Five Theses About Day Watch

By Thomas H. Campbell (Yale University)

Timur Bekmambetov’s Day Watch (Dnevnoi dozor), 2006

…this is a picture about love.
—Konstantin Ernst [1]

Postery, kinotreilery, kinotizery, bilbordy, merchendaizing…
—Konstantin Ernst [2]

1. Day Watch is a national project.

Increasing the quality of life of the citizens of Russia is the key issue of state policy. This would seem to be an indisputable declaration. This is exactly how it is perceived nowadays. Including when [this declaration] is made by the authorities. But relatively recent historical experience shows that only a few years ago its indisputability was far from so obvious.

The dangerous disintegration of state institutions, systemic economic crisis, the drawbacks of privatization in concert with political speculating with people’s natural desire for democracy, serious miscalculations in the carrying out of economic and social reforms—the last decade of the 20th century was a period during which the country experienced catastrophic demodernization and social collapse. Months-long delays in the payment of pensions, benefits, and wages became a mass phenomenon. People were frightened by the default [of the ruble], the instant loss of their savings. They no longer believed that the state could fulfill even minimal obligations towards society.

—“How Was the National Projects Idea Born?” (from the website of the Russian Presidential Council for the Realization of Priority National Projects)

Anyone who has paid even cursory attention to the Russian zeitgeist over the past decade or so knows that the use of the word project has metastasized beyond all compact definitions. [3] Announced by the Russian government as the year of national priority projects—in health care, education, housing, and agriculture—2006 began with a ten-day public holiday. During this long hiatus from the work of nation-building, civic-minded Russians were asked to do two things: eat, drink, and be merry with family and friends—and go see Day Watch.

While the previous installment in the series, Night Watch (Nochnoi dozor, 2004), had also been framed as a patriotic campaign, [4] the second film’s claims on popular approval were pressed with a density and intensity that United Russia and Vladimir Putin’s “successor” (national projects czar Dmitrii Medvedev?) would be wise to study if they hope to repeat in the upcoming Russian parliamentary and presidential elections Aleksandr Lukashenko’s recent triumphant electoral box-office returns in “allied” Belarus. To wit, the marketing wizards at Channel One declared Day Watch “the first film of the year” and saturated the airwaves with ads that drummed this simple and memorable message into viewers’ heads. Anyone fortunate enough not to have a TV these days was nevertheless assailed—at least on the streets of Petersburg and Moscow—by a billboard blitzkrieg featuring full-length portraits of the film’s heroes, looking for all the world like funkier versions of Viktor Chernomyrdin’s Our Home Russia ads of yesteryear.

The popular “demand” generated by this PR campaign was satisfied by the chains of multiplexes that now give an up-to-date buzz to the ruins of previous national projects—the once-depressing Khrushchev- and Brezhnev-era suburbs, or Nevskii Prospekt, which had, back in the day, been hopelessly unhip and unprofitable, but like the rest of the Petersburg downtown it dominates, has now become a mecca for lovers of coffee, shoes, sushi, bad movies, and even worse traffic.


As one Belarussian official declared in the midst of his own country’s successful ritual celebration of national unity (accomplished with help from the less-than-kinogenic local night watch), the “holiday” atmosphere of Soviet-era elections had been returned (as heard on Radio Liberty). This is also the Day Watch project’s method and goal: to make “doing the right thing” fun and to make the doing of it the only (right) thing to do. [5] My own unscientific investigation of the film’s ten-day “march to Baghdad” showed that the only alternative to “joining in the fun” was to leave the country or go into internal emigration—that is, to experience the marginalization or annihilation that is made to seem so unenviable a fate by the film itself and by its army of marketers.

If there is something self-aggrandizingly circular about all this, then it is worth carefully examining the epigraph to my remarks from the national projects website. “Increasing” [sic] the quality of life in Russia is indisputably the state’s goal. Just as it is sheer folly to argue against the resurgence of Russian cinema, evidenced by films like Day Watch, and the universal beneficence and benefit of this resurgence, it is an act of rank political speculation to suggest that the current government is anything other than a gigantic project whose sole aim is to improve quality of life, or that an increase in GDP (which in Russian, in another happy coincidence, is known as “VVP”) is testimony not to wise policy and its judicious implementation, but to world-economic and geological accident.

