Reasons to watch the New Russian Holmes series (2013)
I’ve blogged a lot about this show over the last month or so, but I’ve been meaning to make a big post about it all in one place, so here we go!
A brief intro for those who care:
Sherlock Holmes (2013), or, as it seems to be popularly called, New Russian Holmes (as opposed to the old Soviet Holmes), is an eight-episode Russian-language Sherlock Holmes adaptation directed by Andrei Kavun, starring Igor Petrenko as Holmes and Andrei Panin as Watson. It first aired in Russia in November 2013, but has had no official English release.
Because it is excellent. I don’t want to spoil people too much because discovering things yourself is really the best, but let’s be a bit more specific:
The opening credits:
Even before the first scene, we get treated to a beautiful opening sequence with really great music, but this isn’t just a sequence to shove credits in your face, it’s not even just an aesthetically pleasing series of shots of Watson’s notebook, the opening sequence forms part of the episode and part of the series as a whole.
Every opening is unique, from the images to the voiceover, and is as much a part of the story as the substantive scenes themselves.
The refreshing take on canon:
If you’re going to watch this, you need to know that the fundamental premise of the show is that the ACD canon lies. Watson’s “stories” are just that: stories. Holmes in real life is different, Watson is different, Mrs Hudson is different, the cases went differently, hell, even Gregson is different. So if you’re looking for a faithful replication of canon, this isn’t the show for you, but once you take on board this fundamental premise, it’s fantastic because it forces you to think about canon in a new light, and to consider the implications of Watson as an unreliable narrator.
You’ll get to see how and why Watson came to write “canon” the way he did, and you’ll get to see how everyone reacts to it. Every other adaptation (with the exception of Bert Coules’ radio series perhaps, but even that adheres to canon quite strictly) treats canon as more or less the “truth” and bases their version off that to create an output; this show treats canon as the output, and works backwards to imagine the “true” series of events behind it. This aspect (at least for me) was one of the most delightful themes to watch develop throughout the episodes, and it really shows how much original thought and passion went into the conception and creation of the show.
Watson as the true protagonist:
This sort of follows on from the fundamental premise of the canon stories being mere stories. Watson is the person through whom we get to know Holmes; everything we read is Watson’s doing, so it’s natural that the protagonist should also be Watson. We see the world from Watson’s perspective.
It’s not a story about this genius Holmes and his sidekick Watson, it’s a story about Watson and his adventures with this intriguing man, Holmes, and in that way it makes the show very grounded and very real.
Holmes the nerd:
For some reason, Igor Petrenko’s Holmes has been likened to Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes, but I don’t think that’s accurate at all. Whereas RDJ’s Holmes veers more towards grubby cocky action hero who happens to be good at reasoning (and I don’t say that with any scorn), Petrenko’s Holmes is very much grounded in the same sheer intellect that defines canon Holmes, only this version is a more flawed, nervous character, which I think makes him more interesting. Petrenko does an excellent job with the quirks and mannerisms of the character. He also keeps insects in jars in his room.
Watson the military man:
A lot of adaptations emphasise Watson’s role as a doctor, but few seem to remember that he was also a soldier, so it’s refreshing once again to see this series not only acknowledge that military background, but to explicitly keep it front and centre the entire time.
Watson the surgeon:
For all its joviality, the show doesn’t shy away from graphic realities either. Watson is more than just a doctor, he’s a surgeon. We see him handle the scalpel more than he does the stethoscope.
Watson the badass:
I know I’ve posted a lot about this but seriously Panin’s acting is really one of the highlights of this show, he was such an excellent actor, absolutely convincing in his role.
Brand new revised subtitles by yours truly!
Over the last two months I’ve gone through and edited all the English subs for the series, so hopefully everything will read a lot smoother! Any remaining mistakes are entirely my responsibility.
Sort of reminiscent of the tone of the Soviet series, this series shares that light-heartedness, but it sure as hell isn’t a joke either. It’s not dark and edgy for the sake of being dark and edgy. It doesn’t pull the cheap trick of taking advantage of your feels. The series sets out to tell a story and it tells a beautiful story and you will genuinely love the characters for who they are. And you will feel good about it. Yes, you will even love Lestrade.
Watson taking a bath:
The hilariously bad English (I laugh in good faith):
The creepy autopsy man:
This weird ass scene:
Moriarty hiding in the first fucking episode no less
not showing you, you have to spot him yourself
And finally, their timeless friendship:
Never has a show felt more genuine or more satisfying to watch when the final credits roll. This is a Sherlock Holmes that has had thought, love, and appreciation poured into its making, and it shows.
