mon 21/05/2018

DVD: White Tiger | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: White Tiger

DVD: White Tiger

From a tank-whisperer to the quandaries of historical destiny, a strange film

The splendid ranks of war: only real tanks were hurt in the making of this film

Russian director Karen Shakhnazarov has three decades of memorable film-making behind him, but remains much less known than he should be, at least in the English-speaking world: his edgy perestroika-era films like Courier and Assassin of the Tsar deserve far more atttention than they've generally received. Last year's White Tiger reunites him with longtime co-scripter Alexander Borodnyansky, and this time they've aimed resolutely for the mainstream, though it's a bid for the popular with an unusual twist.

Shakhnazarov's first venture into locally popular World War II territory, White Tiger is set in 1943 in the Soviet tank divisions; large-scale action is visually memorable (main picture, above), and there's no CGI - these are real effects, historical props from Mosfilm, where Shakhnazarov is director. Story-wise it’s stranger, however, verging towards the mystic, following hero Ivan Naidyonov (Alexei Vertkov, pictured right, below), an injured tank driver/mechanic found in the opening scene with 90 percent burns from which he miraculously recovers, his gifts enhanced with a fascination/empathy with tanks that borders on the crazy – he's a tank-whisperer, if you like.

But something other-worldly is hindering the Soviet advance – a reinforced, apparently invincible German tank, the "White Tiger", that can outmanoeuvre Soviet positions, wreak massive destruction, and then vanish completely. Only Naidyonov has the instinct to battle it, in a specially strengthened Soviet T-34, and their confrontation reaches mythic levels (Shakhnazarov has loosely compared it to Captain Ahab and Moby Dick). Thanks to support from an initially sceptical superior Fedotov (Vitaly Kishchenko), who reports direct to none less than Marshal Zhukov, Naidyonov is allowed to run with his obsession.

That leads into a final reel, the action having advanced to May 1945 and fallen Berlin, which skews far into the weird (let’s just say that the Bruno Ganz club has a new member in Karl Kranzkowski, and apologies are absent from the agenda). War has moved from a conflict counted in years to a mythical force that bubbles through eternity. A musical score that minor-keys Wagner’s Ring accompanies both the slow-lumbering tank battles (rather strikingly), and then the final worldview (less so). War genre fans will relish what came earlier, and be thoroughly flummoxed by the coda. Metaphysics straying onto an already mystic battlefield is too much.

Watch the German-language trailer for White Tiger


War genre fans will relish what came earlier, and be thoroughly flummoxed by the coda


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters