A new Russian war film is always something to celebrate, but veteran filmmaker Karen Shakhnazarov promises something different with White Tiger.
As the head of MosFilm in Russia, Europe’s oldest film production company, Karen Shakhnazarov’s films sit alongside those of acclaimed directors such as Andrei Tarkovsky and Sergei Eisenstein. However, it was not until the eve of his 60th birthday that the famous director attempted his most ambitious project: a film set in the midst of World War Two, White Tiger, which is set to premiere in Australia during the Russian Resurrection Film Festival.
White Tiger is set at the close of World War Two in Soviet Russia and follows tank driver Ivan Naydyonov in his quest to destroy the indestructible German tank, dubbed White Tiger, after it attacked his battalion leaving him on the brink of death. Though on the outside it appears to be a conventional war film, White Tiger is anything but that. Shakhnazarov uses the element of mysticism as a driving force throughout the film, “For me I always see war as a mystical event. I believe that war is something absolutely mystical and therefore I believe that it is very accurate, very correct to think about war and to represent it with elements of mysticism,” he explains.
The tank in question is an unmanned vehicle, attacking and disappearing in mere moments throughout the film with devastating consequences, while Naydyonov himself acquires the ability to communicate with the tank that he mans as well as the ones that have fallen victim to the White Tiger. “The point is that the main character is certainly not quite human. He was born out of war,” explains Shakhnazarov. “It is impossible to fight and it is impossible to stand against the machine, the machinery of war. This is the only way one can fight nowadays. And this is what war is doing to people.”
Due to the unusual elements of this film, Shakhnazarov expects there to be controversy surrounding the release, especially when it stands up next to classic Russian war films. However, this does not faze the director, “I admit that this film is not what we are used to. But I believe that there will be different opinions, probably even disputes. Probably some people that will go against the approach I took, which is just so much for the better.”
There is no hand to hand combat in the film, the tanks take precedence throughout, and thus acquire a personality of their own. The tanks become machinated characters amongst those of flesh and bone. Shakhnazarov remarks that with minimal CGI being used throughout the film, the battle sequences were the most difficult aspect of the entire process, especially as many of the tanks that were used to shoot the scenes were those used during World War Two battles and are over seventy years old.
Shakhnazarov is making a clear statement with White Tiger on humanity’s obsession with war, both past and present, and its continual existence in society. “The tank is just a symbol. The embodiment of the evils of war. The tank is not destroyed and just disappears. Actually the idea behind it is that war never ends. War is waged and is always happening, even now. In today’s world the war is going on in many different forms. It is waged in different manners but it is always going on,” he explains.
White Tiger will be showing at the Russian Resurrection Film Festival which will begin its run in Sydney from August 30th and will then travel to other capital cities. For more information visit http://www.russianresurrection.com/.