2. Day Watch answers the perennial Russian question: “Who is to blame?”

In trying to explain the success of Night Watch with Russian audiences and its appeal to American producers, Bekmambetov cites the film’s “overall sentimental theme,” which encompasses “notions like responsibility, repentance, [and] penitence.” [6] In Day Watch, this general, sentimental experience of guilt is given a concrete class identity: the craven liberal, westernizing intelligentsia, as represented by the film’s hero Anton Gorodetskii (Konstantin Khabenskii) and Kostia’s Dad (Valerii Zolotukhin). It is their failure as fathers that—almost—leads to the end of the world. In fact, the entire film is constructed as a struggle over “the Russian child”—as figured by Egor (Dmitri Martynov), of course, but also by Kostia (Aleksei Chadov) and the daughter of Egor’s murdered governess (Irina Iakovleva)—on the part of a whole set of false and true fathers and father-figures—and mothers as well.

Satisfyingly, both the Raskolnikovesque Anton and the “old hippie” Zolotukhin are given the chance, at film’s end, to confess to their crimes and atone for their sins. Zolotukhin asks for his son’s forgiveness on bended knee before being led away to annihilation by the twin ZhEK/okhrana-types (Nikolai Olialin) who represent the “Inquisition.” Anton, whose crime was nothing less than his unwitting attempt to “abort” the future of Russia—that is, his son Egor, whose coming-of-age party turns into Armageddon—is allowed to erase the entire period of “demodernization and social collapse” that began, in Day Watch’s version of history, in 1992. Borrowing a page from Nancy Reagan’s playbook, Anton accomplishes this world-historical feat by “just saying no” to the El'tsin era.

Why 1992? As a number of the film’s critics have pointed out, 1992 was the first year after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It was also the year when (among other things) Egor Gaidar implemented his “shock therapy” program; free commerce was legalized, leading to the rapid rise of kiosk and “second-hand” culture, [7] and organized crime; the fateful conflict between El'tsin and his vice-president, Rutskoi, began to take shape; Iurii Luzhkov became mayor of Moscow and Viktor Chernomyrdin was appointed prime minister; civil war broke out in Tadjikistan, Abkhazia, and Transdniestria; and Anatolii Chubais presided over the issuing of privatization “vouchers” to the general public. [8]

Day Watch’s imaginary solution to these real, continuing traumas and contradictions is a master class in symbolic overdetermination. The film’s “Orientalist” plot thread (which weaves together Tamerlane, Samarkand, the sage-cum-manty cook Zoar, and the all-important “Chalk of Fate”) salves post-imperial melancholy (which nowadays, in non-diegetic urban Russia, increasingly takes the form of racist attacks); it also invokes the “Asian” component of the Eurasianist equation as a source of perennial wisdom and an antidote to the excesses of westernization. More important, however, is the film’s portrait of Russia’s ruling classes—the Dark Others and Light Others—whose motives are shown to be comprehensibly all-too-human and thus benign, and whose management of their occasionally conflicting interests, as of the “communal economy” as a whole, is essentially competent. Only upstarts, renegades, and meddlers (“democrats,” dissidents, and human rights advocates) are capable of upsetting this equilibrium.

