I Am Dragon

      Comments Off on I Am Dragon

The Russian film I Am Dragon (2015) was clearly envisioned as a way of exploiting the success of the Twilight movies. However, I Am Dragon is based on a young adult novel published much earlier than Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. The Ritual, which serves as the source material for I Am Dragon, was published in 1996 and written by the acclaimed Ukrainian novelists Maryna and Serhiy Dyachenko. Screenwriter and director Indar Dzhendubaev simply took The Ritual and dressed it up with a proven commercial formula.

The plot of I Am Dragon follows the daughter of a Duke, Mira (Maria Poezzhaeva), who is abducted on the day she is to marry the grandson of a dragon slayer when the bridegroom’s party sings the ritual song of a sacrifice to the fabled beast. The dragon (who is played in human/Arman form by Matvey Lykov) appears and takes Mira away. On the dragon’s island she learns of her captor’s duality and falls in love with him. When he rejects her for her own safety she escapes, only to summon the dragon on her wedding day once again.

The film is set sometime in the middle ages before the Tsarist period of Russian history, sometime prior to the 13th century. Drawing on the Kievan Rus milieu, Dzhendubaev imbues the narrative with an abundance of Slavic folklore and imagery. This is combined with the familiar narrative of The Enchanted Tsarevich, the Russian equivalent to La Belle et la BĂȘte. Though despite this rich culture lineage the dramatic emphasis of I Am Dragon is exclusively focused on the tropes associated with young adult novels of adolescent romance and erotica.

Aside from the superficial stylistic similarities between I Am Dragon and Twilight (2008), the two films share a similar social agenda wherein the subtext of these narratives advocates teenage celibacy. Be it a vampire or a dragon, the boyfriends that are thrust upon these heroines via bizarre circumstances epitomize those aspects of adolescent masculine identity that are most dangerous to the heroines’ virtue. This is perhaps best exemplified by the relationship between Buffy Summers and Angel on the television show Buffy The Vampire Slayer, though that particular narrative lacks the necessitating Stockholm syndrome plot device of both I Am Dragon and Twilight.

In addition to adhering to the Twilight‘s mantra of showing audiences beautiful people doing incredible things, I Am Dragon incorporates a bit of Disney into the mix. This comes in the form of a computer generated creature that looks like a mix between a fox and a galago who serves Arman. It’s a cute little critter that’s introduced as a potential threat but, like the dragon himself, slowly reveals itself to be a very sensitive and intelligent creature.

Overall it can’t be said that I Am Dragon offers anything different from or better than Twilight. One film is going to appeal to fans of vampires while the other will appeal to fans of fairytales. Personally, I prefer I Am Dragon mostly because of my interest in Russian folklore but also because Mira seems to have a bit more agency than her American counterpart.