Canvas (2022 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tertk Dakelin|
|Produced by||Lavrentiy Filippov|
|Screenplay by||Renat Isaev|
|Based on||Portrait of a White Lion by Leonty Ignatiev|
Ekaterina Taisia Romanova
|Music by||Nel Rahin|
|Edited by||Lonoch Qepinin|
|Language||Skarmic and Beleroskovi|
|Budget||SRB 139.4 million|
Canvas (Skarmic: Golst, Beleroskovi: Kholst) is a 2022 Beleroskovi- and Skarmic-language historical epic drama film produced in Skarmia and directed by Tertk Dakelin. The screenplay by Renat Isaev and Dakelin is based on Leonty Ignatiev's 1955 novel Portrait of a White Lion, which in turn is based on the writings of painter and aristocrat Igor Razumovsky in 1759 and early 1760. The film stars Alexei Smirnov as Razumovsky and Tatoch Bekçin as the Skarmic mountain man Kekçe-Wa, with a supporting cast including Ekaterina Taisia Romanova, Lazar Fyodorov, Zinoviy Lebedev, Yegor Viktorov, Kamej Rilagin and Svyatoslav Tchaikovsky.
In 2019, it was announced that plans were in place to adapt Ignatiev's novel to film. In March 2020, it was announced that Dakelin had signed on to direct and write the screenplay. Principal photography began in late 2020. Canvas premiered at the 2022 Tofino Film Festival on 11 July 2022, where it was nominated for 8 awards and won 4 (Best Director for Dakelin, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design, and Best Sound Editing). It released in Skarmia a week later.
In mid-1759, Igor Razumovsky, a Beleroskovi painter separated from his guides, is alone in whiteout conditions during a blizzard. Musing in a journal entry about the nature of beauty, Igor drops to his knees in exhaustion, seeing a black shape edging closer, fading to white as he whites out.
In a flashback to one and a half years earlier, Razumovsky is painting Knyaz Ivan Aminov in Beleroskov. The two begin talking about their prospects for the future, to which Razumovsky states that he wants to begin courting Ilyana Dolgorukova, a young debutante. Aminov states that he is well aware, and states the young painter should make a move or make do without her, as he knows Lord Grigory Potemkin is also interested in the eligible Ilyana. He invites Igor to a ball that Ilyana will attend.
At the ball, Igor, encouraged by his friend and confidant Gavril, goes to talk to Ilyana. They immediately find a lot of common ground, and Igor shows appreciation for Ilyana's cutting wit and education. Ilyana is impressed when Igor points out the noblemen that he has painted, but he expresses that he tires of painting noblemen, and that he yearns to 'capture beauty'. Ilyana invites the painter to her family's summer home, near to the forest, where he will be given patronage by her family, an offer he eagerly accepts. Over the next year, Igor paints an exhibition's worth of natural landscapes, pictures of animals, and a number of portraits of Ilyana. Their relationship is seen growing also, and at the end of the year, Ilyana's family hosts a display of Igor's paintings, attended by many of the important noblemen of Beleroskov. By this point, the fact that Igor and Ilyana are romantically involved is fairly well understood by high society, yet Lord Potemkin hangs around Ilyana and begins to harass her while Igor is preoccupied with some of the other nobles. Igor rushes to try and defuse the situation, to Potemkin's feigning bemusement. Potemkin subtly mocks the painter and belittles his work, to which Ilyana defends Igor's work, stating in his words that he is "capturing beauty". Potemkin proclaims loudly that if his aim is to capture beauty, the most beautiful animal in the world is the white lion; that Igor should try to paint that elusive beast if he wants to complete this quest of his. Knyaz Amynov attempts to protest on Igor's behalf, but Igor accepts Potemkin's challenge loudly, despite Amynov's protestations.
Amynov meets with a determined Igor after the ball, as he is packing his things to leave the city. He tries to dissuade Igor, but he is already preparing to travel to Zalivzokhov. Amynov points out that no-one has ever painted a true white lion; that Potemkin is trying to get Igor out of the picture to take Ilyana's hand for himself. Igor believes his honour is at stake. A resigned Amynov offers Igor his Satoii aide, Raepel, to assist with translating and help with navigating the Krai. He wishes the young painter good fortune, and expresses his hope that Igor returns and proves Potemkin the fool he is. Igor bids farewell to a tearful Ilyana, and promises to return, before setting off with Raepel to Zalivzokhov.
