Russian Thriller for Film Club

October 23, 2014

A film set in Moscow, filmed in Finland and using American actors? Well, as they say, “this is the movies, baby”. Sunday’s Film Club choice is the spine-tingling thriller “Gorky Park”, which is based on the best-selling novel written by Martin Cruz Smith.

The novel was adapted into the film screenplay by Dennis Potter, for which he won a 1984 Edgar Award.

“Gorky Park” is a 1983 film starring William Hurt, Lee Marvin, and Brian Dennehy, and supported by an excellent cast.

The plot begins when three young people, last seen skating on Gorky Park’s frozen lake, are discovered murdered, and lying in shallow graves in the forest section of the park. And the intriguing part? Their fingerprints and faces have been completely removed.

Given the task of investigating this homicide is Soviet Militia Officer Arkady Renko (William Hurt), who experiences immediate intervention from the KGB, who take an unusual interest in the case but refuse to provide him with any support.

Other key characters emerge – New York detective William Kirwill (Brian Dennehy), who is investigating the disappearance of his brother James, and American sable importer Jack Osborne (Lee Marvin) and his girlfriend Irina (Joanna Pacula).

The story reaches a shattering climax in the icy wilds outside Stockholm in Sweden, and a resolution of sorts. Both the cinematography and background musical score add much to the icy “feel” of this film.

“Gorky Park” had a very successful worldwide release, taking almost 16 Million Dollars at the box office – strong figures for 1983.

The film also won a number of awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress to Joanna Pacula, and a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor to Michael Elphick.

When looking for reasons for the success enjoyed by “Gorky Park”, one only has to look at the careers of its leading players.

William Hurt made his film debut in 1980 in “Altered States”, and followed in 1981 withy the steamy “Body Heat” with Kathleen Turner. In the three years between 1985 – 1987, Hurt won the Best Actor Academy Award for “Kiss of the Spider Woman”, and was nominated for an Oscar for “Children of a Lesser God” and “Broadcast News”.

He was to receive a further Oscar nomination in 2005 for “A History of Violence”. His career continues to flourish today on stage and television.

Lee Marvin – the portrayer of so many heroes – was a real life hero himself. As an American Marine in the Pacific in 1942, he was decorated for bravery in the Battle of Saipan, where in an assault on Mount Tapachau, most of his unit were killed. Marvin made many films, but the highlight of his career was definitely his Academy Award for the classic western comedy “Cat Ballou”.

“Gorky Park” is rated M15+, contains low level violence, a low level sex scene and low level language. It runs for 128 minutes and is a highly recommended murder mystery.

The NWTC Film Club is always keen to enroll new members. The remainder of the 2014 program, which includes “Gorky Park”, “Master and Commander” and the President’s surprise Christmas freebie and Christmas Party, December 7. It costs only $12 for the three films. Membership can be arranged prior to Sundays screening, which begins at 4pm.