3. Day Watch urges its viewers to become human beings.

A leitmotif of the American reviews of Night Watch (whose US premiere nearly coincided with Day Watch’s triumphant launch in its homeland) has been the dialectic between the “refreshing” shabbiness of the film’s characters and settings, on the one hand, and its spectacular, imaginative special effects, on the other—which all adds up, for many of these non-Russian reviewers, to a mostly enjoyable synthesis—albeit an incoherent, perhaps meaningless experience. The film’s sequel not only offers more of the same, [9] but like its predecessor is seen, at least by its creators, as a powerful mythologizing of timeless human truths that, in turn, reconcile viewers with the real “home” truths behind the alternately glitzy and collapsing human and architectural façades of present-day Moscow (and Russia). To western journalists eager to see in the films a struggle between good and evil, the film’s producer, Konstantin Ernst just as eagerly explains that

we don’t position [my emphasis] the Dark and Light Others as good and evil [sic]… The Dark Others are much freer people; they let themselves be the kind of people they want to be. The Light Others, though, are more frustrated: they have too many obligations, they feel responsible for an enormous number of people. The Dark Others have permitted themselves not to have these limitations—they live for themselves; while the Light Others look like horse-whipped neurotics who try and make everyone happy.

Ernst’s co-producer, Anatolii Maksimov, confesses that this Russian cinematic humanism caused confusion amongst their otherwise enthusiastic Hollywood partners. “This unexpectedly calls into question one of the basic values, a value that is axiomatic for American cinema: freedom as an absolute, the end and the beginning.” [10]

Not since the halcyon days of 17 Moments of Spring (Semnadtsat' mgnovenii vesny; dir. Tat'iana Lioznova, 1973) have Russian moviegoers been treated to villains as “likable” as Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitskii) and his Day Watch comrades. Or rather, it isn’t so much likability that the film’s creators try to achieve as the homely sense of “fascination” that the worlds of showbiz, capital, and organized crime are supposed to arouse in ordinary Russians. Similarly, the “excellent service” that, in Lioznova’s film, Stirlitz and his Nazi enemies endlessly enjoyed in restaurants and from their support staff was supposed to appeal, apparently, to Soviet viewers allegedly starving for such luxury. They might have got where they are by selling their souls to the devil, so to speak—but who wouldn’t, given the chance?

This insinuation is removed almost as soon as it made, however. Zavulon might be trying to engineer the Apocalypse, but when that doesn’t work out, he is almost happier than if it had. On top of that, he’s more “fun” as a surrogate father to Egor than Egor’s real dad, Anton. And he knows how to throw a great party. If he still occasionally manages to be menacing, however, his wife Alisa (Zhanna Friske) is just a righteous contemporary woman, frustrated by her loveless marriage to the local mafia kingpin and tired of the slow Moscow traffic. And the next-door neighbors, Kostia and his dad, would be altogether harmless were they not vampires. They, too, have to do their laundry in the bath tub.

If the Day Watch are a mostly lovable—if occasionally violent and suspicious bunch [11] —the folks at the Night Watch are “our guys” (nashi) to the core: well-meaning but prone to incompetence, hard-drinking, chain-smoking, soccer-loving, unlucky in love (but, at the end of the day, capable of getting the girl), tied (eternally) to dead-end jobs. Were it not for them, however, the lights would go out and the whole jerry-rigged mess would come crashing down around us.

What is the viewer asked to do, cursed by this alternately troubling and reassuring insight into the real order of the world? He is asked to become a human being. This is what (we are told by a member of the Night Watch) Anton Gorodetskii becomes after he twice says “no” (first in writing, then aloud; first in the “future,” then in the “past”) to the disguised offer, made to him by the witch Dar'ia (Rimma Markova), to join the infernal “power vertical” (an offer he accepts at the beginning of Night Watch). This no is an absolution of guilt. It is an erasure of memory, an act of (self-)forgiveness, and an imminently “patriotic” disavowal of responsibility for the tricky ways of the social and political world. As it turns out, this no is the inverted yes that Konstantin Ernst and his cinematic patrol hope to elicit from their audience (which, as we’ve seen, is the entire Russian nation). “To live for today,” he explains, “that’s the basic slogan that Russia needs. And if we ourselves can learn to live for today, then we’ll be able teach our audience to do this as well. Without resorting to violence, of course.” [12]

4. Day Watch is a (re)distribution of the (post-Soviet) sensible.

The real must be fictionalized in order to be thought.