Upon arrival there, he finds that his arrival was expected, and for the first few nights he is to stay in the home of the governor, Vitaliy Sobol. Sobol informs Igor that Knyaz Amynov had arranged for some local guides to assist him to the mountainous highland region. As winter is just beginning, it is the perfect season to find white lions, but the treacherous conditions of the highlands make travel dangerous. Sobol invites Igor to dine with him, and over dinner expresses some ignorant views towards the Satoii people, portraying them as a kind of 'noble savage', but ultimately unintelligent and simple, which Igor is visibly disconcerted by. Sobol appears to imply that he would like Igor to paint a portrait of him, though Igor does not pay attention to this desire. The group departs from Zalivzokhov and over the next week makes its way up to Kisakum on the edge of the highland region. The snow, even on the road, is by this point very thick, with more coming down gently. One of the guides warns Raepel that it will be dangerous to get much higher until after the next blizzard, where local superstition dictates that the weather will let up for a few weeks. Igor agrees to wait, and upon reaching his lodgings, the window of which looks right up the mountains, Igor is inspired to paint, and creates a painting of the view, which he instructs to be sent back to Knyaz Amynov as confirmation that he has arrived in Kisakum, with a note, written in Skarmic, "A white lion next!"
Sure enough, in the next week, a heavy snowstorm batters Kisakum, after which, an excited Igor prepares to leave. However, as they travel through the town, a number of tribesmen from higher in the highlands are angrily shouting at Satoii from the city. Igor asks Raepel what they are saying, to which Raepel explains that the highland Satoii claim that the storm was not the expected blizzard, and that more bad weather is coming. The local Satoii nobility are disputing this. Igor asks Raepel what he thinks, but one of the guides interjects that superstition is superstition - it does not matter what the highlanders think, as none can tell the future. As they make their way up the hill path, light snow begins to fall, obscuring the path. A wheel on the cart breaks, and the guides say that it would be safer for Igor to proceed to Neyamet on foot with Raepel and one of the guides rather than wait for the cart to be fixed - the rest of the guides would come behind and pick them up on the way past. Igor decides to take three canvases with him, as well as some painting supplies, despite warnings that this will slow them down. As they set off, the snow slowly worsens. After they have travelled a way, the guide with them becomes very quiet suddenly - he gestures behind, as he believes he has seen a bear. The beast takes chase, and the three run along the path. Igor loses his footing, and falls down a ravine and is knocked unconscious.
When he awakes, he has lost his bearings and has a head wound. He checks his art supplies, and finds that one of the canvases has become torn quite noticeably. He keeps it with him despite this, and sets off in a random direction, the snow still falling quite heavily, and appearing to get worse. As he goes, he begins to hallucinate due to the whiteout conditions coupled with his injury, believing he sees Ilyana, and he reaches out for her, only to find that the snowstorm has elevated to a full-on blizzard. As he staggers on, the timeline meets up with the opening of the film, and Igor collapses to his knees, before falling over sideways.
Igor awakens again in a barn, with a sheepskin wrapping on his head and a bed of hay beneath him. He stands and sees a yak urinating on one of his intact canvases. Igor angrily chases the beast away, and a man enters, hearing that Igor is awake. Igor protests to the man, but the tribesman does not understand him in Beleroskovi, so he translates to broken Skarmic that it is ruined. The tribesman states that if it is not useful for its initial purpose, it can be used otherwise, and throws it onto a fire, to Igor's dismay. Igor tries to take his things and leave, but the tribesman stops him as it isn't safe, taking him inside to eat dinner with him. The tribesman introduces himself as Kekçe-Wa (meaning "Strong White Lion"), and Igor realises that he recognises him from the argument in Kisakum.
