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Quasi Mystical Crunch,
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This review is from: 1612 [DVD] (DVD)
A film that streamlines a very complicated era of Russian history, by making it pizzazz... very simple.
During this epoch; Russians, Swedes, Poles and Lithuanians were just some of the numerous nationalities jostling for power, within a political vacuum and a geographical space. The political backdrop to the film, connects to the modern era, through providing legitimacy for the Romanov regime. It lasted 300 years, from 1612 until 1917. In between, this romp is portrayed as a semi mystical film, slightly overplayed, about the coming of stability and the need for a Tsar.
Quite why the Russians needed a Tsar to keep them in serfdom is never really explained, unless the bottom line is; they liked being whipped. We see plenty of that in the film. A dutiful platform is created to beam the Romanov's as a truly appointed ethereal deity. A view somewhat belied as the local comittee of Tsarmakers invent geneologies for their would be kings to provide them with some legitimacy.
As a film it is nowhere near as powerful as "Mongols" but it does have some good Johhny Depp moments, as the lead character swashbuckles his way throughout the film, and if you are not imbued in Russian monarchy fever, this is probably the best way to watch it. It has a Pirates of the Caribbean Errol Flynn element mixed in with some graphic carnage, as heads role and he arteries spurt.
War in Russian films is eau naturale, as entrails splurge, arms are severed and bodies rot on spikes. Trying to work out who is who and what side they are on, is all part of the fun, just as it was in real life (read wiki about the time of the troubles). There is however a sense of angst missing in this film, as the tension recedes throughout. Then it becomes easy to second guess the plot. It is after all a love story, but a russian one, so put your american pre-occupations to one side; this is what saves it.
It loses stars because although entertaining with a connection to history, it drifts. The characters however are more than two dimensional, a big plus. The baddie has a heart somewhere under his iron fisted armour as he tries to woo the princess. Meanwhile she suffers him, after being raped, but ideally falls for another man the hero who is besotted with her....Plot done.
For those interested in war, there is a graphic siege and a cavalry charge but these are not the main events. A type of Errol Flynn/Johhny Depp caper is the primary focus and his connection to a former master who appears as a ghost, despite the fact they only knew each other for a month at the most, is the fulcrum. If you want to sit back and enjoy a film that does not entail a great deal of work, still laying beyond the mainstream and you have a large 40 inch TV to read subtitles then this is for you.
Otherwise save your money.