DAS PORTAL – EINE REISE DURCH DIE ZEIT is a debut film. Not only for director Yuriy Kovalyov, but also for most of the actors and screenwriters. Only Yaroslav Voytseshek has previously worked on two other books – THE RISING HAWK and VYKRADENA PRYNTSESA: RUSLAN I LYUDMYLA, both of which received a direct-to-video release in this country. Time travel films have become very fashionable again, especially in the recent past. In addition to some no-name representatives such as 2067 and A WRINKLE IN TIME, there are also quite popular representatives such as Christopher Nolan’s TENET and INTERSTELLAR or, in the smaller arthouse sector, LA BELLE ÉPOQUE. But almost all works have to struggle with one problem – the compatibility of changes in the past with the present and future, where errors in thinking and logic regularly cause concern.
What it’s about…
As Vit’ko is not exactly the most popular in his class and therefore often hangs out only with his best buddy. This is about to get worse when he finds himself on a school trip and has to cross a suspension bridge, which he fails to do thanks to his fear of heights, which is rooted in a childhood accident. Shortly after he turns away, something strange happens and he is sucked into a portal unseen by everyone else and emerges seconds later in a completely different place. It takes him a while to realise where he is: The year 1120 – so he has travelled 900 years into the past. In fact, he ends up with his own ancestors. Now he must set out on a quest to find a way back to the present. A number of obstacles and hurdles await him in the process.
While the film cover is almost a little reminiscent of Star Gate, the film strikes out in a completely different direction. Much more a mixture of the PERCY JACKSON films in combination with Gil Junger’s BLACK KNIGHT awaits the audience. It is therefore a classic youth adventure film, which is obviously aimed at a target audience of around 10 years old, although it must be added at this point that some of the film’s scenes are also quite dark and could well lead to fears.
Since we are already talking about film comparisons, it is also worth opening a parallel to THE SCORPION KING. In this film, too, the core story revolves around a tribe of peoples, the Kummans, who strive for a kind of territorial rule and consult a clairvoyant magician and prophet for their raids. But even the film trailer clearly proves that there was more in mind here than was ultimately realised. In other words, DAS PORTAL – EINE REISE DURCH DIE ZEIT tries to be much more than the film could ever achieve, because with its production budget of just two million US dollars, it is almost impossible to produce a film epic as the trailer implies. But despite the rather modest finances, the team actually manages to create some small visual highlights that have looked much worse in comparable films.
Quite watchable with debutant bonus
While many works are often produced in the dark to save money, here the complete opposite is called for and many sequences are even overexposed to a large extent, which makes it quite unpleasant to follow the action at times. Since the film can only score points visually in part, the producers try to compensate by offering the viewer a lot, especially acoustically, because the channels seem to be mixed excellently, so that all surround boxes are addressed in the best possible way without overdoing it and producing sounds that shouldn’t be there.
The main weaknesses of this film are that most of the dialogue seems silly and unnecessary, that it tries to combine several genres, which makes a lot of things seem too overloaded, and that the whole story seems a little strange. In addition, the vein for natural acting is missing in pretty much all of the actors, which is why every scene comes across as rather stiff and melancholy, and especially lead actor Daniil Kamenskyi can be seen as a foreign body (although this could also be intentional).
Of course, all this has to be put into perspective a little, given the fact that virtually no one on the set really knew anything about film production. Considered as a newcomer work, there are also moments that are surprisingly positive and thus entertaining. This also shows potential that could possibly be used for pleasant surprises in future films. Especially some of the special effects, up to the stone monster, which can already be seen on the cover, look mostly well produced and can keep up with many a lousy American blockbuster.
A ‘B-movie of family and adventure films’ probably describes this kind of production best. On the one hand, the low budget ensures that quite a lot of raw and handcrafted work is still recognisable, but on the other hand it is impressive in terms of the quite good visual effects that are presented in parts. The inexperience of the entire cast is clearly noticeable, even if British teen films in particular sometimes seem similarly amateurish. The story itself can’t really knock your socks off, as it has simply been told many times before and on the whole resembles an amalgamation of countless different originals. A little entertainment is certainly offered, but this genre mix does not really manage to inspire comprehensively. Thus, a recommendation should probably only go out to teenagers who can identify a little with films like THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING.
How did you like the movie?