From a Certain Point of View: A Brief Lesson in Why Perspective Indicates Attraction Between Rey and Kylo Ren
“I told you the truth, from a certain point of view.” - Obi-Wan Kenobi to Luke Skywalker, Return of the Jedi
In short story and novel writing a skilled writer “shows” the reader what is going on rather than tells them. It is considered clumsy writing to have a character outright state their feelings. Ex: “I feel so excited!” or “Rey felt excited” are clumsy whereas “Rey’s face lit up. ‘I didn’t know there was this much green in the whole galaxy!’” is skillful and effective because the style allows you as the reader to experience Rey’s excitement rather than forcing you to rely on the author’s narration. This holds water even down to using specific verbs rather than including adverbs to clarify verbs. Ex: “Rey looked at him angrily” is clumsy whereas “Rey glared” is preferred because “glared” implies she is angry without stating so.
In modern short story and novel writing when a section of a story is written from a character’s perspective, all of that character’s section within the writing should be written from that character’s point of view, without intrusion from a godlike narrator or another character.
Incorrect Ex: “Rey glared at Kylo. He could see her shaking but sensed her anger boiling. She was furious.”
Correct Ex: “Rey glared at Kylo. Though her heart hammered against her chest and her hands shook, a rising heat began to boil inside her.”
Even when I am writing in the third person, each paragraph should be designated for only one character. (Note: The preference is for each chapter or section within a chapter to be told from one character’s perspective, but this is sometimes altered depending on the pace of the novel. Short stories are most often told through only one character’s perspective throughout.) This builds trust with the reader that whatever he or she is reading from the character’s perspective really is what that character experiences.
The same rules apply during stage and film performance; the difference is rather than using words to “show”, a character’s perspective is literally shown. Thus when a shot is rendered from a character’s perspective, we the viewers can trust that what we see is what that character sees. None of the shots in Rey’s interrogation are from Kylo’s perspective. The shots are either from Rey’s perspective or a “narrator” (side view) perspective. (While a narrator perspective would not be appropriate insertion in a novel, in a film it is the only way we can see the protagonist’s reactions.) This tells the viewer the scene is through Rey’s eyes. This makes sense as Rey is the protagonist of our story, and thus the eyes through which we are to view most of what unfolds.
Kylo Ren unmasking for the first time for Rey is imperative for several reasons, but the reason I will focus on for this essay is that we see him unmask for the first time from her point of view. Kylo removes his mask and rises to his full height, a neutral look on his face. As he rises a hissing and rattling sound is heard. His shot at full height is arguably his most aesthetically pleasing and sexualized shot in the film (with his close-ups during his duel with Rey equally attractive or a close second). His angles are carefully tended to. His hair is perfectly coiffed. His makeup and hair style emphasize his attractive, sexual features (eyes and lips) and deemphasize his imperfect features (nose, ears). Contrast this with Kylo’s camera angles with Snoke in the very next scene. They are not particularly flattering, nor do they need to be to tell the intended story. Snoke is not attracted to Kylo (cue jokes) but there’s someone who is.
Let’s take each of the elements in turn. That the shot is from Rey’s perspective tells us this is what Rey sees. Kylo rises to his full height with a neutral look, appearing to hold himself confidently for several moments, as if awaiting something. What Rey sees is a surprisingly attractive young man whereas she (and the audience) likely expected him to look more like Snoke or post-burn Anakin, “creatures”. Whatever she was expecting, based on her reaction it was not a handsome young man.
We then see a close-up of Rey’s face, but from an angled side rather than Kylo’s perspective. She appears stunned, blinking several times, then her eyes rove over him from top to bottom and back. The director felt it was important to reiterate that Rey is stunned by what she sees, then give him what are colloquially known as “elevator eyes”. Just as he appraised her in the forest on Takodana, after the mask comes off Rey “checks him out”.
As he approaches she looks pointedly away. She then steals not one but two glances back at him. This again occurs from a narrator’s perspective, not Kylo’s. So we can trust that we are not seeing Rey through Kylo lenses (i.e. Kylo is not misinterpreting an attraction to himself, as some males tend to do) but through an unbiased third party. Why does she look away? She did not seem bothered when he was wearing the mask, but is pointedly uncomfortable after his surprise reveal. Nonetheless, she cannot seem to stop herself from stealing glances. Having trouble making eye contact and “checking them out” both constitute typical behavior for men and women when approached by an attractive member of their preferred sex. Ergo, an unbiased narrator has just told us that while Rey may find Kylo morally repellent, on a purely physical level she would not kick him out of bed for eating crackers.