Whatever might be the specific type of economic circuits they lie within, artistic practices are not “exceptions” to other practices. They represent and reconfigure the distribution of these activities.
—Jacques Rancière [13]

Just as Anton, with his double no “reviews” and reverses the “results of privatization” at film’s end, the Night Watch/Day Watch project aims to reconfigure the aesthetic regime of post-Soviet Russia—that is, the set of historical facts, things, places, people, classes, modes of thinking and doing that are admitted to the realm of visibility. This reconfiguration is supposed to reconcile the films’ imagined community with the less-than-cinematic reality around them and alleviate the less-than-pleasant historical traumas in their souls. The always startlingly frank Konstantin Ernst admits to such ambitions, comparing the work of the filmmaker to that of a surgeon, while Anatolii Maksimov speaks of the “domestication of reality.” In either case, the specific task of the producers and their director, Bekmambetov, is to cure the “Russian masochistic consciousness,” whose rejection of the unpretty facts of life is a “disgusting thing that has destroyed millions of lives.” While the millions who flocked to Day Watch in the first weeks of the new year might have thought they were going out for a fun evening of light entertainment, engineer of human souls Ernst reminds us that they were in fact in search of the “quintessence of experience.” His picture “sells [them] certain behavioral codes that allow them to position [my emphasis] themselves more precisely in reality.” [14]

Many reviewers, Russian and American, have noted that the “mythology” of the films is neither consistent nor clearly articulated. While the denizens of the dozens of chat sites generated by the films are busy debating and solving these fabulaic bugs, members of the reality-based community should admit such things hardly matter to molders of the faith-based community like Ernst and Bekmambetov. [15] Their fictional world embraces (in no particular order) vampires and the butchers at the local market; expensive suites in high-rise hotels and blocks of communal flats slated for demolition; bureaucrats and oligarchs; well-heeled parrots with their own limos and utility workers with old-fashioned, bad-ass trucks; tango, rap, heavy metal, military marches, accordion ditties, guitar anthems, gypsy ballads; cellphones and body-switching; Uzbeks and soccer fans; Tamerlane and the kid next door; beer-drinking and blood-sipping; pop stars partying like it’s 1999 and panicky citizens escaping from a Ferris wheel on the loose; the end of the world as we know it and the best days of our lives, etc.

What does this reconfiguration of reality add up to? To Bekmambetov and Ernst (the Belinskii and Bakunin of our day), the real might not be rational, but it is all there is, so you might as well enjoy it and not pay any mind to how, really, it all fits together. Or rather, today’s class struggle, primitive accumulation, and social collapse are re-imagined—for the blink of an eye and in a way that fools no one—as phantasmagoria, as the supernatural. This CGI-enhanced puppet show is then dis- and re-enchanted simultaneously: today’s audiences, Ernst argues, are trained to recognize that “brand-creation is myth-creation, the creation of a new god: there’s no difference whether it’s the god of wine or the god of Coca-Cola. Structurally, Night Watch is no different from an ad for Procter and Gamble or Head and Shoulders [sic]. The principle is the same.” [16] If you have a hard time swallowing Ernst’s cola or his shampoo makes your head itchy, then perhaps you are not among the “trusting, unprejudiced” “organic beings,” who, according to Bekmambetov, make up the bulk of the diptych’s supporters. [17] This lack of prejudice is, apparently, supposed to help one to accept calmly comparisons such as “Tarkovskii meets the Wachowski Brothers.” [18]

5. Day Watch is an imperialist (police) project.

9. The only maxim of contemporary art is: do not be imperial. This also means: do not be democratic, if democracy implies conformity with the imperial idea of political liberty.

13. Today art can only be made from the starting point of that which, as far as Empire is concerned, doesn’t exist. Through its abstraction, art renders this in-existence visible. This is what governs the formal principle of every art: the effort to render visible to everyone that which, for Empire (and so by extension for everyone, though from a different point of view), doesn’t exist.

15. It is better to do nothing than to contribute to the invention of formal ways of rendering visible that which Empire already recognises as existent.

