Patriotic tank film smashes Russian box office record
10 January 2019 07:26 am
A Russian war film that tells of a Soviet soldier’s “devotion to the motherland”, the latest in a line of state-funded patriotic blockbusters, has broken Russian box office records for its first week on release in the new year.
T-34, named after a type of tank used in extensively in the second world war, had the best opening weekend of all time for a Russian-made movie with around 713m roubles (£8.3m) in takings, according to an industry newsletter.
“This is a drama about how a concentration camp prisoner escapes from fascist captivity in an attempt to preserve his life, love and devotion to the motherland,” a culture ministry statement said.
The director, Aleksey Sidorov, said the aim of his film was to “tell a war story in a way that attracts young people and does not provoke objections from those who still remember the great patriotic war”.
Memories of the great patriotic war, as the conflict with Nazi Germany is known in Russia, have become a key tool in promoting patriotism during President Vladimir Putin’s long years in the Kremlin.
Criticism of the official heroic narrative of the war, in which an estimated 26m Soviet citizens died, are discouraged or silenced.
Also released over the new year was The Holiday, a black comedy set during the siege of Leningrad, one of the war’s darkest periods.
But in contrast to T-34, which has been heavily trailed in state media, director Aleksey Krasovskiy decided to screen The Holiday exclusively on YouTube after officials condemned his project. The YouTube page for Krasovskiy’s film includes a request for donations from viewers.
Sergei Boyarsky, a deputy in the State Duma, said the idea of the film was a “blasphemy and a shame” when it was reported in the Russian press last year.
The privately funded film has racked up almost 800,000 views on YouTube T-34 has been viewed 1.5m times in cinemas.
Films require a permit for a cinematic release from the Russian ministry of culture, which has been known to reject or delay permits for projects deemed problematic, such as the British comedy The Death of Stalin, which was pulled at the last minute in 2018.
The government has funded a number of patriotism-promoting pictures in recent years, not just focused on the Soviet war victory.
In December 2017, a film based on the Soviet Union’s unexpected 1972 Olympic basketball victory over the US became the highest-grossing Russian film ever.
And in November last year, the romcom Crimean Bridge: Made with Love! hit cinemas shortly before the structure became a flashpoint in a naval standoff between Russia and Ukraine.