Night Watch (2004)

Night Watch (a.k.a. Nochnoi Dozor in its native Russia) is the first film in a fantasy/horror trilogy and adapted from the book of the same name. It follows the exploits of people called ‘Others’ and starts by informing the audience that in Medieval times there was a Light side and a Dark side who were at constant odds with one another. At one time there was a great battle and seeing that all lives would be lost if a truce wasn’t agreed upon, the respective leaders of both sides came together and decided that they would each produce a team to police their opposing side. Hence; the Night Watch, brought in to make sure that the Dark Others were behaving themselves and vice versa, came about. After a brief introduction where we meet our protagonist; Anton, the action zips forward 12 years and we learn that he now works as a ‘soldier’ for the Light Others, keeping his Dark counterparts in line in modern day Russia.

To go into too much detail would be to do you a disservice as this is a film best discovered when the viewer knows little about the plot. It’s, at times, convoluted but the filmmakers (and of course, Sergei Lukyanenko; the author of the novels) have created such a well-rounded fantasy universe for their characters to survive (and sometimes to perish) in that it would be unfair to take umbrage at the occasional plot hole.

When I think of Russia, my mind automatically makes the connection to things like vodka and space travel, perhaps the occasional cured meat. It’s not a country that, prior to watching this movie, I would necessarily associate with quality filmmaking. Night Watch certainly turns that (possibly…. probably incorrect) preconceived notion on it’s head. The directorial flourishes and the excellent-but-not-quite-outstanding special effects are an absolute delight and the actors flesh out their roles wonderfully. It’s obvious that great care has been taken over every detail from start to finish, and even beyond. Normally when I hear the words ’English’ and ’Dubbed’ in the same sentence, I’m plotting my escape route before the DVD case has even been cracked open but in this instance, the dubbed voices are the original actors and actresses with their authentic Russian accents which emphasises the respect and care with which this project was obviously handled with. Having said that, if you’re going to watch any version, make sure it’s the original, subtitled Russian presentation which is not only how it was intended to be viewed but also, to my mind, the far superior of the bunch. If I have a complaint at all it’s this; I found the ending frustratingly inconclusive but given that I was informed about it being the first in a trilogy of films then I can hardly count that amongst a list of serious concerns.

Initially, it’s a difficult plot to follow but as the action unfolds everything becomes clearer and sticking with it will surely pay off for anyone who‘s a fan of the genre. Due to the nature of the story I wouldn’t recommend this as bedtime viewing or when you’ve had a tipple or two but give it a try. If you write this off on the basis that you’re averse to subtitles then you’ll be missing a treat, comrades!

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

One Comment on “Night Watch”

  1. Rag says:

    This film is definately an aquired taste. It took me a couple of watches to really appreciate it. It is a bleak, often dark and at times, a rather sedate film. But if you are familiar with eastern European cinema, that won’t come as a shock.

    That said, don’t let it put you off. While it’s not Hollywood, it’s well worth the effort.

    Oh, and don’t even try to watch the sequel ‘Day Watch’ without checking this out first. It’s do-able, but makes sooo much more sense if you do them in order.

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