July 9, 2006

A VERY OLD IDEA:

REVIEW: of Night Watch (Emanuelle Levy)

For Bekmambetov, the members of Night Watch and their opposite members in the Day Watch represent two different, competing social philosophies. “They represent two different ways to live -- total freedom versus responsibility,” he comments. “The Day Watch are the Dark Ones and they represent a kind of totally free independence, but the Night Watchers are all about responsibility and conscience. It’s a dualism that’s existed for a thousand years. It’s a very old idea that you must consider the consequences of your actions.”

I'd like to urge everyone to go out and grab this just-out-on-DVD, powerful Russian feature film by director Timur Bekmambetov -- an anti-abortion, supernatural, Good-vs.-Evil fantasy thriller. Indeed, it's difficult to categorize, but I would insist on inclusion of the "anti-abortion" descriptor, it being absolutely central to the story and message. This movie has it all: haunting allure, humor, action, terror, nitty-gritty production, Good vs. Evil, vampires gnashing their teeth over moral dilemmas, and the inescapable planting of the abortion debate in its proper the-stakes-could-not-be-higher perspective. Guaranteed edge-of-your-seat-shaped bruise on your rear end when the credits roll and you'll be thinking about it for days. When you consider that it was made for less than $4-million, you'll be astonished. The soundtrack even kicks some serious butt. It's no coincidence that the ending credits explode to The Bravery's "Fearless" ... "The best time I've ever had ... waiting around for something bad."

This was one of the most inspiring films for me in a long time. That this is a blockbuster film in Russia -- a country in which for decades abortion was the "preferred method of fertility regulation," to use the preferred euphemism of a recent Rand Corporation study -- should be a hopeful sign indeed for it would suggest the embers of spiritual yearning and the innate humane wisdom still glow in that dark nation.

I just watched NIGHT WATCH again last night. I don't wish to over-influence anyone's viewing or hype it any more than I have. I'll just say that one favorite detail was when one character, who, faced with the irreversible, eternal choice between joining the Light Others or the Dark Others, has difficulty distinguishing morally between the two (because -- ! -- both do bad things). The Light Others have a distinct disadvantage here of professing they believe in Good, but appearing hypocritical because they also do bad things; hypocrisy is a sin understandably over-loathed by the young. It could be that the only advantage The Light Others have in a world where the rules are getting over-bent is Hope.

I did want to mention that the US edition you would receive from Netflix has on Side A an English-dubbed version and, on Side B the original Russian voices version. I am usually very inclined to enjoy actors' original voices and avoid dubbed audio versions. But in this case, I found that many scenes are so intensely paced and contain so many different people talking almost at once that many important details can be missed if one is relying only on the English subtitles in the Russian-audio version. In fact, I had the best viewing experience watching the film in the English-dubbed voices version AND with the English subtitles ON. An enamoring aspect of the English-dubbed version is that all the dubbed voices are native Russian speakers, speaking endearingly accented English, which adds a lot of character to the viewing experience. They did a perfectly fine job on lip-synching.

By the way, no one else I've seen is calling it an anti-abortion film ... everyone chime in and tell us what you think. I'll admit to an agenda -- I have not yet seen people discussing this as an anti-abortion film and would like that meme to be given a chance at life within the noosphere. Often a great work of popular art (note that Quentin Tarrantino was knocked out by this film, as he was by Mel Gibson's The Passion) can persuade the greater public of the truth of an issue they have been blind to, where other, more dismissible vehicles of argument, fail miserably.

When we kill an inconvenient fetus (is there any other reason, ever?), whom exactly are we killing? This film mesmerizes the viewer with the idea that the precise identity of that supposedly faceless individual (and hence their personhood) is of unimaginable relevance.

God may indeed forgive us for the blind sins of our youth. But the ink with which they stain the fate of the world is indelible, Timur Bekmambetov suggests. And can return to haunt us. A design aspect of the world of Good vs. Evil? Certainly one in the world of the Night Watch.

Enjoy the film.


