Night Watch (2004 film)
|Directed by||Timur Bekmambetov|
|Produced by||Konstantin Ernst
|Screenplay by||Timur Bekmambetov
|Based on||The Night Watch
by Sergei Lukyanenko
|Music by||Yuri Poteyenko|
|Editing by||Dimitry Kiselev|
|Studio||Channel One Russia
|Distributed by||Gemini Film
Fox Searchlight Pictures
|Release dates||July 8, 2004|
|Running time||115 minutes|
Night Watch (Russian: Ночной дозор, Nochnoy dozor) is a 2004 Russian urban fantasy supernatural thriller film directed by Timur Bekmambetov. It is loosely based on the novel The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko, and is the first part of a duology, followed by Day Watch.
In the prologue, which is set in medieval times, the audience is introduced to humans with special powers called The Others (Иные, иной; Inyye, Inoy). The Others are divided into two camps, with each Other either allied with the forces of Light or the forces of Darkness, and the prologue recounts a great battle between the two sides. Geser, the Lord of the Light, realized that the two forces were evenly matched and the battle could only end with both sides annihilating each other. He therefore stopped the battle and offered a truce to the forces of Darkness. In the ensuing negotiation, Zavulon, the Lord of Darkness, and Geser agreed that from that moment, every human would be allowed to freely choose between Light and Darkness. The warriors of Light would be called "guardians of day" and the warriors of Darkness would be called "guardians of night". To make sure each side honored its side of the agreement, the Light would have a "Night Watch" to monitor the forces of Darkness at night, and the Darkness would have a "Day Watch" to police the forces of Light during the day. This agreement maintained balance for centuries to come.
After the prologue, the action returns to modern day Russia. After his wife leaves him for another man, Anton Gorodetsky (Russian: Антон Городецкий) visits a witch named Daria and asks her to cast a spell to return his wife to him. Daria tells Anton that his wife is pregnant by another man and that giving birth would bond her permanently to the other man. If Anton wants his wife to return, she must miscarry. Anton accepts responsibility for this and asks Daria to proceed. Daria prepares a drink using Anton's blood, which he drinks. The shot cuts to his wife telling the other man they have to split up. Daria starts to recite an incantation to induce a miscarriage and Anton's wife on a distant boat collapses, clutching her belly. Just as the incantation is about to be completed, two figures become visible in the room, and a third appears at the door and shapeshifts into a tiger. This is the Night Watch team. They restrain Daria, preventing her from completing the spell. When they notice that Anton is able to see them, they realize that he is an Other.
Twelve years pass. Anton has become a member of the Night Watch and is working with the team. On Anton's request, Kostya, his neighbor, takes him to see his father, a butcher, to get blood for Anton to drink. The father does this reluctantly, and then tells Kostya that members of the Night Watch only drink blood when they hunt vampires like themselves.
A twelve-year-old boy, Yegor, hears "The Call", a psychic call by a vampire who intends to feed on him. Anton tracks Yegor, being able to hear the call as he gets closer to Yegor, due to the blood he drank. On the way he sees a blond woman with her hair flying about even though she is inside a subway train with no wind. Realizing she is under a deadly curse, Anton uses an ultraviolet flashlight to see if she is a vampire, but she is not. Two vampires are about to feed on Yegor when Anton arrives, and he is attacked by the male vampire, whom Anton can only see in a mirror. Anton tries to shine the flashlight on the male vampire, but misses, hitting the female vampire instead, and injuring her. The other members of the Night Watch arrive and turn on the head lights of their truck, which are enchanted in the same way as Anton's flashlight. Anton then picks up a mirror shard and directs the light from the truck towards the male vampire, destroying him. A member of the Day Watch arrives and reveals that the Day Watch is aware of the murder of one of their Dark members.
