15 Award Winning Films Based On Slavic Novels

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Avid readers will stand their ground when it comes to the fact that (in most, yet not all cases) the book is better than the movie, but when directors, screenwriters, actors and the rest of the crew members produce a truly memorable movie, that theory becomes refuted. Here’s an example of 15 award winning films based on Slavic novels that seem to have gotten at least some things right for a change.

Time of Violence – Bulgaria

Adapted from the book Time of Parting, this 1988 gem depicts the gruesome events that took place in the 1600s when Bulgarians were under Ottoman rule. Whether the events unfolded exactly as the author of the book described them or whether they were somewhat exaggerated, the fact is that the movie is a classic that received 2 UBFM awards for Best Score and Best Director and became the Bulgarian entry for the 62nd Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

As If I am Not Here – Croatia

One of the most praised Croatian films of modern times, As If I Am Not Here, is a 2010 drama that follows the events from the eponymous 1999 novel about war rape during the Bosnian War in the 1990s. With dozens of nominations and wins in Ireland, Turkey and USA, the film is a grim and harsh story that was initially based on reports of true events, documented by Croatian journalist Slavenka Drakulić in the book that predisposed the movie.

Buick Riviera – Croatia

Another Croatian drama that portrays the perils of a Bosnian character is 2008’s Buick Riviera. Inspired by the 2002 book of the same name, it introduces the audience to a couple of Bosnian emigrants whose strained post-war lives lead to new miseries in the heart of the US. Goran Rusinovic, the writer and director, took home a total of four prizes for his merits on the project – Motovun’s From A To A award, Pula Film Festival’s Golden Area for Best Screenplay, Sarajevo Film Festival’s FIPRESCI Prize and the Heart Of Sarajevo award for Best Film.

I Served The King Of England – The Czech Republic

Moving away from dark dramatic pieces and over to the Czech Republic, comes I Served The King Of England – an adaptation of the eponymous novel by one of the greatest Czech writers in the 20th century. It paints the story of a quirky Czechoslovakian, Jan, who strives to become a millionaire after being released from a 15 year long sentence in prison. Although it didn’t perform well in the box office, the film received over a dozen nominations and awards from numerous European organizations and festivals throughout 2007, 2008 and 2009.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being – The Czech Republic

Released in 1988, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a dark romance between a polyamorous Czech doctor and his monogamous love interest, whose lives get messy in the late 1960s. Adapted from Milan Kundera’s novel, the film is packed with famed stars like Lena Olin, Daniel Day-Lewis and Stellan Skarsgård among many other Slavic, Scandinavian, English and American actors. It received not one, but two Oscar nominations for the 1989’s Academy Awards – one for Best Cinematography and one for the category Best Writing of Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.

The Congress 2013 – Poland

Based on the late Stanislav Lem’s The Futurological Congress, this Polish movie is a fresh mixture between live action and animation. Similarly to Lem’s original Sci-Fi story, the film was wildly praised by critics and fans alike. Moreover, it received a handful of nominations and awards from film associations in Portugal, Italy, USA, Japan, France and other countries.

When The Sun Was God/ Army of Valhalla – Poland

Set in the distant 9th century, When The Sun Was God (also released as Army of Valhalla in some countries) portrays the troubles of pre-Christian Slavic tribal people whose future depends on a heroic archer in the face of Michał Żebrowski (a.k.a. the guy who played Geralt in the Polish movie and mini TV series The Witcher). The film took home an Eagle award for Best Costume Design and scored three Eagle nominations for Best Editing, Best Production Design and Best Film Score.

The Hexer/ The Witcher – Poland

Speaking of Michał Żebrowski, his most well-known project up to date is The Hexer/ The Witcher/ Wiedźmin, adapted from Andrzej Sapkowski’s worldwide acclaimed book series. Albeit the movie’s extremely negative reception from fans and critics alike, it received numerous nominations for its score, the cast’s acting and the crew’s costume design and editing. On top of that it won a Fryderyk award in the category Best 2001 Original Soundtrack and an Eagle award for Best Film Score.

Miss Christina 2013 – Romania

Moving over to the horror genre, comes Miss Christina – a Romanian production that became one of the top 5 most successful domestic movies in 2013. Following a classic plot of two lovers in a haunted house, it won Best Music, Best Costume Design and Best Hair And Make-up at the National Romanian Film Awards along with a Gopo nomination for the category Best Actress In A Leading Role, courtesy of Ioana Anastasia Anton.

Anna Karenina – Russia

When it comes to classics, Leo Tolstoy’s timeless novel Anna Karenina has been adapted so many times for the big and the small screen that when Keira Knightley stepped into the Russian aristocrat’s shoes, the expectations were skyrocketing. Fortunately, the film became a worldwide hit, earning a total of 4 Academy Award nominations in 2013 and winning one of them in the category Best Achievement In Costume Design.

Onegin – Russia

Whether Alexander Pushkin is of the same rank as Tolstoy is a matter of personal preferences, but the cinema adaptation of his Eugene Onegin from 1999 was just as praised for its production values and cast performance as Anna Karenina – and just as criticized for its writing. While it didn’t live up to all of its nominations, including a BAFTA award, the project did bring Liv Tyler a Golden Aries prize for Best Foreign Actress from the Russian Guild Of Film Critics.

Night Watch – Russia

Sergei Lukyanenko’s Night Watch novel kickstarted Timur Bekmambetov’s worldwide fame when the latter one adapted Lukyanenko’s piece for the big screen. A modest box office success both in Russia and overseas, the movie was nominated by local and foreign organizations for a vast variety of awards for directing, cinematography, score and acting and was Russia’s submission for the 2005 Academy Awards.

Day Watch – Russia

Following some of the events in Lukyanenko’s second book from his Watches Saga, Day Watch, comes the eponymous movie from 2006. Due to the success of the first film, the horror fantasy’s sequel received larger exposure than its prequel and as such, got the attention of tons of film critics. It scored 5 MTV Movie Awards for Best Soundtrack, Best Actor, Best Fight Scene, Best Movie Villain and Breakthrough Actress Of The Year.

Wolfhound – Russia

The famous Volkodav series inspired the 2006 film Wolfhound of the Grey Hound Clan, which follows the journey of a doomed hero who’ll stop at nothing in the midst of a Dark Ages high fantasy world. Due to the fact that the series of novels are packed with old Slavic, Norse and Celtic lore, Wolfhound was a shining star among Russians and Scandinavians and later became a box office success on the Baltics. It earned a Golden Eagle for Best Art Direction in Production Design and an MTV Movie Award for Best Fight Scene.

Rivers of Babylon – Slovakia

1998’s Slovak dramatic comedy Rivers of Babylon is an adaptation of Peter Pišťanek’s thriller of the same name from 1991. The tragicomic project was Slovakia’s entry for the 71st Academy Awards. Despite the fact that it didn’t make it to the Oscars even as a nominee, the film managed to become a nominee in several categories for other organizations and brought Marian Urban, the screenwriter and executive producer, an IGRIC Award.

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