MORE:

    -Science Fiction Writer: Sergey LUKYANENKO (Official Web Page)

    -Sergey Lukyanenko (Wikipedia)

    -FILMOGRAPHY: Sergey Lukyanenko (IMDB.com)

    -PROFILE: Taking Tips: Are sex-filled thrillers up your alley, or science-fiction fantasies? Think fast, because the bestselling novelist Sergei Lukyanenko is accepting suggestions online. (Anna Malpas, November 19, 2004, Moscow Times)

    -Sergei Lukyanenko - Filmography (New York Times)

    -PROFILE: The Original NIGHT WATCH-Man (NICK HOLDSWORTH, Fangoria)




FILMS:

    -FILMOGRAPHY: Timur Bekmambetov (IMDB.com)

    -Timur Bekmambetov (Wikipedia)

    -INFO: Nochnoy Dozor (2004) [Night Watch] (IMDB.com)

    -INTERVIEW: 'Night Watch' Q&A with Timur Bekmambetov: Mark Salisbury catches up with the director of the most spectacular sci-fi film of the year (Mark Salisbury, Oct 4 2005, Time Out)

    -INTERVIEW: Night Watch - Timur Bekmambetov Interview (horror.com, 04-15-2006)

    -INTERVIEW: Timur Bekmambetov: Night Watch (Interviewed by Rachel Simpson, BBC)

    -INTERVIEW: It's The Matrix versus vampires; the trilogy begins now! Timur Bekmambetov on Night Watch (MovieWeb, 2/14/06)

    -INTERVIEW: Night Watch: Nocturnal and Unleashed in Los Angeles (Interview by Sonya Alexander, Underground Online)

    -INTERVIEW: Q&A With Timur Bekmambetov, Director of Night Watch: Straight from the horse's mouth (Buttonhole, 2 April 2006)

    -INTERVIEW: Exclusive Profile: DIRECTOR TIMUR BEKMAMBETOV COMES INTO THE LIGHT WITH NIGHT WATCH - PART 1: The director of the most successful Russian film ever, brings his unique world to the United States (CARL CORTEZ, 2/23/2006, iF)

    -INTERVIEW: Exclusive Profile: DIRECTOR TIMUR BEKMAMBETOV COMES INTO THE LIGHT WITH NIGHT WATCH - PART 2: From his sequels DAY WATCH and DUSK WATCH to his adaptation of the comic book WANTED, the director definitely has his plate full (CARL CORTEZ, 2/27/2006, iF)

    -ARTICLE: Universal loves Timur Bekmambetov (Martha Fischer, Feb 14th 2006, Cinematical)

    -ARTICLE: Timur Bekmambetov Finds a Home At Rogue Pictures (Variety, 1/19/06)

    -ESSAY: Great SF Writer You've Never Heard of: Sergei Lukyanenko (Aliens in this World, 9/14/04)

    -ESSAY: Return of the Russian blockbuster (Pravda, 2004-07-07)

    -ARCHIVES: Timur Bekmambetov (Find Articles)



    -FILM SITE: Night Watch (Fox Searchlight)

    -FEATURETTE: the whole movie in 2.5 minutes

    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: Night Watch (MetaCritic)

    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: Night Watch (IMDB.com)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Emanuelle Levy)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Todd Hertz, Christianity Today)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Kenneth Turan, LA Times)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Dolan Cummings, Culture War)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Anthony Lane, The New Yorker)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)

I confess to a flagging interest in the struggle between the forces of Light and Darkness. It's like Super Sunday in a sport I do not follow...

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (James Berardinelli, Reel Views)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Stephen Holden, NY Times)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Ruthie Stein, SF Chronicle)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Sean Axmaker, Seattle post-Intelligencer)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (MaryAnn Johanson, FlickFilosopher.com)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Ann Hornaday, Washington Post)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Philippa Hawker, The Age)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (AVRIL CARRUTHERS, InFilm Australia)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (LESLIE FELPERIN, Variety)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Film School Rejects, BlogCritics)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Adam Hakari, Reel Talk)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Andrew Wright, The Stranger)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (David Edelstein, New York)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Stephen Metcalf, Slate)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Andrew L. Urban, Urban Cinefile)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (J. Hoberman, Village Voice)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (JAMES EMANUEL SHAPIRO, Reel.com)

    -DVD REVIEW: of Night Watch (Stella Papamichael, BBCi)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Matthew Leyland, BBCi)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Philip French, The Observer)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Colin Serjent, Nerve)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Luke Y. Thompson , Dallas Observer)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (ABBIE BERNSTEIN, Cinescape)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Eric Hynes, Cinema Scope)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Claude Lalumière, Locus Online)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Beckett W. Sterner, The Tech)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (William R. Newcott, AARP Magazine)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (David DiCerto, Catholic News Service)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Nathan Rabin, Onion AV Club)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Kurt Loder, MTV)

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Stomp Tokyo)

    -REVIEW ESSAY: Night Watch: Inhabiting a moral universe:
I've heard about this Russian fantasy thriller for more than a year now. Made on a tiny budget , but sporting impressive and imaginative effects, this movie has won raves. (John Mark Butterworth, 3/01/06, Spero News)

    -INFO: Dnevnoy dozor (2006) [Day Watch] (IMDB.com)

    -REVIEW: of Day Watch (David Austin, Cinema Strikes Back)

    -REVIEW: of Day Watch (LESLIE FELPERIN, Variety)

    -REVIEW: of Day Watch (Gabriel Powers, DVD Active)


Posted by Qiao Yang at July 9, 2006 2:14 PM
Comments

I watched last night, on the strength of this recommendation and it's terrific.