Anton is healed by Geser, who notes that he could have solved things more easily by entering into the Gloom - a shadow world only accessible by the Others. After Anton tells him about the woman in the subway, he reveals a legend about a virgin who is cursed so that people and animals around her die or sicken, and that she is accompanied by a "vortex of damnation". It is now clear that the virgin, now reborn, will soon die, unless the Night Watch finds the one who cursed her. Geser gives Anton an assistant named Olga, who looks like a stuffed owl. Anton refuses and laughs, until he sees Geser throw Olga out the window, whereupon she turns into a living owl and flies away. At Anton's apartment, the owl arrives and shape shifts into a woman.
Kostya arrives and says he knows that Anton killed the vampire Dark Other. Anton and Olga track Yegor to his home, where they must enter the Gloom, as Yegor is there hiding from the female vampire. The Gloom almost consumes Yegor, but a blood sacrifice from Anton satisfies it enough for them to escape. Emerging from the Gloom, Anton sees a photo of Yegor and his mother, who is apparently Anton's ex-wife. The Night Watch members, Tiger and Bear, stay behind to protect Yegor, but as soon as they are distracted, the boy escapes and follows the call of the female vampire.
Anton and Olga arrive at a command and control center set up near the apartment of Svetlana, the cursed woman from the subway train. A vortex capable of immense destruction has appeared over her apartment and bad things have been happening to those near her. Anton discovers that Daria had lied to him and that the boy he asked her to miscarry was, in fact, his own son, and not the child of his ex-wife's lover. Therefore, Yegor is Anton's son. Anton enters Svetlana's apartment and talks to her, revealing that she cursed herself on her own, which also means she is an Other. As soon as this is revealed, the curse ends and the vortex disappears. Yegor escapes the grip of the female vampire, but is caught by Zavulon, who appears on the roof. During a duel, Anton attempts to stab Zavulon, but Zavulon sidesteps the swipe just as Yegor runs up. Zavulon stops Anton's momentum, both saving Yegor's life and making it appear as if Anton were attempting to kill his son. Zavulon's assistant reads Anton's personal file aloud. When Yegor finds out that Anton tried to kill him before he was born, and that he has special powers that the prophecy says are held by the Great One, he willingly turns to the Darkness, to Anton's great dismay.
- Konstantin Khabensky as Anton Gorodetsky
- Vladimir Menshov as Geser
- Valeri Zolotukhin as Gennady Saushkin, Kostya's father
- Mariya Poroshina as Svetlana
- Galina Tyunina as Olga
- Yuriy "Gosha" Kutsenko as Ignat
- Aleksei Chadov as Kostya Saushkin
- Zhanna Friske as Alicia Donnikova
- Ilya Lagutenko as Andrei
- Viktor Verzhbitsky as Zabulon
The film was the first big-budget Russian supernatural movie and one of the first blockbusters made after the collapse of the Soviet film industry. The film was produced by Channel One, the government-owned TV channel, with a budget of US$4.2 million. It was shot in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
Part of the challenge for such a big-budget fantasy film was creating hundreds of visual effects (VFX) shots to which a modern audience is accustomed. 16 Russian VFX studios and several freelancers were used, each chosen for their individual strengths. Many shots were created by different artists across different time zones, using the Internet to share data and images.
The film contains several songs from rock bands, e.g. "Jack" by the Belarusian group TT-34 and "Spanish" by Drum Ecstasy. The song played in the credits of the international version of the movie is called "Shatter" and performed by the Welsh rock band Feeder. The track was a top 20 hit single in the United Kingdom charting at #11 in 2005, to coincide with the international release of the film. The song playing during the end credits of the American release of Night Watch is "Fearless" by The Bravery. In the original Russian version it is a rap.
Release and reception
After a first appearance at the Moscow Film Festival on June 27, 2004, it went on general cinema release across the CIS on July 8, 2004. The film was extremely successful, becoming the highest-grossing Russian release ever, grossing US$16.7 million in Russia alone, thus making more money in Russia than The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The sequel, Day Watch, was released across the CIS on January 1, 2006, with a third film in the works. There is also a TV series in production.
