Set during World War 2, White Tiger follows the myth surrounding a powerful German tank. Tank driver Ivan Naidenov (Alexei Vertkov) is found by Russian soldiers with burns to 90% of his body, but he is the only man known to have survived an encounter with the mysterious White Tiger tank. After he miraculously heals, it is not long before Naidenov is sent out on a mission to destroy the seemingly invulnerable tank.
There are a lot of occult stories that have sprung up surrounding World War 2, and White Tiger plays on this. The tank is a physical manifestation of the Nazi spirit in White Tiger, and the fear this invokes – which adds power to the myth – links in with the many superstitions surrounding Hitler and the Nazi Party.
White Tiger is beautifully and eerily filmed, which allows the landscape to become as powerful a player as the characters themselves. This is the landscape that the White Tiger – a manifestation of the Nazi spirit – knows, and the place where the tank is hiding in order to wipe out its only survivor, Naidenov.
Cinematographer Aleksandr Kuznetsov creates an atmosphere of oppression and otherworldliness through his examination of the landscape and it is easy to believe that the characters feel as though they have strayed into the tank’s territory and are being stalked by a supernatural war machine that is waiting to grab its moment. As well as this, the chase and fight sequences are well filmed and executed, adding contrast to the still calm before the tank appears.
The story is based on a novel by Ilya Boyashov, and although the film is drenched in suspicion and almost supernatural elements – Naidenov believes that tanks talk with him – this works, and adds to the feeling of fantastical otherworldliness that pervades the film. There are touches of Indiana Jones here, not least in the struggle against Nazi Occultism, but also nods to Moby Dick; a machine takes the place of the white whale, but the quest to best it possesses Naidenov as much as it did Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s book.
As Naidenov, Alexei Vertkov captures the feeling surrounding the mysterious tank. As it seems that the tank is a demon – tying in with many occult beliefs surrounding Hitler himself – so too it seems that the tank has possessed the character. Vertkov treads the line between the worlds of reality and the reality that the tank inhabits and does it well.
White Tiger is a fantastic story that starts off romanticised and a little silly, before the belief of the characters translates to the audience. The final scene may jar slightly – although it makes a strong comment on the use of war – but as a whole, the film is tense, ethereal and a fascinating look at the stories we believe when logic fails and fear and superstition prevail.