Saturday, January 14, 2012

Night Watch (2004)

This is the very dense story of the battle of the forces of light and dark for control of the world. Actually its the story of the Night Watch members of the side of light that patrol the night looking for law breakers from the side of darkness. Members of the watch have to deal with several intersecting stories, one concerning vampires after a little boy, in another a woman is so cursed terrible things happen around her, and in another the coming of The Other, one neither dark nor light and who's choice of a side would tip the battle in the stalemated war.

Its a film that you have to really really watch to follow, though probably multiple viewings are in order. There is a great deal going on and it takes a great deal of concentration just to follow the movie forward, never mind the references to earlier events. I'd like to be so bold as to call it a Russian novel of a movie (which is actually fair since it is based on the first novel is a Russian trilogy). That may sound off putting, but its not, this is a movie worth the extra effort.

Not to put too fine a point on it: this is a masterpiece of film making. The world it creates is very real even though its never fully explained (Thank you for not feeling need to explain it all to us, allowing so much of the mystery to survive). It lives and breathes on the screen in ways that few films ever achieve. Its a film that engages you and draws you in and shows you a world you've never seen. I desperately want to compare this to films like Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry's Neverwhere and Underworld but those films are lacking in creation and execution when compared to this film so its not fair. Simply put this film is the real deal.

I want to tell you more but its too hard to briefly explain without telling too much, besides this is a film that's better to see than read about.

No its not perfect. It is rather dense and will probably lose many viewers for that reason, after all going to the bathroom at the wrong time will leave you lost upon your return. It's the sort of film that needs several viewings to catch all of the things going on.It's also a film that changes depending on which version you see.(more on that in a second)

If you're ready for a really great film about the forces of light and dark see this movie, just remember to keep yourself open to a unique experience.

A word about versions: There is about a four minute difference between the Russian release version and the International version released by Fox Searchlight. I haven't worked out what the differences are but they are there. I need to also point out that the subtitling of the Russian version I originally saw is different from the US release, changing the phrasing and thereby the meaning of the film. Additionally the English dub is different than either of the subtitled films. This essentially makes three different versions of the film. The differences do matter with anyone I know having seen the dub liking it less than the subtitled ones. The Russian version seems to be better than the Fox one as well. (Then again I do like some turns of phrase in the dub and the Fox sub). Do keep in mind the difference between loving and liking the film could be the English translation.

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