—Alain Badiou, “Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art

Why, if it’s foolish for Ernst to compare his films to Tarkovskii’s, is it any more legitimate for me—a citizen of a country where millions are engaged in the production of thousands of “myth-brands” even as that same country’s army illegally occupies another country that is on the brink of civil war—to be chiding Ernst and Co. for their failure to distinguish between the frivolous and the serious? And doesn’t my co-optation of such obvious non-fans of wholesome entertainment as Rancière and Badiou only aggravate my hypocrisy?

I am guilty as charged, but there are three points to be made neverthess. First, what has been going on in the non-diegetic Russia in the months before and after the premiere of Day Watch? In Petersburg: the murder, in broad daylight, of the young anti-fascist activist Timur Kacharava by a gang of skinheads; the beatings and murders (nearly every week!) of foreign students and undesirable natsmeny; the acquittal, by a jury of his elders, of the young man accused of stabbing to death nine-year-old Khursheda Sultonova (in 2004). In Moscow: a well-attended and officially permitted march through the city center by fascists and other neo-nationalists to mark the new November 4th holiday (celebrating “liberation” from the Poles in the 17th century!), at the same time as various counter-protests were either not permitted by the authorities or otherwise hampered; the stabbing of eleven people at the Bol'shaia Bronnaia synagogue by a young man who had read his fill of the “Slavs First!” literature available on the Internet. In Chelyabinsk: the “hazing” of Private Andrei Sychev, whose amputated and otherwise mutilated body has now become a PR battleground of belated concern and disavowal of responsibility on the part of the Konstantin Ernsts of the Russian political elite. There and everywhere: rampant official corruption; aggressive, destructive, and crooked real-estate development (such as the practice, which has now become a plague in cities like Petersburg, of uplotnitel'naia zastroika (in-fill construction); crumbling infrastructure coupled with a “national project” to dump all these ills, in the name of reforma ZhKKh (reform of the housing sphere), in the laps of ordinary folk, who are being forced to form TSZh (housing owner associations) or have their affairs turned over to upravliaiushchie kompanii (management companies)—that is, the same old Night Watch (ZhEK), now pretending to be free enterprise; and (to finish off this unhappy catalogue of sinking ships) the silencing, harassment, discrediting, and persecution of civil-society groups, opposition politicians, and other dissenters.

Strangely enough, Ernst and Bekmambetov’s spectacular, profitable rearrangement of the sensible manages to include, as through a glass darkly, many of the unhappy moments I have just mentioned, albeit as briefly glimpsed “collateral damage” from the tussle between Light and Dark Others. Although you would be hard pressed to find adequate coverage and analysis of these ills in the Russian mainstream media, in Day Watch you do see—in what is supposed to be a cute instance of in-house product placement—a Channel One reporter dully broadcasting from the scene of the Apocalypse. And this is the problem. If, as Rancière argues, the real has to be fictionalized in order to be thought, Day Watch lightly mythologizes the real in order to foreclose the possibility of thought. Our reaction—whether to the film’s clever marketing campaign—from the faux-psychedelic posters (we had our 1960s, too!) to Ernst and Maksimov quoting Joseph Campbell and Vasilii Rozanov in interviews (the most well-read nation on earth!)—or to the pleasures of the film itself—is supposed to be, “Those guys thought of everything!” They even thought of calling the bad guys “Zavulon” and “Geser” (or are those the good guys?)—which is about as helpful, in the struggle for a clearer view on our present conjucture, as calling George W. Bush “Senator Palpatine” (or is he supposed to be Dick Cheney?).

