaliy Kishchenko [IMDb] []*) up all the way to Field Marshall Zhukov (played in the film by Valeriy Grishko [IMDb] []*) are convinced that the "White Tiger" tank was ever really destroyed.  Instead, they feared that Ivan right, that after his last battle with it, having faught it to a draw, it simply disappeared once again into the mists / swamps, WAITING to RISE AND CAUSE THE RUSSIANS HAVOC AGAIN.

Parallel to their concern is the closing boast of captured (and eventually executed at Nuremburg) former Nazi German General Chief of Staff Keitel (played by Christian Redl [IMDb] []*) after signing the formal orders of surrender that "Though yes, the world will hate us now, we're only guilty of actually doing what the rest of Europe always wanted to do but never had the courage: Nobody liked the Jews or the Russians for that matter.  Everybody feared 'the hoards' from the steppes.  We tried to take them on and all that we're guilty of is failing to defeat them."

This is actually a rather frightening closing piece of dialogue in the film because it seems to equate EUROPE (today???) with the Nazis of the past ... and suggests that the "ghostly White Tiger tank" may one day "rise again."

How to talk the Russians down from that frightening assessment?   I suppose that the Russian government could invent reasons to fear us (and yes both we and they could still blow each other up) but there's NOBODY in Europe / the U.S. who would seriously consider an offensive war against Russia.   Yet it must be noted that _Russia itself_ is currently scaring a lot of the smaller European countries along its borders.  They too have still fairly recent experience / fears of tanks (mostly Russian) running across their lands ...

To them, the ghostly tank lurking in the forests / swamps ... would be a Russian one ... Heck, I'm 3/4 Czech ... I know something of tanks too ...


(1) How to see the movie?  The film is quite widely available, in Russian, on the internet.  Then subtitles in multiple languages are also quite easy to find on (thanks Nashi / FSB ...)

(2) How'd the film actually do?  Not too well, not even in Russia.  It did not break even financially ( and did not score high among viewer responses (  Indeed, both recent Russian family-oriented (Moms [2012]) and young adult oriented films (rom-com My Boy Friend is an Angel [2012] / and the Twilight-Saga-ish Dark World [2012]) faired much better both in the box office and with viewer and even critical response.

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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