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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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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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