The collapse of the 'Kursk', the tragedy that ended press freedom in Russia | Culture

The collapse of the 'Kursk', the tragedy that ended press freedom in Russia | Culture


Remains of the 'Kursk'. In the video, trailer of the movie.

"Ready to fire torpedoes". That was the last communication sent by the nuclear submarine Kursk Saturday, August 12, 2000, the pride of the Russian Northern Fleet. The ship was part of the usual summer maneuvers of the Navy, and continued sailing silently, at the depth of periscope, undetectable even for the most sophisticated methods of American espionage. An hour and a half later, at 11.28 a. m., the bow of the submarine burst while the commander Gennady Lyachin, captain of the Kursk, It finished off the final geometry of the shot: an HTP torpedo in bad condition exploded. In just 135 seconds the Kursk It sank 106 meters deep in the Barents Sea. And when it touched the bottom, the second explosion came, caused by that shock and by the increase in temperature of the rest of the torpedoes. It was 250 times stronger than the first, fueled by bombs and fuel, and caused an earthquake of 3.5 on the Richter scale. The front of the Kursk she was devastated and most of the 118 men who sailed inside died at that moment.

However the Kursk it was an immense ship made with the best Russian technology, and that included a double hull of an optimal steel: in spite of the huge detonation, its two nuclear reactors were saved, and 23 crew members who were in the rear compartments were hacked into the last, the ninth, waiting for a possible rescue. The Russian Navy, weighed down by an endemic lack of investments and by the old Soviet habits of making up the bad news, could not recover them alive. In the book Kursk (Story Platform), the British journalist Robert Moore conducted a detailed investigation of the disaster – which seemed predestined by the lack of maintenance of war material or the use of torpedoes HTP (hydrogen peroxide, very volatile) that, for example, the British had rejected in 1955 for another similar tragedy – and the subsequent rescue work. And that's where the script for the Danish film of the same name was born Thomas Vinterberg, produced by the Europa-Corp studio, by Frenchman Luc Besson, which is now premiering in Spain.

Vinterberg has moved far away from his usual radius of action: since he became popular with his Dogma Celebration (1998), his film has been focused on very human dramas (Dear Wendy, Hunting, The commune), with some incursion in the literary adaptation (Far from the madding crowd). "It's strange that I missed you," he replies, laughing at the promotion in Madrid of the film. "It is still another human drama of people fighting for their lives." The Danish does not shirk any questions, and his film causes several. The project was born around the Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, that embodies alter ego -the names have been changed- of the officer Dimitri Kolesnikov, leader of the survivors and author of some notes that identified the 23 sailors who fought for their existence a few days more. "Matthias called me, I accepted, and from there I made the cast," says the director. That's why there are no Russian actors, but Central European, to achieve a neutral English, the language spoken in the film. Even British marine songs are sung, which distances the spectator from the characters. They also did not shoot in Russia, "although at the beginning a possible Franco-Russian coproduction was raised", and that provokes the big question that clouds the filmic history: why does not the then-now-president come out? Vladimir Putin?

You have to go back to August 2000 to understand what the tragedy of the Kursk in Putin's political life. The disaster occurred within the first 100 days of the start of his first term, and the president continued on vacation until a week and a half after the collapse. Either because he did not have political agility, or because the military commanders did not transmit the appropriate information, Putin did not arrive until the Kola Peninsula until August 22. And there he had to endure the verbal attacks of the families of the victims in a very tense meeting. But his name is not heard on the screen. Nothing to do with the possible co-production or its premiere – you already have a distributor – in Russia? "No, it's a purely artistic choice, and I made it because I did not want to see an impersonator of Putin in my story, my film is not a documentary, it's inspired by real events, but we do not know exactly what happened. Not even how much Putin knew about the subject during the first days. " The film also fantasizes about the time these 23 sailors managed to live and with which they communicated with the outside, thanks to the standard system of the Russians: four strokes in four batches each hour or on contact, to differentiate it from any accidental sound. Moore, in his fantastic volume, points out the remains and the autopsies, that when the first Russian rescue submarine arrived at the stern hatch where they could have left, they were already dead. "In the movie we play with other elements, true", concedes Vinterberg. It also relativizes much the Norwegian importance in the tasks of rescue and of the private collaboration in the same one. It all comes down to a confrontation with the smell of cold war.

Instead, Kursk it succeeds in the reconstruction of life inside the submersible and in the tensions between the old Soviet modes -although the country was already Russia- of the makeup of truth and the need for a rapid coordination between the West and Russia for a possible rescue. "It is ironic that the Soviet rescue submarines that could have arrived at the Kursk would have been sold by the authorities to American companies so that wealthy tourists could visit the remains of the Titanic. It reflects the end of an empire, "the filmmaker emphasizes, adding that" the Russian authorities decided not to accept international aid to protect naval secrets and their pride, and it was a fateful decision. "It is also clear that the small door to the hope of a free Russia was drowned – according to Moore and Vinterberg – in that August 2000. "There died the freedom of the press in that country," they both say, the Danish person explains: "We have shown the first famous press conference on Friday August 18, between the Russian Admiralty and relatives who accused them of hiding information. They came to sedate a protesting mother in front of the cameras. It was a symbolic moment, since from that moment the Government never let free flow any type of information. And even today Russian journalists are still being killed. "


Thomas Vinterberg, on the right, during the filming.enlarge photo
Thomas Vinterberg, on the right, during the filming.

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