The film attracted the attention of Fox Searchlight Pictures, which paid $4 million to acquire the worldwide distribution rights (excluding Russia and the Baltic states) of Night Watch and its sequel Day Watch.
One year after the Russian release, the international distribution began. Other than a London premiere at the Odeon West End as part of the Frightfest horror film festival, that screened amid heavy security on August 28, 2005, the first European country outside CIS was Spain where it was released on September 2, 2005. By mid October it had been released in most European countries, and on February 17, 2006 it had a limited release in the United States, followed by a full release on March 3. By February 13, 2006 (i.e. before the U.S. release) it had grossed US$32 million.
The "international version" of the film debuted in the United Kingdom. In the prologue and epilogue, the Russian voice-over has been dubbed in English, but for the rest of the film features stylized subtitles appearing in odd places around the screen, often animated to emphasise or complement the action. For example, in a scene in which Yegor is being called by a Dark vampire, he is in a pool and the camera is underwater. The caption appears as blood red text that dissolves as blood would in water. In another scene, as a character walks across the scene from left to right, the caption is revealed as his body crosses the screen. In addition, many of the scenes that were present in the Russian theatrical release were omitted, while, at the same time, some scenes were re-cut or added. The International version is shorter by 10 minutes. The DVD was released in the UK on April 24, 2006. The zone 4 DVD had the option of either a Russian or an English audiotrack. Subtitles were simply plain white text at the bottom of the screen. The International version of both Night Watch and its sequel, Day Watch, are now available in HD on Vudu. The HDX encodes are based on the International release and retain the original Russian dialog track with the stylized subtitles.
The original Russian "Director's Cut" of the film was released, apart from Russia, in some European countries on DVD by 20th Century FOX. The only difference of this version from the original Russian version is the absence of the opening credits.
"Nochnoi Bazar" fun re-dub
In 2005, a "fun re-dub" was released under the title "Nochnoi Bazar" ("Night Chat"). The project was initiated by the writer Sergei Lukyanenko as a nod to popular (illegal) fun re-dubs by "Goblin" (Dmitry Puchkov). However, this fun redub was made with full consent of the filmmakers and copyright holders and released on DVD by Channel One Russia. The script was written by the Russian comedian Alexander Bachilo, the song parodies were written and composed by Alexander Pushnoy. The narration was done by Leonid Volodarskiy, a popular voiceover translator of pirated videoreleases in the Soviet Union.
Novel vs. film
The film primarily follows the events of first part ("Story One: Destiny") of the novel Night Watch, with two opening scenes added from later in the series. Although the movie had one of the biggest budgets in the history of Russian filmmaking, there were still restraints on its content, especially given the length of the original three-hundred page, three-part book. Some of the changes made were small and insignificant; others significantly altered the nature of the plot. So, the film doesn't precisely follow the contents of the book - rather, the blockbuster is composed of different episodes, found in both "Night Watch" and "Day Watch" books by Sergei Lukyanenko. In the film certain scenes were reassessed, the plot line (as a chain of episodes and the logical links between them) has been significantly modified.
The subtitles of the English-language version reflect some difference in translation: the "gloom" in the film is translated as "twilight" in the book; the name transliterated as "Yegor" in the film is transliterated as "Egor" in the book, and "Zavulon" in the movie is transliterated as "Zabulon" in the book.
- Box Office Business at IMDb
- Alain Bielik (February 17, 2006). "Night Watch: Cold Hard VFX from Russia". VFXWorld.com. Retrieved 2010-09-08.
- Can 'Dusk' follow 'Night'? Fox claims to have snared a Russian Peter Jackson.
- 20th Century Fox to Distribute 'Night Watch' and 'Day Watch' from Russia's Channel One — ORT.
- Review of Frightfest 2005
- Official website (US)
- Night Watch at the Internet Movie Database
- Night Watch at AllMovie
- Night Watch at Box Office Mojo
- The New York Times: From Russia, with Blood and Shape-Shifters