Fyodor Bondarchuk’s ‘Stalingrad’: In the trenches of IMAX

"Stalingrad" is a military epic with a romantic line, shot in a juicy and effective manner. Source: kinopoisk.ru

"Stalingrad" is a military epic with a romantic line, shot in a juicy and effective manner. Source: kinopoisk.ru

‘Stalingrad’ is Russia’s official entry to the 2014 Academy Awards. Lenta presents a behind-the-scenes look at Russia’s first IMAX 3-D film.

We will know next March if Fyodor Bondarchuk’s ‘Stalingrad’ wins the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The film’s nomination for the prestigious awards isn’t its only connection with North America. A large part of the work was done in the Los Angeles IMAX office.

“In order for the film to become an IMAX film, three conditions are necessary. First, it must be filmed by a director, who makes its representation of paramount importance. Secondly, the studio we are on friendly terms with should produce it. Third, and most important – it should be a film that will take the viewer into a fictional but credible reality: to Hogwarts, to the space station, Pandora, the bottom of the ocean – or the ruins of Stalingrad,” says Greg Foster, president of IMAX Entertainment

The film opens with a scene in Japan, in tsunami-devastated Fukushima. On the screen there is a huge Emergencies and Disaster Relief plane, which arrives at the scene of the explosion of a nuclear power plant. Russian rescue workers search for survivors. Under the rubble, they find a German girl. Rescuers establish contact with her, and in order to distract and calm her, the old commander begins his story. He tells her about the Battle of Stalingrad - it's an old man whose face the viewers do not see until the end of the movie.

The next footage is the night crossing of the River Volga. Heroes move on submerged pontoons, tumble over the parapet and make an attack, but they are met by a fierce fire. Next, are the episodes with hand to hand fighting, a deadly ballet, filmed in the spirit of Wachowski or Zack Snyder. ‘Stalingrad’ is a military epic with a romantic line, shot in a juicy and effective manner. A comparison of Bondarchuk’s new picture is all the more appropriate with the work of the above mentioned directors, considering the fact that Wachowski and Snyder filmed comics (‘V for Vendetta ,’ ‘Watchmen ,’ ‘300’) – but the genre has gained massive popularity thanks to tremendous demand for it among American soldiers.

Source: YouTube

Bondarchuk, however, chooses the images of other superheroes for inspiration – the real warriors of the Eastern Front, depicted by the narrative’s photo and film technicians. The officer who lifts the soldiers in the attack, fighters walking across the river “like on dry land” – the Russian director willingly uses recognizable images of the Soviet mass culture.

According to the director of IMAX international development, Anthony Vogels, ‘Stalingrad’ was not the first Russian film offered to his company. “There were about ten pictures, for some reason a lot of cartoons. You, in general, it seems to me, shoot too-o many cartoons,” he says.  The need for Russian fiction films for IMAX was evident. IMAX shows a sharp increase in profits, with a year over year rise of 80 percent in the first six months of 2013. 

Russia, according to Greg Foster, is the third largest market after the United States and China for IMAX. In 2013, the number of IMAX theatres in the CIS has increased from 24 to 38, which is more than one and a half times. Therefore, the emergence of a Russian movie in 3D IMAX format was just a matter of time.

In order to create the film, it took some sizable force and a lot of money to be involved. The decorations used for ‘Stalingrad,’ lined up outside St. Petersburg, cost 120,000,000 roubles ($ 4,000,000). The art director Sergei Ivanov was engaged in their development, and had 400 people working for him during a six-month period. Maxim Osadchiy, the camera operator, who shot movies for Bondarchuk, almost from the beginning of his career, filmed ‘Stalingrad,’ along with a large team of sound engineers and an entire system of “flying shields,” using the latest RED Epic cameras. Angelo Badalamenti, best known for his work on David Lynch film, composed the soundtrack

Foster talks about the film using nothing but superlatives. He argues that has Russia finally understood the value of IMAX, and more people specially go to see the blockbusters like Bondarchuk's film in the special cinemas.

‘Stalingrad’s,’ cooperation with IMAX could open up more opportunities from Russia for the struggling American film industry.  Hollywood, according to many experts, is going through a crisis of ideas and a shortage of cash, investments and markets.  Foster said he intends to continue his cooperation with Bondarchuk. He is optimistic about the prospects for the film’s international distribution. “Americans will definitely like the movie; there is a lot of ‘John Wayne,’ as they say, in the film.”

First published in Russian in Lenta.ru.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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