It is highly important to note that these cues are subtle and implied to be subconscious on the part of the characters. These subtle cues are the result of hindbrain (sex drive) thinking, not front brain (rational) thinking. In other words, Kylo Ren is not overtly hitting on Rey. He did not kidnap her with the express intent of taking her to bed on Starkiller Base. And very likely neither of them are even aware they made eyes at each other beyond a brief thought of “Oh no, he/she is hot!” This is the level we are working at: Initial attraction that subconsciously affects Kylo’s actions in particular.
Cases in point:
Kylo tells the storm troopers to forget about the droid he has been hell bent on getting for the entire first half of the movie because Rey has seen the map. Think about this for a minute. What precisely was he going to do even if she willingly showed it to him? Draw it? This was not a decision made with any semblance of logical thinking. His motivation went from “get the map” to “bring the girl along”. He then bridal carries said girl through the forest all the way across the threshold of his ship with all of his troopers watching rather than order any of them to “put her on board” as he did with Poe.
Kylo has a Freudian slip in asking Rey to be his student on Starkiller Base. He has ample opportunity to push her off the edge of the cliff, but instead makes the awkward proposition, “You need a teacher! I can show you the ways of the Force.” First, he makes the proposition as though she would actually consider being his student when she has just declared him a monster. If we break down the meaning of the proposition, we find that offering to teach is a common romantic trope in stories and real life. Offering to teach skills, from an evolutionary standpoint, indicates suitability and usefulness as a mate. To the second sentence, Dark Side users do not have a history within Star Wars of making propositions in this manner. Historically, there is a mention of the Dark Side and its power or its necessity. “Ways of the Force” is meant to remind viewers of the common phrase “ways of the world”, which is often used as slang for sexual activities. Again, Kylo is not purposely hitting on Rey; this is a Freudian slip. This guy is not thinking with his brain.
In conclusion, although J.J. Abrams and Co. have successfully misled a bulk of the audience with the Rey Skywalker and Finn Likes Rey red herrings, they have given us the truth in the visual elements of the film. These are but a few instances in which perspective used during Rey and Kylo Ren’s interactions shows us the “sexual energy” Time Magazine picked up on. Enjoy viewing the rest of the movie “from a certain point of view”.
The original ask randomly disappeared. I didn’t do Yakov because I literally don’t know him at all… I also kinda assumed these are supposed to be scenarios.
Princes Meeting Photographer MC:
He catches your eye as soon as he steps onto the red carpet. Everything from the cut of suit to his roguish good looks have you mesmerized and you lower your camera.
He notices you staring and grins haughtily. “Take a picture,” he teases, stepping over towards you so he can lean in close. “It’ll last longer.”
You had been hired to photograph one of the royal family’s private garden parties. Standing among the freshly pruned roses, you observe the gathering of the rich and elegant, waiting for the best candid shot.
Hearing a small sign beside you, you jump a little, surprised to see the Prince standing next to you.
“What a sight you are. A beauty more exquisite than the finest of flowers in this garden,” he serenades, reaching out with a gloved hand to touch your cheek.
Yawning, you plop down on the sofa in the room in the royal palace to are resting in.
You’ve been hired to take pictures of the royal family, but the job is taking longer than you thought. Once you finish in one location, they move on to start an entirely new shoot in another setting. It is exhausting.
“Excuse me, miss?” the polite, but dignified voice of Prince Wilfred catches your attention. “Should I ask a servant to bring you some refreshment?”
You peek out from your hiding place around the corner of the building to take shot after shot of the Prince as he makes his way to his car.
He may think he’s in disguise but those sunglasses aren’t fooling you.
You turn back to hide, changing the settings for a clearer resolution before peeking out again. However, the Prince is not as stupid as he appears.
He stands before you, arms crossed, having obviously noticed your actions.
“Taking secret photographs… My how rude you are,” he tisks.
You are at the park, taking photos of the cherry blossoms since they are in their prime viewing for your photography class. College may be hard, but when homework can be combined with flower viewing like this it’s rather pleasant.
A young man around your age shuffles up to you shyly, watching you take the most aesthetically pleasing shots.
“Its a good idea, taking pictures, I mean,” he says by way of greeting. “That way you can remember the flowers all year long. I’m Glenn, by the way.”
To get an interview within Nobel Michel is an incredible oppertunity, to be the photographer chosen to accompany the reporter is a once in a lifetime chance.
You can hardly believe your luck as you followed the reporter down the stairs, photographing whatever he told you to. As you are walking down, you do not notice that your foot misses the step and you feel yourself fall forward, only to be caught by a strong pair of arms.
The beautiful man smiles down at you. “Your dedication to your work is admirable, but it would be a tragedy if you hurt yourself.”