This was one fucked up movie. The Time of Troubles lasted from1598 to 1613 between the death of Tsar Feodor and the establishment of the Romanov dynasty. With weak leadership consisting of usurpers and imposters, and occupation by Poland, the land was wracked by famine that killed a third of the population. There were pretenders to the throne, and the land was destabilized by the invasion of Polish soldiers and occupation of the Kremlin. You will learn none of this from the movie, since 1612 is the least coherent history lesson ever made.† It is filled with flashbacks and backstory establishment that serves only to baffle with a series of characters introduced and snuffed out before they register. False Dmitrys and the internecine action of Polish nobles made a clusterfuck of Russia, and I suppose the movie gets this across well enough, because I gave up trying to follow the story after 30 minutes and several pages of notes. Reading back through them, I sound like a coked up college student madly cramming for an exam that I already gave up on.
What recommends 1612, however, is that this is some sick shit that manages to be entertaining because of its nonsensical narrative. Just kick up your feet and take your drug of choice, it helps. The film is filled with unicorn imagery, a Stylite who advises a priest to grow a beard and stop being a faggot, the world’s first flamethrower tank, Polish soldiers with angel wings (Hussars, amongst the most feared armies of the time), and the bodes are stacked oh so high. The battles range from well choreographed swordfights to an extended siege on an insignificant town, and the blood flows like it was tossed from buckets on a writhing pile of extras. I found myself alternately laughing like a hyena and going “DAMN that guy got blown in half!” throughout the film. It is a hoot in the dumbest possible way.
The story, I think, involves the efforts of a Polish noble to ascend to the throne in Moscow as Tsar, taking with him a kidnapped Tsarina that gives him legitimacy. Traveling with him is a serf who is obsessed with the Tsarina after watching her jump into the river nude as a young woman. Since serfing involves whacking the dirt with a stick until you die, I can understand the profound effect a rack like that can have on the guy. The serf steals the identity of a murdered Spaniard mercenary and becomes a super soldier who defends the Tsarina’s life and fights the Polish Army to defend his Russian homeland. About half the movie appears in flashback (I think) as the dead Spaniard trains our hero in the arts of fencing, gunnery, and Spanish dancing from beyond the grave. He Kenobis into the film periodically to deliver these lessons which the serf absorbs beautifully despite the teacher being dead. Meanwhile, there is a group of assassins trying to kill the Tsarina before she reaches Moscow and allows a usurper to take the throne. It did not surprise me in the least to then see these assassins fighting an army to keep her alive. I don’t pretend to understand, but the body count had to be in the hundreds, so whether it makes sense matters fuck-all.
Novelty deaths: Have a seat.
- Body ripped in half by cannon fire
- Numerous impalings via the sword, pitchfork, dagger, and post
- A massive explosion tosses bodies hither an yon as a flaming iron ball is shot into a gunpowder store
- Flying logs crush bodies by the dozen, horses are knocked to pieces by cannon balls
- Horseshoe to the eye socket
- A chain with a cannonball on each end is shot at an elite squad of Hussars, knocking off several heads, one of which we see in detail, bobbing by a string of meat
- Arms get hacked off
- False Dmitry is burned alive, and a crowd stomps his skull into fragments, which are then shot out of a cannon. They get no deader than that.
- A protestor has his tongue cut out in loving detail before a watching crowd
- The Kiss of Death
This is a sumptuous buffet of overacting and fuckedupedness. The wagon tank was a nice touch for a movie taking place in the 1600s. There is a scene with a dancing bear wearing a shirt with bouncing tits on it. Because only Russians are insane enough to fuck a bear? The mind of this auteur is ever a mystery.† At the end, the siege fails as the Tsarina just leaves with the Polish noble, making the whole affair pointless – then the town chases them and destroys them all, because fuck an army. 1612 manages to be an expertly made and incompetent film that is as confusing as it is entertaining.