About the Film

Director: Karen Shakhnazarov
Scriptwriters: Alexander Borodyansky, Karen Shakhnazarov (based on the novel “Tankman" by Ilya Boyashov)
Music by Richard Wagner
Producers: Karen Shahnazarov, Galina Shadur

Basic information

Year 2012
Original Russian title Белый Тигр
English title White Tiger
Length 104 minutes
Shot on Kodak, 35 mm, color
Length of copy in meters 2998
Number of reels 6
Aspect ratio 1.85:1
Sound Dolby Digital
Premiere: May 02, 2012

Synopsis

World War Two is drawing to a close. Furious and prolonged fighting is exhausting both the Soviet and Nazi forces. The more successful the advance of the Soviet army, the more often White Tiger, a huge, indestructible Nazi tank, appears on the battlefield. It continuously emerges from the smoke of combat, ruthlessly destroys the adversary and then swiftly vanishes. No one can either confirm nor deny its existence. However, the Soviet military command decides to build an extraordinary tank – a special version of the T-34.
The crew of this tank is headed by a man with a remarkable past, a tank crewman who was burned alive in combat and doomed to death. Defying all odds, he survives, recovers and returns to the ranks. He does not remember his name or his past, but he has acquired the unusual ability to understand the language of tanks. He is sure that the elusive Nazi tank exists and must be destroyed, because White Tiger is the embodiment of the horror and bloodshed of war.
The pursuit of the mystic monster begins. Who will win in this duel?
Remaining true to documented events of the war and featuring historic personalities (Zhukov, Hitler, Keitel) the film director adds elements of mysticism to the story to enrich our understanding of the war and to include the eternal struggle between Good and Evil.
The film White Tiger is a major international project, starring celebrated Russian and German actors.


Director's Comments

I have never before made a film about the war. This is the first. I produced the film Star, but producing is totally different from directing. I was convinced I should make a war film, and I am glad that I made it. A film about war is the apex of film directing, in a sense it is putting oneself to a test (an art house picture is far easier to make). It is important for a director to have a war film in his resume. I liked the story written by Ilya Boyashov. It reminded me of “Moby-Dick” – with a tank in the place of the whale…
The duel between a soldier and a tank gives a unique possibility to show the war from an unusual perspective: mystically. It seemed extremely interesting to me to integrate a mystic story into the realities of the war and show the way I felt about it. I tried to impart life to the tanks… I would say I came to admire the Т-34. It is an extraordinary machine. It has its own unique aesthetics and character. It reminds me of Russian greyhounds – cheerful, agile and beautiful. And German tanks are more like bulldogs, heavy and fearsome. One more thing…our tanks are steadfast. Many of the tanks that appeared in our film were in World War Two. They are over 70 years old, but would still start up immediately.
There are also fantastic elements in the film, so it can be regarded as a mystic war fantasy.  But if we look at world history, we have to admit that World War Two is the most important event since the beginning of human existence. For the first time the whole world was on the brink of a dramatic change in direction. If providence had not been on our side, the outcome could have been different…
I dedicate this film to my father, who fought in the war, and to that generation.

Karen Shahnazarov

About the production

White Tiger was filmed on several locations from May to November of 2011. The sequences with gunfire, explosions and flames were filmed on the firing ground at Alabino in the Moscow Region. The village was built under the direction of the production designers Sergey Fervralev and Irina Ochina.
Within several months a part of Mosfilm’s Old Moscow film set was transformed into a war-ravaged European city, in which the sequence of marching German prisoners of war was shot.
In film stage No 3 a unique tank model was created in order to accurately capture the movements of a real tank, so that the actors could feel and use those genuine movements while being filmed inside.
For the key final scene – Adolf Hitler's monologue the set was built in film stage No 4. The set of “Hitler’s Office” was fantastic in its creative realization and atmosphere of magnitude.
From November 2011 to March 2012 postproduction of the film was performed with the use of Mosfilm’s production and technical resources, including: foley and dubbing, sound design, music recording and, finally, mixing.

Curious facts

  • During the shooting of one of the most important and complicated sequences, an unexpected thing happened at the firing ground. A tank almost ran into the cast and crew. The camera was placed in front of the house, and according to the script the tank was to run into the house and destroy it. However the house did not fall, so the tank nearly pushed the house directly on the crew.
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  • The road to the Alabino firing ground, where the settlement was built for the shooting, intersects with a railroad. Once, the crew supervisors failed to reach the shooting area and were cut off from the site by a train blocking the road. But there was no reason to complain, because as it turned out the train was a remnant of World War Two and had been requested by the crew supervisors to come to the set.