Timur Bekmambetov Is Making The First Vertical Blockbuster

Not a joke.

Last year, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema introduced Vertical Vision: an all-new motion picture viewing experience featuring a fifty-foot-tall vertically-oriented screen. It was set to open in the cinema's Los Angeles location, and the Alamo was working with filmmakers to create and adapt content for the vertical format. All the information is here.

That, of course, was a joke. Not a joke is V2: Escape From Hell, the next film from filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov, which according to Deadline will be the first major feature film shot in the vertical format. The Russian production, based on a true story, concerns "a captured Soviet pilot who leads an escape from a German concentration camp by hijacking an aircraft." Bekmambetov says the film is "about a man standing up and straightening his shoulders in spite of the circumstances. And about a rescue plane soaring up into the sky,” so he's clearly thought about how framing conventions will change in, for lack of a better word, Vertical Vision.

Bekmambetov is no stranger to experimentation with cinematic form. In addition to directing blockbusters like Ben-Hur and Wanted, he produced first-person action film Hardcore Henry and spearheaded the "screenlife" format, producing a number of films made as computer or smartphone screen captures. The resultant films have been surprisingly good - though the best of the bunch, Bekmambetov's own Profile, sadly has no scheduled release - and that's largely due to Bekmambetov's thoughtful engagement with developing the screenlife format's visual language. He also produced Dead of Night, a vertical-video zombie series shot for Snapchat.

V2 is being shot with smartphone audiences in mind, which makes sense. Part of the hatred for vertical video stems from its appearing cropped when viewed on a traditional horizontal-format screen; perhaps a smartphone release will ameliorate some of that. I for one am intrigued to see what it ends up looking like - if anyone's adept at turning cinematic language inside out successfully, it's Bekmambetov - though I'm certainly skeptical. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but human beings simply see in widescreen - our eyes are next to each other, not on top of one another - and I've never watched anything shot vertically that wouldn't have been better the other way around.

V2: Escape From Hell goes into production next week with a budget of $10 million, and is scheduled for mobile-centric release early next year in both Russian and English-language versions.

(header image by Diana Ringo, used by permission via Wikimedia Commons)