Admiral (Russian: Адмиралъ) is a 2008 biopic about Alexander Kolchak, a vice-admiral in the Imperial Russian Navy and leader of the anti-communist White Movement during the Russian Civil War.
The film also depicts the love triangle between the Admiral, his wife, and the poet Anna Timiryova.
An extended version of the movie was made into a 10-part TV mini-series which was shown by Channel One in 2009.
During the production of War and Peace at Mosfilm Studios in 1964, an elderly Russian noblewoman is set to appear as an extra until her past comes to light. Although the film’s political commissar demands her dismissal since she is a “wife of an enemy of the revolution,” director Sergei Bondarchuk is adamant that he needs faces like hers for the production.
The film flashes back to the Baltic Sea in 1916. Captain Alexander Kolchak (Konstantin Khabenskiy) is laying naval mines from his ship in German territorial waters when he runs across SMS Friedrich Carl, an armoured cruiser of the German Imperial Navy. As chaos reigns on his ship, Kolchak succeeds in seriously damaging the bridge of the German vessel.
Realizing that the enemy ship is blocking his line of escape, Kolchak informs his men that the only way to return to safety is to lure the Germans onto one of his mines. As the ship steams into the mines they have just laid, Kolchak leads his men in Russian Orthodox prayers for God’s protection. Kolchak’s vessel barely avoids hitting its own mines, while the German ship sinks.
At the naval base in the Grand Duchy of Finland and now promoted to rear admiral, Kolchak is introduced to Anna Timireva (Elizaveta Boyarskaya), the wife of his subordinate officer and close friend Captain Sergei Timirev. The strong attraction between them immediately becomes apparent. Although Sergei reminds his wife that they took vows before God, Anna is unmoved and wants nothing more than to be with the Admiral.
Terrified of losing Kolchak, his wife Sofya (Anna Kovalchuk) offers to leave for Petrograd and let him be with Anna. The Admiral firmly tells her, “You are my wife and I am your husband. That is how it always shall be.” His feelings for Anna continue to grow, and when she delivers a love letter to Kolchak, he informs her that they cannot ever meet again. When Anna demands to know why, the Admiral responds, “Because I love you.”
Later, he is informed that Tsar Nicholas II (Nikolay Burlyaev) has promoted him to vice admiral, to be in command of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol. After receiving a last-minute letter from Kolchak, Anna rushes to the train station to see off her beloved. She is too late, however, and experiences only an uncomfortable look from Sofya.
After the February Revolution in 1917, Tsarist officers are disarmed and summarily executed at the Kronstadt naval base. Sergei barely escapes the island with Anna. Meanwhile, a group of enlisted men arrive aboard Kolchak’s flotilla in Sevastopol and demand that all officers surrender their arms. To avoid bloodshed, Kolchak orders his subordinates to obey and throws his own sword into the harbour.
Later, Kolchak is summoned to Petrograd by Alexander Kerensky (Viktor Verzhbitskiy), who offers to appoint him Minister of Defence. Kolchak, however, sharply criticises Kerensky for promoting indiscipline in both the Russian Army and Navy. He will only accept if he is given a free hand to restore old practices. Kerensky, enraged by Kolchak’s “counterrevolutionary sympathies”, offers him exile in the United States, on the reason that the Allies need him as an expert to take Constantinople” by naval attack. Kolchak accepts, seeing no future for himself and his family in Russia. Shortly after, his wife and son are rescued from their home in the Crimea and whisked away to a British ship, just before the house is attacked by a bunch of local red guards.
In the late summer of 1918, almost two years after the October Revolution, Anna and Sergei Timiriov are travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway when she learns Kolchak has returned and is setting up an army in Omsk, western Siberia. Sergei is dismayed when Anna announces that she is leaving him. After commenting about what a year of Revolution it has been, Sergei helps Anna to pack her things.
After hearing Kolchak’s speeches to his troops about defeating the Bolsheviks and “restoring Russia”, Anna is deeply moved and goes to work as a nurse helping the wounded of the Russian Civil War. Some time later, Kolchak is informed that the Red Army is advancing on Omsk, assisted by sympathizers behind White lines. Although his advisers all suggest defending Omsk to the last, Kolchak decrees that they will instead evacuate and seize Irkutsk as the new capital of anti-communist Russia.
During the evacuation, Anna is recognised by a White officer who informs Kolchak. Deeply moved, the Admiral goes to her and announces that, although he made the mistake of leaving her once, he will never do so again. As the train steams toward Irkutsk, Kolchak informs Anna that he has written to his wife Sofya to formally asked for a divorce. Although he asks Anna to marry him, she insists that there is no need of marriage and that what matters is that they are together now. Eventually, she relents and they are seen attending the Divine Liturgy together.
Meanwhile, Irkutsk is under the nominal control of the French General Maurice Janin and the Czechoslovak Legion. With their defences disintegrating, the Red Army offers them only one way out alive. As a result, General Janin agrees to hand over Admiral Kolchak.
Kolchak’s ally General Vladimir Kappel, meanwhile, leads an army to relieve Irkutsk. Due to a navigation error and pressed by time, Kappel and his troops try cutting across a frozen river; however, he falls through the ice and injures himself. Kolchak is placed under arrest by the Czechoslovaks and handed over to the Reds. Despite Kolchak’s attempts to shield her, Anna insists that, as his wife, she must be arrested, too. Kappel’s army eventually reaches the outskirts of Irkutsk just in time to rescue Kolchak, but fails.
