The Captain’s Daughter” is a good old-fashioned period epic composed of equal parts star-crossed lovers, complex intrigues, heated battles and, of course, the Russian winter. Though unfortunately not in widescreen, pic recalls in its sweep the heyday of Mosfilm/Lenfilm spectaculars, and could be saluted in specialized situations by auds who remember that far back.
Story mixes elements from Aleksandr Pushkin’s 1836 novel “The Captain’s Daughter” with the central character from his work “A History of Pugachev.” After Empress Catherine II (Olga Antonova) has her husband Peter killed, 16 -year-old rookie soldier Pyotr Grinyov (Mateusz Damiecki) sets off to his first posting at a remote compound. Along the way, he offers a hareskin coat to fugitive Emelian Pugachev (Vladimir Mashkov), who displays the garment to the Cossacks and persuades them he’s Czar Peter III.
Meanwhile, back at the fortress, as Grinyov is vying with fellow officer Shvabrin (Sergei Makovetsky) for the affections of his commanding officer’s daughter, Masha (Karolina Gruszka), Pugachev is massing his rebel forces for a massive attack resulting in a bloody rebellion that sweeps the countryside.
The thesping is vivid but occasionally stodgy, with best work turned in by Makovetsky, who brings an air of noble dissolution a la Jeremy Irons to the dastardly Shvabrin. Young Polish leads Damiecki and Gruszka are fresh-faced and noble as lovers Grinyov and Masha, in direct contrast to Russo actor Mashkov’s feralturn as the bloodthirsty Pugachev.
Making the most of clearly uncomfortable dead-of-winter location work, Central Television vet Aleksandr Proshkin gets the best from lenser Sergei Yurizditsky, production designers Aleksandr Tolkachev and Vladimir Yermakov, and costume designer Natalia Polyakh. It’s the kind of film in which the wind can be felt and the soil can be smelled.
Lush look of pic belies the relative smallness of the ruble-based budget, which sank during production from $ 7 million to $ 4 million; half came from the private sector, in addition to state money committed on the strength of the 200 th anni of Pushkin’s birth. Original-language title means “The Russian Rebellion.”