On July 8, the first post-Soviet blockbuster, Nochnoi Dozor (Night Patrol), will be released across Russia. It is a mystic parable from director Timur Bekmambetov based on Sergei Lukyanenko's eponymous novel. The latter, who is one of Russia's best known fantasy authors, writes about magicians, witches, werewolves and vampires that live among ordinary people. The film's official site has already become an Internet hit, cinemas have already sold out for the first few days and newspapers are entertaining their readers with photos of the picture's stars and interviews with them.
The press is comparing Night Patrol with The Matrix, Star Wars and even The Lord of the Rings, which stole the show at this year's Academy Awards. The scale of the film can well be compared with the Soviet Oscar-winning epic War and Peace, directed by Sergei Bondarchuk. Box office takings are expected to hit about $5 million, which is two or three times as much as the most popular Russian films of recent years have earned. The movie is sure to win legions of teenaged fans, as the fantasy genre is extremely popular in Russia, and characters from similar Hollywood productions have already made their way into popular jokes, which is a certain sign of fame in Russia.
Members of the younger generation consider Sergei Lukyanenko an iconic writer and "play" his characters. Night Patrol's plot is based on medieval Russian and European fantasy, legends about the eternal fight between good and evil. At night black magicians, witches, vampires and werewolves go out to hunt, and only the Night Patrol of light can defeat them. The Patrol's task is to maintain the balance between good and evil. Any upset in this beckons war and trouble. During the day, the super-natural forces look like ordinary Muscovites.
"Quite witty, sufficiently bloody, beautiful and expensive," was one newspaper's comment on the film. When it was presented at the Moscow International Film Festival in June, the audience gave it a generous ovation. This, in some part, was evidently due to the director's serious attitude to creating the film's special effects. Bekmambetov edited the movie in the same LA studio where Quentin Tarantino finished Kill Bill. As a result, the Russian movie is literally crammed with hundreds of state-of-the-art effects: computer graphics create a battle with 2,000 virtual warriors from the armies of light and darkness clashing on screen. Then there are the animated animal models, and hordes of birds and the expanses of the Dark where the mystic battles take place. The Illustrated Guide on the film's visual effects has already appeared on the Net.
When talking about working on the movie, the director keeps the audience intrigued: "The mystic subject means that the actors encountered certain psychological problems, people were changing, and many other things were happening... It is a very lively piece". It is a well-known fact that strange episodes often happen to works related to dark forces. It is enough to recall Mikhail Bulgakov's famous Master and Margarita, productions of which have always been accompanied by odd events, such as actors experiencing visions. Indeed, Bulgakov's masterpiece clearly influenced Lukyanenko when he was writing the book.
The film's producers have taken special measures against pirates. Every copy has been inventoried and each one has an individual code that can only be deciphered using special equipment. Special anti-pirate control will be introduced in cinemas as well.
The picture was produced by the Russian television's First Channel, which is already ready to invest in bringing another of Lukyanenko's novels, Labirint Otrazheniya (The Reflection Labyrinth), to the big screen. Night Patrol has given the producers reason to speak about the Russian cinema's revival, as domestically produced films are ready to become spectacular. "In two or three years Russianmovies will be able to bring 20-25% of film distribution revenues," believes producer Yelena Yatsura. At present, their share does not exceed 10%, so some great hopes are resting on Night Patrol as the revolutionary of the Russian film industry.