Igor stays with Kekçe-Wa for a while, meeting his family and learning about Satoii culture. He goes hunting with Kekçe-Wa, where he sees the tribesman shoot a deer with his musket, and the two drag it back to the house. Kekçe-Wa explains that nothing is wasted in Satoii culture, and that all of the bear must be used somehow. Igor expresses his mission to paint a white lion, and Kekçe-Wa agrees to assist him in this aim. As they go out searching they find evidence that a white lion has been in an area that they search, but has since departed. Kekçe-Wa finds some tracks that were not covered by snow, and he and Igor set off following the likely path of the beast. This brings them to a stark hillside, where Kekçe-Wa checks some of the nearby trees, discovering that it was where he found Igor lying, with the implication that the animal in pursuit of him in the blizzard days earlier was this same white lion. They return to the house excited. In the course of celebrating, Kekçe-Wa asks Igor if he would paint him, reminding him that he has the torn canvas still with him from his fall. Igor accepts, and paints a picture of the proud tribesman.
They set out the next morning to search for the white lion again, but have no luck after hours of searching. They return home to find the door scratched and broken, and inside, Levahai, Kekçe-Wa's wife, lies injured but alive, and their daughter hiding further inside. Kekçe-Wa and Igor argue over what to do with the beast, with Kekçe-Wa finally relenting, telling Igor that once he has painted the beast, he will kill it. They go out again following the tracks from the house, and find the white lion easily. Kekçe-Wa brings out his musket and tells Igor to start painting, but as he does so, he makes a sound, alerting the white lion. It attacks the pair before Kekçe-Wa can shoot it, chasing them through the woods, Kekçe-Wa trying to attract it and splitting up to give Igor a chance. After some reprieve, the white lion, blood at its mouth, tries to chase Igor again. Though the chase is fairly long, the beast knows the terrain, and corners Igor at a cliffside. Kekçe-Wa, still alive, jumps to the beast, digging his knife into it and battling with it. Seeing that he cannot bring it down easily, he throws his musket to Igor, telling him to shoot it. Igor's shot injurs the beast, but only seems to enrage it. Kekçe-Wa, in a final effort to kill it, grabs onto its neck and tugs it to the cliffside, but as it still has a hold of his arm, it drags him over too, and both disappear into the darkness below.
Igor returns to Kekçe-Wa's house, and leans his musket at the door where he usually left it. He returns to Beleroskov with some traders, and when he returns to Knyaz Aminov, a ball is held in his honour. He and Ilyana meet for the first time since his return, and they embrace wordlessly. Lord Potemkin announces his presence by clapping slowly, before asking Igor where the portrait of a white lion was. Igor unveils his portrait of Kekçe-Wa, turning back to Potemkin and saying, "There is your white lion."
- Alexei Smirnov as Igor Razumovsky
- Tatoch Bekçin as Kekçe-Wa
- Ekaterina Taisia Romanov as Ilyana Dolgorukova
- Lazar Fyodorov as Knyaz Ivan Aminov
- Zinoviy Lebedev as Grigory Potemkin
- Yegor Viktorov as Vitaliy Sobol
- Kamej Rilagin as Raepel
- Svyatoslav Tchaikovsky as Gavril
- Akochia Ekejina as Levahai
- Batlia Qepinina as Kekçe-Wa's daughter
- Saliis Sipipacin as the lead guide
- Roeh Qepinin as the walking guide
Development and financing
There had been attempts at adapting Ignatiev's Portrait of a White Lion all the way back to 1958. Skarmian copyright law in the socialist period was notoriously difficult to navigate for artists, with byzantine legal practices and some very specific exceptions that made many simply opt to shy away from applying copyright to their works. Ignatiev's book was considered a "work of cultural and historical mythology" legally-speaking, meaning that even had Ignatiev chosen to apply copyright, it may have still been annulled by the state copyright authority. Regardless, a form of unwritten agreement existed between Skarmian artists and most filmmakers at the time that stipulated the original artist ought to become involved in the production of any film attempting to adapt their work. Leonty Ignatiev was notoriously fussy regarding adaptations of his work, and had very specific requirements for how any potential film should be shot and properly adapted. Previous attempts to film Ignatiev's work had been made by Vladimir Andreev, with Ignatiev proving too demanding for Andreev's directorial style, and Rekipac Rekçin, who had a fairly public falling out with the author, Ignatiev later saying of Rekçin that he was "a no-good, talentless idiot, whose every efforts to adapt my work send more pages flying into the fire". These attempts resulted in a couple of unproduced scripts, extensive concept art and an animated short. With Ignatiev's death in 1995, a renewed effort by director Roeh Alipin produced a film based in large part on the concept art of Rekçin's abortive attempt. The film was very poorly received by critics, struggled to make even, and was criticised both by Leonty's son Stepan and even Rekçin himself, saying of the effort that it "misused my vision and delivers an appallingly poor film that is unapolagetic in its lip-service to my work, but ultimately subject to the failings of a poor director". With the collapse of socialism and the beginning of the Skarmian Tiger in 1999, reforms to the copyright system that many felt were long overdue began to come about, with copyright granted to Ignatiev's family.
