Right, so. When I originally made my film selection from this year’s round-up, this one caught my eye. And it was more of a passing interest, wanting to see a barbarian type of movie that would likely disappoint me with too much in-your-face attempts to shock with gore or nudity. But hey, at least I would get to see some cool costumes and brutal fight scenes, perhaps even some bearded eye-candy.

I was not prepared.

Seriously guys, I was blown away. This movie has now taken a place in my top 3 favourite movies I have seen at Fantasia, ever.

So here is my impressions of the film, even though I already talked about it a bit on the podcast, and Phil wrote his own review.

Thar be no spoilerz here.

 

Right from the very first scene, you get a very strong sense of the world this is set in. It is dirty, vicious and raw, but still visually pleasing. At least I thought so, the colours used in the set and the costumes were very well thought out, and they played off each other very well. I am right away drawn to a character in particular, not only because he is meant to be prominent, but because of the actor’s presence and body language. Aleksandr Kuznetsov portays Marten beautifully, and I plan to see other films he has done if at all possible. I did not get tired of watching him, everything he did was interesting and brought such a strong truth to the character. The main protagonist, Lyutobor (played by Aleksey Faddeev) also does a great job, particularly in super mega awesome brutal scenes (pictured in the photo above). He is essentially a “good man”, loyal to the Lord he serves and devoted to his wife and newborn son. Honestly I thought he would end up a total Gary Sue, but the character makes several life altering mistakes and suffers the consequences. The relationship that develops between these two characters became one I cared about as the story developed.

I am a tiny bit sad that I don’t have an awesome female character to write about here, but I am not too bothered by it. Lyutobor’s wife is the only woman featured as a character in the entire film, and she is pretty much only there as motivation for the protagonists throughout the film. I find that as far as that sort of thing goes, they did it well. Her character was faced with situations that you expect for a woman prisoner of barbarians, but it was done realistically and wasn’t drawn out in an extreme way. She reacted and carried herself in a way I found realistic for her history and culture, so I bought into it. She was played by Izmaylova Vasilisa, I loved the expressions in her face.

I did have one very strong reaction to the movie. The camera work during the fight scenes was simply unbearable for me. That whole handheld thing has always been unpleasant for me, and its popularity frustrates me to no end. In this movie, it was the worst I’ve ever experienced. I had a physical
reaction to it! It was like a weird vertigo washed over me, and I started getting  nauseous. I full on had to look away from the screen and watch out of the very corner of my eye for the image to stabilize. The worst part of it is they used this technique in every single fight scene. I missed all of them. Me. I freaking love watching well choreographed fight scenes (Phil tells me they were great) and I could not see a single one. I am so angry. I plan to get a copy of this movie once it is available for home viewing, because I refuse to miss out.

Despite this infuriating detail, I still love this movie so much. Which I guess goes to show that you can have an amazing barbarian film without ridonculous fight sequences, drenching the heroes in blood and gore. A well written story in a clear and elaborate setting, full of rich and different cultures with layered characters make all the difference. Incredibly engaging performances definitely help. Even the supporting roles were interesting and played wonderfully. Special nod to Yuriy Tsurilo as the Prince of Tmutarakan, Lyutobor’s Lord. This guy’s performance throughout the film totally made the ending feel legitimate.

Definitely see this movie. It is the barbarian film we have all been waiting for. It will throw shit you do not expect at your face, and you will freaking love them for it.

 

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