I love to watch movies while drawing my comics. As I explained in this post, while inking can be tedious and time consuming, it doesn’t take as much concentration as penciling or writing. So, I get to enjoy some wonderful films while I ink for the next six months.

I’ve been especially fond of Eastern European movies since I saw Alexander Nevsky on public television when I was a kid. Before the days of vhs and dvd, I didn’t think I’d have a chance to see these films at my leisure. Occasionally, an art house theater featured them when I lived in the city. Still, I went more than a decade without seeing a single Russian film.

I hate dubbed films, so I end up not understanding ten words together while I draw and have to keep glancing up to the subtitles. I usually choose witty dramas like All About Eve or The Philadelphia Story. I love all that sparkling language. It’s like being at a great cocktail party.

Not this week. I’m watching all my Russian faves instead.

My entire family enjoys Russian culture and art. My brother studied the Russian language in college, and I had a small collection of lacquerware, as well stacks of 1980’s era Russian Life magazines. It’s a real treat to be able to see Russian films whenever I want. Maybe I’ll do a Russian themed GN someday.

1612 is a 2007 treasure from director Vladimir Khotinenko. This historical fantasy tells the tale of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth–Muscovite War of 1605–1618, which resulted in the establishment of the 300-year Romanov dynasty.

The film focuses on a young servant named Audrey, who witnesses the murder of the entire family of Tsar Boris Gudonov, an act which plunges Russia into years of chaos.

Audrey is captured and sold into slavery. As a young man, he is bought by the mercenary Alvaro, a Spaniard who has come to sell his services to the Poles. Audrey is left masterless when attacked by a band of robbers. Masterless serfs are routinely hanged as runaways, so Audrey steals his owner’s identity and presents himself to the Polish Lord Osina, who plots to invade Moscow and take for himself the beautiful Princess Xenia, a union which will establish Osina as the Tsar.

This movie had me with the first rush of Polish winged Husaria in one of the most dramatic battle sequences I’ve ever seen. Gory would be an understatement, especially when our hero Audrey fires his cannon directly into a Polish powder magazine. Boom.

Not for everyone, but if you want a look at outstanding battle sequences and fine period costume, this film’s for you.

Some Polish commentators have complained the film is a Kremlin-financed work of propaganda. I understand the objection, but as an artist, I don’t really care. Any film which features visitations from unicorns threw history out the window in the first reel. Sit back and enjoy this nationalistic, fantastical experience.

This article at The Herald Scotland is a balanced overview of the film’s content and it’s connections to current Russian politics.

It showcases key ideas being pushed by the Kremlin at a time when it faces parliamentary and presidential elections: the necessity of strong leadership; treacherous foreigners; and the importance of patriotism.

The film, 1612, was released to coincide with a relatively new November 4 national holiday created by Putin to celebrate National Unity Day.

You’ll never meet anyone more anti-communist than me, but the whole debate reminds me of the kerfluffle surrounding the release of Lord of the Rings, with pundits on the left and right arguing about the film’s politics.

I didn’t feel compelled to become Putin’s biggest supporter after watching this movie. I just got a kick out of seeing a Russian fantasy film.

Your mileage may vary, but I highly recommend it.

The promo is below.