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Background Edit

The movie Night Watch, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, is based on Sergei Lukyanenko’s novel Night Watch, which depicts the eternal battle between good and evil. The movie follows the main character, Anton (played by Konstantin Khabenskiy), who is a member of the Night Watch and fights for the side of Light in an exhausting attempt to keep balance between the two sides. In a world where vampires and witches exist, all existence balances on a truce between these two competing forces.

Concept Analysis: "Othering" Edit

What sets Anton apart from many of the other characters is his description of being an "Other." In the movie, this characteristic makes him unique from normal humans, gifting him with special powers, and giving him the choice to choose between Light and Dark. As others are discovered, they are given the choice to pick a side, and then help to fight for that side. As defined by Wikipedia, "The term othering describes the reductive action of labelling a person as someone who belongs to a subordinate social category defined as the Other,"[1] and in this movie, the concept of a person being an "other" is centerpiece. Anton, himself, describes being an "other"; when asked by his son what it means, he defines it as being "just different."

Bekmambetov's take on the concept of "otherings," and monster theory, falls right into line with Jeffrey Cohen's seven theses in "Monster Culture (Seven Theses)."[2] Not only does Bekmambetov introduce a crisis in the form of a monster -- the cursed Svetlana bringing inevitable doom in the form of a vertex, described in "The 'Virgin' and Monstrousness" below -- the director highlights Cohen's 3rd thesis: "The Monster is the Harbinger of Category Crisis." But Bekmambetov also introduces the appeal of the monster to self, as in Cohen's Thesis IV: "The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference." The Night Watchmen are the protectors/perpetrators that balance light and dark. As Cohen's says, "the monster is difference made flesh." And in the Night Watch, the "others" are people set apart from the population, who can become either monsters or heroes.

The “Virgin” and Monstrousness Edit

NightWatch-Svetlana

Svetlana, the "Virgin" in the film Night Watch; played by Mariya Poroshina.

In Night Watch, Anton first sees the Virgin in the underground train as he is searching for a boy following “The Call.” Anton admits to thinking that the sad-looking woman was a vampire, perhaps the one making the mental call to the boy; he used his special flashlight to try to burn her, but she was not affected by the light like vampires are. Then, only seconds later, Anton touches the woman and receives a vision. In his vision, he sees her apartment with a vortex above it, made by birds flying in a tunnel shape.

Anton does not know what to make of this image, and when he shows it to Geser, the Lord of Light, the lord tells him about a tale of the Virgin of Byzantium. The Virgin carried a curse around her, and many bad things happened to those she came in contact with: “When she held a candle, the flame went out. When she would pet a puppy, it would die. When a bird ate from her hand, it dropped to the ground. In houses she visited, children died.”[3] The curse that followed the Virgin of Byzantium also follows Svetlana, the woman from the train. She exhibits the signs of destruction following in her wake.

NightWatch-VortexSvetlana

Svetlana, the "Virgin" near her apartment, the location of the Vortex.

At the end of the film we find out that Svetlana is also an “Other,” and she brought the curse on herself. As mentioned briefly above, the character of Svetlana exemplifies the monster as depicted by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s essay “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)” in his book Monster Theory.[2] In his first thesis (“The Monster’s Body is a Cultural Body”), Cohen explains that the monster is born out of “metaphoric crossroads,” or a “certain cultural moment.” Svetlana, as the monster that brings the final battle of light and dark, reflects cultural anxieties about a new age: the age of technology.

In the film, the viewer can see the early 2000s battle between old and new technologies. One key moment is when Yegor – the child that ultimately decides which side wins this battle – sits alone in his house after his mother goes out. He watches the T.V. series Buffy the Vampire Slayer because he just encountered vampires that tried to kill him – one can assume that he is watching Buffy to learn how to slay the monsters from the Dark side. His reliance on this technology is telling of the new age: rather than going to books and folklore, he turns to television. Yet, his want to slay the vampires changes by the end of the film when he joins their side of the epic battle.

Another thesis from Cohen’s essay that Svetlana brings to light in Night Watch is his fifth thesis: “The Monster Polices the Border of the Possible.” Svetlana “stands as a warning against exploration of its uncertain demesnes. . . . curiosity is more often punished than rewarded.”[2] Svetlana literally stands as a warning of the final battle, the battle that will change the balance of Light and Dark in the world forever. Further, she stands as the monster that warns against curiosity. Had Anton never sought out the woman in the beginning of the film – the witch that was to help Anton bring his wife back to him – he would ever have entered the Gloom and then joined the Night Watch as an “Other.” That same scene set up Yegor, the child that Anton originally consented to kill when he made the deal with the witch woman, as the one that would change the balance. The curiosity that Anton gave in to when he went to the witch only led to punishments.

ReferencesEdit

  1. “Other.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Apr. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Other.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Monster Theory, edited by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, University of Minnesota Press, 1996.
  3. Bekmambetov, Timur, director. Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozor). Bazelevs Production, Channel One Russia, and TABBAK, 2004.

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