Day Watch
[Dnevnoi Dozor]

Russia, 2006
Color, 140 minutes
Russian with English subtitles
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Screenplay: Sergei Luk'ianenko, Timur Bekmambetov, Aleksandr Talal
Cinematography: Sergei Trofimov
Cast: Konstantin Khabenskii, Mariia Poroshina, Zhanna Friske, Valerii Zolotukhin, Aleksei Chadov, Gosha Kutsenko, Irina Iakovleva
Producers: Konstantin Ernst, Anatolii Maksimov
Production: Channel One, Bazelevs Production

Coming out on New Year's day in 2006, Day Watch was preceded by a heavy advertising campaign, earned a record-breaking 30 million dollars in revenues in Russia, and provoked an avalanche of critical responses. Day Watch is a sequel to Bekmambetov's highly successful Night Watch (2004) and is a part of the Night Watch trilogy. The last film of the trilogy, Twilight Watch, is co-financed by the Channel One and Fox Searchlight Pictures and scheduled for US release in 2009.

The trilogy depicts a fantastic world inhabited by "Others"—anthropomorphic creatures with supernatural abilities to travel in multiple dimensions and fight each other with energy blasts. The "Others" are divided into the "Light Others" and "Dark Others." In the remote past the forces of light and darkness waged a war that ended in a stalemate and truce. Now each side has the right to monitor the other's part of the world: so the "Light Others" conduct night watches in the world of darkness while the "Dark Others" conduct the day watches in the world of light.

The protagonist of both Watches, Anton Gorodetskii, the "Light Other," committed a sin in the past. As a consequence of his sin, his son turned out to be a "Dark Other" who, together with his dark mentor, tries to provoke a new war between the forces of light and darkness in the hope of conquering the light part of the world. In Day Watch, in order to stop the plan of the "Dark Others," Gorodetskii finds a magic object, the chalk of fate, travels back in time, notably to the beginning of the post-Soviet period—1992—and rewrites the course of history. If in Night Watch the world of modern day Moscow fell under the spell of supernatural forces with predominantly dark forces in power, by the end of Day Watch the world of Moscow gets free from the magic spell and acquires a new sunny, optimistic outlook. Anton gets his princess and the forces of good and evil calm down in the new balance of power, while modern-day Moscow becomes the setting for a fairy tale coming true.

CGI helped to create most of the mise-en-scéne in Day Watch. For example, in the scene of a red Mazda racing on the vertical wall of hotel Kosmos, the filmmaker created the entire scene as an animated storyboard, animatics; then the footage of the car and hotel was digitally stitched together with this rough computer-generated version of the scene. The result was the most realistic looking stunt scene created by a combined effort of artificial intelligence and human mind.

Despite aspiring for the status of a popular genre vehicle, Day Watch also carries features of the auteur film. Self-referentiality is perhaps the most important element of the auteur filmmaking that figures prominently in Day Watch. The director, for example, lays bare some of the techniques that he is using in the production of special effects. In the Moscow office of the Night Watch, the viewer sees miniature sets of the buildings, which later reappear in computer-generated mise-en-scénes as full-size buildings inhabited by the film's characters.

In his review for Kinokultura, Victor Matizen, the President of Russia's Guild of Film Scholars and Critics, praised the film for its successful attempt to create a myth-making narrative presented in contemporary visual form (rapid editing and CGI) and intended for global consumption. He defined this genre of films as a "global saga," a cycle of pictures about the family or clan set against the background of epic historical changes. In Night and Day Watch, the important element of the story is the archetypal figure of the protagonist uncovering the meaning of the forces putting the world into motion and hidden behind surface reality.

Many critics and filmmakers found the Watch cycle confusing and contradictory, owing most of its box office success to the intense advertising campaign, including on Channel One, Russia's major TV channel. Coincidentally, one of Day Watch's producers, Konstantin Ernst, is the director-general of Channel One. Arguably one can find flaws with aesthetic properties of the film—such as, for example, its narrative continuity or character portrayal. However, the film's commercial success with post-Soviet consumers is undeniable. It is not surprising, therefore, that Fox Searchlight Pictures is co-financing the final part of the trilogy.

Timur Bekmambetov

Timur Bekmambetov was born in 1961 Atyrau, Kazakhstan (formerly Guryev, USSR). He graduated from the Tashkent Institute of Theater and Arts (1987). Bekmambetov started his career as a filmmaker at Uzbekfilm Studio in Tashkent. He became famous for a series of television commercials for Bank Imperial (1992-97). The fantasy blockbusters, Night Watch and Day Watch brought commercial success and critical acclaim to the filmmaker. Bekmambetov's Hollywood debut, Wanted, is scheduled for release in 2008.


Filmography

2009 Twilight Watch (in production)
2008 Wanted (in post-production)
2007 The Irony of Fate 2
2006 Day Watch
2005 Night Bazaar
2004 Night Watch
2001 The Arena
1994 Peshavar Waltz (co-directed with Gennadii Kaiumov)

 
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