Magazine article American Cinematographer

Global Village

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Global Village

Article excerpt

Day Watch Continues Russia's Supernatural Showdown

The recently released Russian film Day Watch continues the story introduced in Night Watch, which was a major box-office success upon its release in Russia in 2004. Day Watch (Dnevnoi dozor) finds our hero, the vampiric Anton (Konstantin Khabensky), being hunted by dark forces as he tries to locate the Chalk of Fate, a magical relic with the power to change history. Meanwhile, he also grapples with the notion that his son, Yegor (Dmitry Martynov), has become a powerful dark force.

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov and photographed by Sergei Trofimov, Night Watch and Day Watch are based on a trilogy of best-selling novels by Sergei Lukyanenko. The premise is that members of a supernatural race (witches, vampires, lycanthropes, etc.) must choose between a life of good or evil, light or darkness. A delicate state of détente exists between the opposing forces, casting mere mortals in the middle. In Night Watch, Anton decided to join the light and become a member of the Night Watch, a vigilant team tasked with patrolling the streets of modern-day Moscow and keeping dark evildoers on their side of the law.

When Trofimov met Bekmambetov, the cinematographer was on a very different career path. He had recently graduated from the Moscow Institute of Management and was working at an automobile factory, "but I knew my career in management was over," he says. "I wanted creative freedom, and I had started to learn about still photography and cinematography from two teachers, Arkady Nissky and Yakov Davidovich Feldman." At the time, Bekmambetov was working on a TV movie in Odessa, and Trofimov joined the production as a camera assistant, "though my real job was shooting stills."

Trofimov gained experience observing cinematographer Rifkat lbragimov. "He was one of the most famous Soviet cinematographers in Central Asia, and he was a real artist and very expressive in his work." Trofimov later found work as a camera operator at a state-controlled TV station. "Three years of that gave me the foundation I needed," he says. "When I was 28,1 got my first assignment as a cinematographer." The project was Bekmambetov's directorial debut, Peshawar Waltz, a drama about Soviet POWs trapped in Afghanistan. "I was the second-unit director of photography, and it was a great opportunity: four months of handheld night shooting in Kazakhstan in the mud and dirt, with all this war action going on."

At this time, the capitalist market in Russia was just taking off, and there was a sudden need for commercials. "I call it Russia's 'romantic period' of commercial production, because we worked directly with clients, and they all wanted something extraordinary," says Trofimov. "Timur and I started a production company with a composer, Alexander Voitinsky, and a producer, Dmitry Yourkov, and we started shooting." Of the nearly 350 ads to his credit, Trof imov points to a 16-spot series they did for Imperial Bank as a favorite. "They were short historical movies about czars and emperors, and they were shot in different countries on good budgets."

In 2003, Trofimov and Bekmambetov started production on Night Watch. "Originally, it was going to be one feature film followed by a TV series," recalls Trofimov. "The budget was very tight, so we divided the picture into sections, with interiors to be shot on 35mm and exteriors on 16mm. …

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