The director explains his vision of the film as follows:

For Bekmambetov, the members of Night Watch and their opposite members in the Day Watch represent two different, competing social philosophies. They represent two different ways to live -- total freedom versus responsibility, he comments. The Day Watch are the Dark Ones and they represent a kind of totally free independence, but the Night Watchers are all about responsibility and conscience. Its a dualism thats existed for a thousand years. Its a very old idea that you must consider the consequences of your actions.

http://www.emanuellevy.com/article.php?articleID=1311

And, what strikes me as hilarous, is that several critics disliked the film because, as Roger Ebert puts it:

"I confess to a flagging interest in the struggle between the forces of Light and Darkness. It's like Super Sunday in a sport I do not follow..."

In other words, he's tired of Creation. It's almost as if he's trying to prove the point of the film:


"It is easier for a man to destroy the Light inside himself than to defeat the darkness all around him."

Posted by: oj at July 6, 2006 4:00 PM

I saw this in the only theatre that showed it (for one week only) in Phoenix. I agree that it is a great movie. Vastly entertaining. While I would not classify it as a pro-life propaganda movie, it is anti-abortion. It forces the audience to confront their own views on abortion in light of what they've just seen. Very powerful. I also give my highest recommendation.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at July 6, 2006 4:42 PM

Is it two films or just one with alternate names?

Posted by: Pepys at July 6, 2006 5:07 PM

It's a trilogy. Night Watch is the first one. Day Watch is the second one. I don't know the third one.

Posted by: James Haney at July 6, 2006 5:21 PM

OK - I've put this in my q -

question - has anyone read the book or any books by Lukyanenko? Are there translated copies available?

Posted by: Shelton at July 6, 2006 6:07 PM

The books have just been translated & released this year. Fox bought rights to the films and is producing the third.

Posted by: oj at July 6, 2006 6:23 PM

I'd be curious what those of you who've seen the film think of the following assessment (included in an above link) by David DiCerto of the Catholic News Service:

Though decidedly gloomy, "Night Watch" is escapist entertainment which allegorically explores questions of good and evil and the nature of free will. ("Others" must freely choose which side to join.) From a Catholic perspective, however, the film's dualistic worldview of good and evil -- competing but coequal -- is incompatible with the foundational Christian truth of God's supreme goodness and sovereignty.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at July 7, 2006 3:44 AM

Interesting Matt. Tho in today's intellectual climate, perhaps Manicheanism, tho deplorable, is preferable to lib panglossianism with regard to evil?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at July 7, 2006 10:13 AM

Matt:

It is certainly Manichean, however the coming of the new greatest Other that threatens to break the balance suggests possibilities. Lord of the Rings is preety Manichean, but we cut Tolkien slack.

Posted by: oj at July 7, 2006 1:51 PM

Is Lord of the Rings Manichean? Perhaps on its own, but if you read the Silmarillion, it's clear that the mythos is not. Even in LotR, the great powers of good have to stay out of the way to make it a "fair" fight.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at July 7, 2006 2:38 PM

My understanding of the basis of Manicheanism is that good & evil both have their proper roles, so that one should not attempt to eradicate evil, but rather keep it in its place and prevent it from encroaching on the territory of the good.

Posted by: b at July 7, 2006 3:41 PM

Well, I rented and viewed the film last night and my thoughts parallel OJ's. As with most such stories, I think we can rest assured that good triumphs in the end so it's not as if the Manicheanism is a permanent condition. There's certainly a lot of evil in the world today but, after all, Christianity teaches that the Savior will eventually make an encore.

I can't remember the last time I had this sort of experience watching a film: Rather confused by what was going on and veering towards disliking the movie, then growing comprehension as everything came together, and finally a shot to the solar plexus at the sad but astonishing ending. (Of course, if I watched it again I would now have a better idea of what was going on.)

This is a weird, weird film but well worth your time, as long as you continue to the end.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at July 7, 2006 5:49 PM

oj,

Meme in the noosphere.

I like that one.

All best,

Ed

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Posted by: Molli at July 27, 2006 10:40 AM
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