Even as “Admiral” sinks, it points to interesting trend
Saw the new Russian movie “Admiral” the other week. The film “tells” the story of Admiral Alexander Kolchak, the Tsarist naval commander who led White Russian military forces against the Bolsheviks, focusing on his brief love affair with a fellow officer’s wife, Anna Timireva. And when I say “tells,” I mean the film butchers the complicated history of this era in order to churn out a nauseatingly sweet melodrama that puts Hollywood’s transgressions to shame.
The Admiral Kolchak presented here is a flawless and intelligent hero scrupulous enough to be conflicted over his adulterous feelings for Timireva, pious enough to pray his ship through a minefield, and virtuous (in the soldierly sense of the word) enough to lead the White Army to, well, defeat. But I guess I have to admit it’s pretty cool, albeit ridiculous, when he overcomes burst eardrums to man a cannon and take out a superior German destroyer with a direct hit to the bridge (notice the blood trickling down the side of his rugged profile on the film poster). A true “Die Hard” moment.
I have to sympathize with Konstantin Khabensky, who plays the Admiral; the film was a dud from the start. It’s bad enough that love interest Liza Boyarskaya’s repertoire consists of a faintly alluring, enigmatic smile and big glassy eyes, a dynamic duo that has more than worn out it’s welcome by the final curtain. A more grevious error is the writers’ decision to focus on a love story (tagline: “For love is strong as death”) that should have been no more than a sideplot. This shuffles the movie into a plot that begins boringly with the Admiral easily winning Timireva when they lock eyes at a ball (the lively conversation during the subsequent evening stroll seals the deal), continues boringly with the Admiral writing lots of letters and gazing meaningfully at the sea as he pines for Timireva, and ends boringly as the couple, finally together, makes passionate conversation in a luxurious train car on the way to Irkutsk. And oh the suspense each time the train stops at another city, where there might be Reds!
In short, it’s a far too squeaky clean and simpleminded take on such an intersting topic. But it is interesting to note yet another facet of the conflicted Soviet legacy here: In modern Capitalist Russia, the Reds are sneaky and evil, and the Whites are heroic, God-fearing, Tsar-loving real Russians, pure and simple. Let’s just “Whitewash” (sorry, couldn’t help my punny little self) the whole story.