      

Once names have been named in this way, we are supposed to exit the theater in a good mood and leave the driving to the pros. In practice this means two things. First, if you try to name actual names, or even look as if you might be thinking of doing such a thing, you will be stopped in your tracks. Thus, a good friend of mine, a local housing activist, was told before going on a local radio program not to mention the names of the mayor, city councilmen, or local state property committee officials in his comments on the current situation (in which, of course, all these real-life Night Watch patrolmen are in on the take). Second, if you do submit to the rewriting of history and reconfiguration of reality being carried out with such vigor by Channel One and other para-state organizations, you will become a functional idiot. Thus (to give only three random examples) you will react to the news of a nine-year-old mulatto girl’s being stabbed in the stairwell of her building (Saint Petersburg, 25 March 2006) with indifference or even glee (“Serves those bastards right! Ponaekhali!”). Or you will allow yourself to be worked up into a froth over the Hague tribunal’s “murder” of Serbian patriot Slobodan Milosevic. On the less dire end of “positioning yourself more precisely in reality,” you will be apt to laugh, chortle, and otherwise thrill to the mayhem and murder in Steven Spielberg’s Munich (2005)—as did half the (Russian) audience when I saw the film at my local multiplex. One thing you won’t do is join the oddballs (who in Petersburg, a city of five million, never number more than a few hundred) who go into the streets to protest their country’s slow slide “into the Gloom.”

It’s unfair, of course, to lay this whole bill of lousy particulars at Ernst and Bekmambetov’s door. At the same time, the kind of Russian blockbusters they create and the way they create them can be seen as an allegory of the symbiosis of business and state power as well as that powerful organism’s view of its “customers.” Their project of myth/brand creation has a method and a message. [19] Their method is employed to particularly totalizing effect in Day Watch’s stunning finale—a montage of musical quotations and film-history citations that falsifies history by rendering it utterly unreadable; a utopian potpourri of post-imperial melancholy, revanchism, imperial restorationism, castrated shestidesiatnichestvo, and anti-American cinematic Americanism [20] that is worthy of more careful analysis than I have provided here. The message transmitted by all this cinematic muscle-baring is, however, much simpler and hardly veiled at all. The bad guys and the good guys are in cahoots, but don’t worry. They want you to be happy—and forget about what they are up to (while remaining aware that they are the ones in charge). “Even in our situation it’s possible to remain human beings.” Just say “no.” “You can’t blame a guy for saying no.” [21]

Thomas H. Campbell (Yale University)

Thomas Campbell© 2006


Notes

1] “Pravo pervoi nochi: Ernst i Maksimov o ‘Dnevnom Dozore’,” Afisha, 26 December 2005–8 January 2006: 9. Here and throughout, all translations from the Russian are mine.

2] “Zhazhda novoi krovi,” Iskusstvo kino 12 (2004). In all fairness to Mr. Ernst, here is the full quotation: “Posters, trailers, teasers, billboards, merchandising—there’s practically not a single Russian dictionary equivalent for all the many and varied elements which go into the promo package of any major American film.”

3] Recently, the journal Seans tried to mine the depths of Russian project-mindedness with a block of articles on the word’s function in various realms of popular culture (Seans 23/24) and a panel discussion on Radio Liberty occasioned by the release of this issue.

4] In a discussion of the making and marketing of Night Watch, director Timur Bekmambetov reports that producer Konstantin Ernst told the crowd at the film’s premiere: “This is our cinema, and whoever isn’t with us is against us.” “Zhazhda novoi krovi.”

5] Or as Konstantin Ernst put it: “You miss [Night] Watch and you’re already out of fashion; you can’t hold up your end of a conversation with the in-crowd [tusovka].” “Zhazhda novoi krovi.”

6] The irrepressible Ernst (whose own “night job” is as a judge on the television show KVN) seconds his co-creator: “It’s like Boris Grebenshchikov said so well, ‘The blacks have their sense of rhythm, and Russians have their sense of guilt.’” “Zhazhda novoi krovi.”

7] Visualized so ably in the film by the setting of Anton and Sveta’s pursuit of Egor, and by the location of Zoar’s Cafe, in a typically post-Soviet (albeit Luzhkovian) market stall (torgovyi riad), as well as by Zolotukhin’s telltale second-hand attire and “pirated” musical tastes.

