5 reasons why you should watch Dovbush, the most expensive film in the history of Ukraine
On Independence Day, 24 August, Ukrainian (and other) cinemas premiered the adventure and historical drama Dovbush directed by Oles Sanin. This is the most expensive and largest film in the history of Ukrainian cinema. Its budget was about UAH 120 million, UAH 65 million of which was provided by the state.
Filming started back in 2018, but the release of the film was first postponed due to the coronavirus, and then the full-scale invasion. However, many film critics agreed that Dovbush was released at the right time - right now, more than ever, it resonates with Ukrainians in the face of the brutal military reality. OBOZREVATEL decided to collect ratings and reviews from viewers and experts, and tell you why the film is worth your attention.
What is Dovbush about?
This heroic biopic with fictional elements offers us a closer look at the story of the legendary Carpathian opryshko Oleksa Dovbush. He personally encounters the cruelty of the Polish gentry, and he is concerned about the enslavement of his own people. Betrayal, the murder of his parents and personal enmity lead Dovbush to take up arms. The plot focuses not only on Oleksa, but also on his brother Ivan. The latter is driven by a desire to gain fame and fortune, while Oleksa longs for justice.
The Polish nobility is trying to eliminate Dovbush, who was considered immortal. The Carpathian knight turned out to be more cunning than his enemies, and therefore managed to win.
"My film is about two words: "fame" and "hero". It's about what fame does to people. The protagonist wanted a simple, ordinary life, but circumstances forced him to defend his homeland, and people followed him. He didn't want to be a hero, but he took up arms, just like artists and teachers, doctors and journalists have done now," the film's director described his idea.
The film stars not only Ukrainian but also Polish and American actors:
- Oleksa Dovbush - Serhiy Strelnikov
- Ivan Dovbush - Oleksiy Gnatkovskyi
- Marichka - Daria Plakhtyi
- Przeluski - Mateusz Kostiukiewicz
- Princess Jablonowska - Agata Buzek
- Opryshky - Petro Zhyrun, Pavlo Zhyrun, Dmytro Vyvchariuk, Roman Yasynovskyi, Rostyslav Derzhypolskyi
Reasons why you should watch Dovbush
Scale. Oles Sanin's film grossed over UAH 8.7 million during its first weekend of release, and the number of tickets sold was 59.8 thousand. And it's not just about the budget. Some numbers: the most popular scene involved about 498 actors, and 596 people were on the set together with the production team. More than 1000 costumes were created, a team of 3000 people worked on the production, and the scenes were filmed at 20 different locations. 196 people from the art department built the locations from scratch.
"It is clearly seen that the budget was spent on high-quality production. Costumes, weapons, armour, houses and castles, on-location filming at different times of the day, many locations, scenes with extras - it is not known when we will see such a scale next time, because such money will not be allocated soon (at least, if we talk about public funds). The work of the actors also does not cause any complaints (and I would like to note the use of the Hutsul dialect and Polish language - authentically, clearly, very legibly and organically). The screenwriters and director also understand their job well," the critics shared their impressions in a review on the Kinowar website.
The film resonates. Stories about struggle, as we have already mentioned, resonate particularly strongly with Ukrainian audiences today. Ukrainians have a demand to learn about their history and identity, and therefore such films are in demand.
The acting. Critics praised the acting. Serhiy Strelnikov took the lead role, but many experts paid more attention to Oleksiy Hnatovsky, who played Ivan Dovbush. His contradictory "bad-good" character cannot leave anyone indifferent. Darya Plakhtyi portrayed Oleksa Dovbush's beloved Marichka, and her work is described as "deep and multifaceted".
An epic built according to all the laws of the epic genre. Some experts have criticised the film for the "lack of internal motivation of the protagonist" and the "simplicity of the story". However, the director and screenwriter Maryna Stepanska strongly disagrees with these statements. She explained: "It is a large-scale visual canvas with archetypal characters who exist and act in a symbolic field (the protagonist literally conquers death, goes through the classic path of a mythological hero from a mere human to a titan, overcoming death). That is why the claims about the "smallness of the characters" and "simplicity of the story" are irrelevant here; this is not a psychological drama about a man from the village and his mistress Marichka and how their relationship developed. This is a story about the formation of a titan in a mythical dimension. That's why it was a pleasure for me to watch how skilfully this path was constructed by the director."
Artistic digressions. The director did not limit himself to the story of struggle, revenge and war. The viewer can observe an interesting development of the relationship between the two brothers, as well as the love story. The characters show their character not only in heroic scenes full of action, but also in everyday scenes that reveal their essence even more. In addition, the director showed his vision of the story in the finale, changing the original version in which Dovbush was crucified and cut to death.
"I didn't want to make a film about how the body of the protagonist, in whom I believe, was thrown to the dogs. I found a cinematic way to say that a hero cannot be killed. Sometimes his name is bigger than he is," Sanin commented.
What else you need to know about the film
Vitaliy Gordienko, the creator of the popular YouTube channel Cinema Fan Squad, drew attention to an interesting nuance: after the film's release, the fact that the Poles in Dovbush were shown as villains, while Poland was actively helping Ukraine after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, was manipulated online.
"It will be easy for some ill-wishers to manipulate the plot and show that the Poles are helping Ukrainians, while they are making them look like villains in their most expensive film. Social media is already trying to fuel this scandal. In Poland, the screening of this film was postponed until after the elections. The director explained why Poles should not be offended by the film. For example, although it is difficult to notice, there is a Pole among the opryshky, and there are never any clashes based on ethnicity, and there is no emphasis on this. There is only the idea of freedom. In general, at that time, states were far from being called national. Therefore, we cannot say that we are accusing Poland of anything," commented Gordienko in his review.
Film critic Kyrylo Pishchykov voiced many of the disadvantages he found in the film. At the same time, he compared the film to the cult Game of Thrones. He shared that for him, the family drama of two brothers seemed more interesting than the main storyline, which was "lame".
However, Pishchikov's conclusion was as follows: "Dovbush is in some ways an outstanding essence of contemporary Ukrainian cinema - the form and presentation are quite decent, but the story is still lame on both legs. Still, it is worth paying attention to this film, because we are unlikely to see such a large-scale and ambitious Ukrainian film in the near future."
As OBOZREVATEL previously reported, Russian propagandists spent 200 million rubles (UAH 78 million) on the shameful film Witness, which was supposed to mislead the world about the genocide of Ukrainians in Bucha and Irpin. However, the efforts of the Kremlin film studio were not appreciated even within the country.