The Russians are coming
Fedor Bondarchuk in Spy, opening night film of the Russian Film Festival. Picture: Supplied.

Like most young boys growing up in Russia, Aleksei Andrianov was fascinated with spy stories. So it seemed inevitable then that when it came to making the leap from short films to his first feature, the 35-year-old tapped into what he knew.

Andrianov's debut film Spy opens this year's Russian Resurrection Film Festival in Perth and lovers of espionage - and Quentin Tarantino - will certainly get a kick from his fast-paced, modern adaptation of a classic novel from his homeland.

Based on popular mystery writer Boris Akunin's novel The Spy Thriller, Spy is set in utopian Moscow in 1941, leading up to the Germans' attack on the Soviet Union in World War II.

It centres on a young lieutenant, Egor Dorin (Danila Kozlovsky), who is employed by the intelligence service by virtue of his boxing skills and command of the German language.

Under the tutelage of Major Oktyabrsky (heavyweight Russian actor Fedor Bondarchuk), Dorin is entrusted to take part in an operation to capture a dangerous fascist spy called Wasser.

Hitler has a secret plan to misinform Stalin of Germany's plan to attack the Soviet Union but the counterintelligence is successful in thwarting the fascist dictator's intent. That is, until it transpires there's a mole in the Soviet ranks.

"I was attracted to the book because it weaves a fiction around historical facts," Andrianov says over the phone from Moscow with festival director Nicholas Maksymow acting as an interpreter.

"What I found really interesting was why Russia or the Soviet Union wasn't ready for war," he continues.

Spy pays homage to the works of Quentin Tarantino and has shades of The Matrix, although Andrianov says he was also influenced by the short comedies produced by the Soviet Union in the 1940s. However he had his work cut out re-creating wartime Moscow.

"We had to do a lot of research," he says. "Initially, we pulled up all the old archives on how Moscow looked during that period and then when it came to designing the city on the computer, we had to look at the positioning of each building and whether it matched how it used to be."

Adding to the challenge was the heavily descriptive text in the source material which required Andrianov to consult the author on how to dramatise the script.

"I wanted to create an action- adventure story so I needed to create a script that would encompass that," Andrianov says.

For Maksymow, there couldn't be a better movie to kick off his festival.

"It's got all the things people associate with Russia but it has a modern feel and great cast," he says. "It's also a lot of fun. I believe it's a film that will allow the audience to go for the ride and enjoy themselves."

Maksymow says this year's festival program again features a diverse mix. Highlights include the multi-award-winning Home, which starts out as a drama about the dysfunctional Shamanov family but takes a drastic U-turn into thriller territory when it emerges eldest son Victor, who disappeared for 25 years, is now a dangerous underworld boss.

Then there's August 8th, a film based on true events. It focuses on a mother's search for her young son during the war in the Caucasus in 2008. As she journeys through the war-torn land, the audience experiences a different war through her son, who conjures up giant robots as protectors.

Injecting some humour into the program is the zany Five Brides - a warm-hearted and breezy comedy centring on five Soviet pilots stationed in Berlin at the end war but unable to leave just yet.

The Russian Resurrection Film Festival is on at Cinema Paradiso from tonight until September 26. For the full program visit www.russianresurrection.com.

The West Australian

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