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Mysticism in war

Director Karen Shakhnazarov talks about his Oscar-nominated film, White Tiger.

Published: December 5, 2012 (Issue # 1738)



  • Shakhnazarovs new film White Tiger is Russias nominee for the Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards.
    Photo: FOR SPT

Karen Shakhnazarovs White Tiger, aWorld War II fantasy blending history, philosophy andthe supernatural, has made it onto thelong list ofOscar 2013 nominees forBest Foreign Language Films.

Thedirector, who also heads Russias leading studio, Mosfilm, spoke about his new movie, mysticism incinema andthe struggle fora national film industry.

The Academy Awards shortlist offoreign language nominees will be announced onJan. 10, 2013.

Q: White Tiger is unlike theaverage World War II movie. Thestory ofa soldier who sets out todefeat amonstrous German tank often borders onthe mystical. Why did you choose this particular angle?

A: I got theidea froma short story byIlya Boyashov called The Tank Crewman, or theWhite Tiger. I chose it simply because I found it interesting, as I think most directors do. Thelarger than life Nazi ghost tank, theWhite Tiger, reminded me ofMelvilles Moby Dick. I think one can still argue themovie is realistic. Many scenes, like that ofGerman capitulation andthe following banquet, are based verbatim onhistorical sources. I would say thesupernatural element helps make thestory more universal. TheWhite Tiger does not merely stand forthe German military threat inthe 1940s. After all, Nazi ideology is alive andwell: Neo-Nazi movements abound, Nietzsches philosophy is still deemed respectable andtaught atuniversities. Many will argue theNietzsche-Hitler link is tenuous. Still, I think reading [Nietzsches] Antichrist makes it clear that Nazism did not appear out ofnowhere. This is where thefinale [of my film] comes from: even though Naydenovs companions convince him that war is over, he knows that he needs tostay alert.

Q: So you would agree that White Tiger harks back toa mystical tradition incinema: Tarkovsky, Fellini...

A: Fellini was probably thedirector who influenced me most. Inmy opinion, what people call mysticism comes down toa certain sense ofmystery. Theword itself is derived frommystery. I have always felt that life itself is mysterious, that rational assumptions about it are always limited. Agood work ofart should be able tocapture this. Thats why I love Fellini andBunuel.

Q: Karl Krantzkowskis Hitler also cuts anunusual figure. TheNazi dictator is often pictured as afrenzied fanatic. Inyour movie he is cold, reserved, calculating.

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The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldnt miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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