8] In part, I owe this short list of 1992’s highlights to a pirated copy of Leonid Parfenov’s erstwhile televsion show Like Yesterday: Our Era (Namedni: Nasha Era), an altogether different attempt at managing communal memory—although not altogether unrelated to Day Watch, given the presence of Channel One powerhouse Dzhanik Faiziev as the series director.

9] Konstantin Ernst boasts of “700 CGI sequences”; “Pravo pervoi nochi,” 9.

10] “Pravo pervoi nochi,” 9–10.

11] In a review of Night Watch, Mikhail Zolotonosov catalogs the often anti-Semitic intertexts—turn-of-the-century Russian horror novels—on which Sergei Luk'ianenko drew in writing the novels on which the films are based. Zolotonosov suggests that Anton’s implausible “drubbing” of Zavulon (Zebulon) and Zavulon’s willing acceptance of this humiliation, at the end of the first film, is comprehensible only when we recall this trope of “justified popular anger” aroused by “Jewish treachery.” Mikhail Zolotonosov, “Novye prikliucheniia neulovimykh,” Iskusstvo kino 11 (2004). In this light, Kostia’s futile but altogether “justified” attempt to stab Zavulon to death finds an unhappy echo in the recent attack in the Bol'shaia Bronnaia synagogue.

12] “Zhazhda novoi krovi.”

13] Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible. Trans. Gabriel Rockhill. London: Continuum, 2004. 38; 45.

14] “Pravo pervoi nochi,” 10.

15] Ernst would no doubt find much to approve in the following sentiments, voiced by a White House aide: “That’s not the way the world really works anymore… We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” Ron Suskind, “Without a Doubt,” New York Times Magazine, 17 October 2004.

16] “Zhazhda pervoi krovi.” In this same interview, Ernst cites no less an authority than Joseph Campbell in his explanation of the “universality” of mythological construction.

17] “Zhazhda novoi krovi.”

18] Again (of course) Ernst, as reported in a number of American reviews of Night Watch.

19] For an illuminating discussion of the difference between “ideology” and “propaganda” in the new Russian blockbusters, see “Kak govoritsia v fil'me ‘Bumer’, nachinaetsia nezdorovaia kanitel': s Sergeem Chliiantsem beseduet Konstantin Shavlovskii,” Seans 23/24 (2005): 42–44. One hopes that Seans, after their excellent survey of “projects,” might conduct a similar inquiry into the usage of the words “politics” and “ideology” in contemporary Russia—where, for example, a restaurant can be described as having a “politics” or “ideology,” even as public (oppositional) politics is eclipsed by what Rancière calls “the police.”

20] As Bekmambetov says: “In general, real [nastoiashchee] cinema is all American cinema.” “Zhazda novoi krovi.” In his review of Night Watch, Zolotonosov notes this contradiction: “And although the spectacle is chockablock with the clichés of American cinema and their music, obligatory admiration [of the film] is inculcated like a form of patriotism and anti-Americanism.” Zolotonosov, “Novye prikliucheniia neulovimykh.”

21] The first bit of wisdom belongs to Kostia’s Dad; the second, to Dar'ia the Witch.


Day Watch, Russia, 2006
Color and black-and-white, 140 minutes
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Screenplay: Sergei Luk'ianenko, Timur Bekmambetov, Aleksandr Talal
Camera: Sergei Trofimov
Cast: Konstantin Khabenskii, Mariia Poroshina, Vladimir Men'shov, Galina Tiunina, Viktor Verzhbitskii, Zhanna Friske, Dima Martynov, Valerii Zolotukhin, Aleksei Chadov, Gosha Kutsenko, Igor' Lifanov, Nikolai Olialin, Mariia Mironova, Nurzhuman Ikhtymbaev, Aleksei Maklalov, Aleksandr Samoilenko, Egor Dronov, Rimma Markova, Anna Sliu, Sergei Trofimov, Sergei Ovchinnikov, Anton Stepanenko, Irina Iakovleva
Producers: Anatolii Maksimov, Konstantin Ernst
Production: Channel One and Bazelevs Production

Updated: 26 Apr 06