In 2015, Slavic producer Lavrentiy Filippov purchased the rights to the original book, with the announcement coming in 2019 that there were plans to create a new adaptation of the book. State-owned Skarmia Cinema had already signed on to distribute, with Hot Take Entertainment also signing on to produce. TTK Films, the personal production company of director Tertk Dakelin, was announced to have also signed on in early 2020, leading to speculation that the Skarmic director would be directing the film. The announcement came in March that Dakelin would be directing. Dakelin and Renat Isaev worked on the screenplay over the coming months. The film was granted a budget of SRB 90 million, with SRB 60 million coming from Skarmia Cinema, CEO Adrian Lebedev stating that the project was "a keynote to the world on Skarmian artistic excellence". Tatlia Kalásina's Tribal Film Board signed on after pre-production began. In early 2021, Alexei Smirnov and Tatoch Bekçin were officially announced to be filling in the starring roles. The announcement of the film's name was a shock for many awaiting the film, though Tatoch Bekçin commented on the name change on Owler, stating; "a snappier title + a thematic device + a beautiful song = a good film".
One key aspect of production is the matter of subtitling for the film as opposed to dubbing. Dakelin has repeatedly stated that within his vision for the film, there is to be no official dub, and that to gain the full experience, one should watch it with subtitles instead. For the most part, both Skarmia Cinema and Hot Take Entertainment have mirrored this sentiment, with Filippov Productions remaining silent on the issue.
Principal photography began in late 2020. Dakelin had spent two weeks in a cabin in the Skarmian highlands prior to beginning principal photography to gain an idea of whiteout conditions, and what to look for in directing. The decision was made early-on that scenes set in Beleroskov were to have a very different visual tone to those set in the highlands, the latter for which Dakelin opted to use only natural lighting, with candles used for the indoor scenes. It was during this phase of development that Dakelin decided to shoot the film in both Skarmic and Beleroskovi, with large segments in each language. Linguist Dalinik Tipepinin was brought onto the team as a dialect coach for the film, attempting to offer somewhat accurate regional variation of certain accents, such as for the Beleroskovi nobility or for the character of Vitaliy Sobol, who is described in Portrait of a White Lion as an izgnannik, the period-accurate term for a noble who had integrated a certain amount with the Skarmic upper-classes. Ahistorical terms were also cut from the script in this phase of development, such as the replacement of Skarmic with the word Satoii.
Filming of scenes in Beleroskov and old Zalivzokhov were mostly completed at the Skarmian National Film and Television Studio in Zalsoker, while scenes in the highlands were shot on-location, including at Cabin 3, a historical tribal lodge near to Tepinet. Dakelin barracked for shooting to occur chronologically, though there were concerns of time and budget for this. Eventually, all of the scenes bar the final act were shot chronologically, with the remainder being shot in the first bout of filming. By the time production wrapped, the film's budget was SRB 139.4 million.
The visual effects for Canvas were produced primarily by Industry Super-Effects, a Skarmian visual effects company.
The musical score for Canvas was composed by Skarmian composer Nel Rahin, as well as Tatoch Bekçin, who is also co-starring in the film. Bekçin, also a folk metal singer and songwriter, wanted to have a hand in the music design of the film as soon as he signed on, contemplating insisting on it for the contract, but instead both he and Rahin petitioned for his inclusion. The main body of the score was recorded at the SKmusic Scoring Stage in the Töert Chapel in the wider Zalsoker-Gorda by musicians of the Southwestern Symphony Orchestra. Rahin conducted these sessions. There is an upcoming soundtrack album announced, and Bekçin has teased through an Owler post that he plans to release a new single to coincide with the Tofino Film Festival premiere of the film.