Thursday, October 20, 2011

Russian Horror Fantasy

A few years ago, Russian director Timur Bekmambetov made a splash in world cinema with his “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” movies. It was for Russian cinema sort of like the moment in 1977 when Lucas released his first “Star Wars” film. Both are instances of elaborate, visionary and epic story telling while still a bit corny and technically limited by circumstances. Unfortunately for Russia, Bekmambetov was scooped up by Hollywood. His production “Apollo 18” came out this year and he directed next year’s highly anticipated “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”

His “Night Watch” films are entertaining and rich, if a bit hard to follow in their complexity. It is your classic good vs. evil story in the same vane as “Star Wars.” However, much like “Star Wars,” it contains a troubling and widely held flaw of a worldview.

The stories open with a preamble, explaining the nature of the battle between good and evil. It seems that ages ago, their forces met on a bridge. Neither was willing to yield and both sides were evenly matched so a truce was established. Ever since then the forces of good and evil must maintain the ill-balanced peace in a sort of legal fashion. Whom they answer to in this situation is no higher power, but rather a poorly explained, eternal witness to the bargain.

Evil is not evil here, it is called darkness and the side that we would think of as good cannot be called that either—they are light. Neither side has an upper hand morally. In a very real sense they are both wrong in this story as the whole war could have been avoided had one side simply yielded in the start. Had light yielded, then humanity would have been persecuted by darkness, but in this story humanity is meaningless anyway…

There is the flaw. When darkness, or evil, is given equal footing with light or good you cease to have good and evil—right and wrong. And as much as people want to ignore right and wrong these days, and as hard as it can be to see it clearly at times, we all recognize it when we see it.

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