Bryan Adams rocks way into Kremlin with film role|
Sunday, September 16, 2001 The Halifax Herald Limited
Bryan Adams is starring as himself in a film about mental patients who were abandoned by staff in Chechyna. Moscow - The veteran Canadian rock star Bryan Adams is an unlikely spokesman for those opposed to Russia's war in Chechnya.
The singer has, however, agreed to play himself in a controversial film that is certain to anger the Kremlin with its depiction of the suffering and futility of the conflict.
Entitled Dom Durakov - mad house or house of fools - it is based on the true story of patients at a mental home in Chechnya who were abandoned by staff at the height of Russia's bombing raids during its first war against the breakaway republic in 1995.
The film, the first Russian feature to call the war into question, is being made by Andrei Konchalovsky, one of the country's leading directors best known abroad for the 1989 Hollywood film Tango and Cash, starring Sylvester Stallone. Dom Durakov, shot partly in a Moscow psychiatric hospital, features several real patients alongside the actors.
Adams, 41, appears in the dreams of Zhanna, a mental patient struggling to survive as Russian bombs fall around her. This role is played by Konchalovsky's wife Yulia.
Alina Gulyayeva, a member of Konchalovsky's production team, said: "Whenever life becomes too awful and terrifying, Zhanna shuts her eyes and dreams of Adams the rock star, who comes to her providing an escape from the horrors of war. "He talks to her and offers her comfort. In one scene Zhanna imagines she marries Adams. Suddenly she is in a beautiful wedding dress, drinking champagne with him. He is like her guardian angel."
Adams's hit Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman is the main song on the film's soundtrack, and his girlfriend Cecilie Thomsen plays a Lithuanian sniper on the Chechen rebel side. The film is to be released in Russia and the West next year. Adams, who has been involved with campaigns to raise money to fight breast cancer in Canada, was quoted in the Russian press as saying that he considered it important to "attract people's attention to Chechnya."
One of his managers said: "Adams agreed at once. He liked the idea and the prospect of working with such a famous director. He enjoyed it immensely and is very excited about the film. It's been a great trip."
During the first Chechen war, the psychiatric hospital in Shali in the south of the republic, which is the subject of the film, became one of the most potent symbols of the inhumanity of the conflict after dozens of patients were left to their fate by staff fleeing the bombing.
The last surviving patients lived in freezing rooms full of their own excrement. They had almost no food, no doctors and no outside help except for a local volunteer. They had no light or heating and the most severe cases were left padlocked in cages, where many died.
Patients were often too ill to understand the war which raged around the building. As shells fell on the horizon they would gather by the side of the road, dazed and bewildered. On one occasion the hospital was attacked and looted by soldiers and drug addicts, who took away the last of its medicines and syringes.
The film is certain to be controversial. Whereas the first Chechen war became widely unpopular with the Russian public, few have dared to oppose the present campaign which was launched by President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin leader owes much of his popularity to the war, which has claimed thousands of lives but is officially still referred to only as an "anti-terrorist operation."
Gulyayeva said the film is intended to denounce the folly of war. As the conflict becomes more intense, a motley group of Chechen fighters, Russian soldiers and civilians seek refuge in the hospital among the patients, blurring the distinction between them.
"At the beginning the mad people are those inside the home, but by the end of the film the world beyond those walls appears infinitely crazier than that of the hospital," she said. "It becomes a place to hide in away from the horrors of the war, and a metaphor for all the horrors of the war."