Kolchak is given a cursory trial by the Irkutsk soviet and executed with his former Prime Minister by a firing squad along the banks of the frozen Angara River. His last words are, “Send word to my wife in Paris that I bless our son”. Their bodies are then dumped into an opening in the ice, hewn up by the local Orthodox clergy for the Great Blessing of Waters on Theophany.
The film then returns to the present, 44 years later at the Mosfilm Studios. It is revealed that Anna – now in her 70s and identified as the elderly noblewoman – survived more than 30 years in the Gulag and was only released during the Khrushchev thaw. As Anna Timiorova witnesses a rehearsal for one of the ballroom scenes from War and Peace, she accidentally bumps into an actor, breaking a glass of wine, which reminds her of first meeting Kolchak, and her dreams of the formal dance she was never able to share with her beloved.
The fates of the film’s main characters are revealed in an epilogue:
- Anna Vasilyevna Timiryova was arrested numerous times following Admiral Kolchak’s execution and survived nearly 40 years in the Gulag before her release in 1960.
- She died in Moscow in January 1975, aged 81.
- Anna’s former husband, Sergei Timirev, became a rear admiral commanding the White Russian Navy in Siberia before fleeing to China, where he captained Chinese steamers.
- He settled in Shanghai’s White Russian community, where he died in 1932.
- Sophya Kolchak, the Admiral’s wife, devoted her life to her son while exiled in Paris.
- She died in the Longjumeau Hospital in 1956.
- Rostislav Kolchak, the Admiral’s son, fought with the Free French Forces during the Second World War.
- He died in Paris in 1965.
- Konstantin Khabenskiy – Admiral Alexander Kolchak.
- Sergey Bezrukov – General Vladimir Kappel.
- Vladislav Vetrov – Captain Sergey Timirov.
- Elizaveta Boyarskaya – Anna Timiryova.
- Anna Kovalchuk – Sofia Kolchak.
- Egor Beroev – Mikhail Smirnov.
- Richard Bohringer – General Maurice Janin.
- Viktor Verzhbitsky – Alexander Kerensky.
- Nikolay Burlyaev – Nicholas II of Russia.
- Fyodor Bondarchuk – Director Sergei Bondarchuk.
- Olga Ostroumova.
- Nikolay Reutov.
- Igor Savochkin.
- Mikhail Eliseev.
According to director Andrei Kravchuk, “[The film is] about a man who tries to create history, to take an active part in history, as he gets caught in the turmoil. However, he keeps on struggling, he preserves his honour and his dignity, and he continues to love.”
Actress Elizaveta Boyarskaya said of her character, “She was a woman of such force, of such will, with such magnanimity… I feel an amazing resemblance to her… When I read script, I was even a bit scared: because she has the same vision of history as me. All that can arrive at is me. And when I played Anna, I did not play, I was her. It is my epoch, my attitude regarding love.”
After being asked about the film Doctor Zhivago, she stated, “The only thing that these two films share consists in the love which the Russian women can carry; it is a topic approached by many novels. They love up to the last drop of blood, till the most dreadful end, to the death; they are capable of leaving family and children for the love of the man which they have chosen.”
The film had 210 shooting days. Work on the picture took four years. Principal photography lasted for a year-and-half with a two to three-month break. Locations included Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Sevastopol, Torzhok and Irkutsk. The twelve-minute battle scene took a month to shoot. Twenty-four thousand CGI shots were incorporated into the film. Khabensky had to wear an orthopaedic corset due to poor posture.
The first screening of the film took place on 09 October 2008. Reception of the movie by Russian critics was mixed.
Because Kolchak had been portrayed as a villain in Soviet historiography, the film encountered some controversy in Russia due to its reversal of roles. In the United States, Leslie Felperin of Variety wrote: “Strictly as a film, however, Admiral is entertaining enough in a retro Doctor Zhivago/War and Peace sort of way, with its big setpieces, lavish costumes and string-laden orchestral score. For all intents and purposes, pic reps a virtual mirror image of those old patriotic Soviet-era movies wherein the Reds were the heroes and the White Army the baddies.”
The main original song for the film, “Anna”, is performed by Russian singer Victoria Dayneko and composed by Igor Matvienko. The poem itself was written by Anna Timireva in memory of the Admiral. “Vopreki” (“Despite”) was written by Konstantin Meladze and performed by Valery Meladze.
- MTV Russia Movie Awards[:
- Best Film.
- Best Male Actor (Konstantin Khabensky).
- Best Actress (Elizaveta Boyarskaya).
- Best Spectacular Scene.
- Golden Eagle Award:
- Best Male Actor (Konstantin Khabensky).
- Best Cinematography.
- Best Costumes.
- Best Sound.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Andrey Kravchuk.
- Producer(s): Dzhanik Fayziev, Anatoliy Maksimov, and Dmitry Yurkov.
- Writer(s): Zoya Kudrya and Vladimir Valutskiy.
- Music: Gleb Matveychuk and Ruslan Muratov.
- Cinematography: Igor Grinyakin and Aleksei Rodionov.
- Editor(s): Tom Rolf.
- Distributor(s): 20th Century Fox.
- Release Date: 09 October 2008.
- Running Time: 124 minutes.
- Rating: 15.
- Country: Russia.
- Language: Russian and French.