New movie tells the story of Russian dissident “rock star” Limonov

The thriller of Eduard Limonov, the Russian dissident and founder of the banned National Bolshevik Party will be told in a new film by the equally outspoken Russian director Kirill Serebnikov, starring British actor Ben Whishaw.

Based on a biographical novel by French journalist Emmanuel Carrier, the film — titled Limonov, Eddie’s Story — will chart the early life of Limonov, who was born in what is now the besieged city of Kharkiv in Ukraine.

The CV was in the middle of the shooting path in Russia when Russian forces invaded Ukraine in late February. A whole bunch of film reproductions of scenes from the 70s in New York had to be dismantled, and Serebrenkov, who was only recently released from the travel ban, left the country. The remainder of filming will be completed at an undisclosed location elsewhere in Europe.

Serebrennikov, a prominent Kremlin critic and LGBT rights advocate, was first arrested in 2017 on disputed fraud charges and spent 18 months under house arrest. In June 2020, he was given a three-year suspended prison sentence and was finally allowed to travel for the first time in January of this year.

In an interview with Variety published on Wednesday, the director revealed that he has chosen Golden Globe-winning English actor Ben Whishaw who is known outside the UK for his role in the James Bond franchise as Q.

“Eddie needs a brilliant actor and Ben fits that description,” he said. “Apart from reading books and watching millions of interviews, he comes to Eddie through his instinctive, animal-like nature; not from his head, but from the depths of his guts.”

Growing up, Serebrenkov said, he viewed Limonov as “a kind of avant-garde rock star” and that his party was “a club of young thinkers who do not want to be part of the new Russian political establishment”.

But he was cautious about whether Eddie, who was at once a proponent of a Soviet revival and a lifelong anti-government agitator, would support today’s war in Ukraine, which has reduced parts of his city to rubble.

The dissident party was acquitted for life after death

The new film covers Limonov’s life until about 2004, after his early release from prison sentence for illegal possession of weapons. He wrote eight books while behind bars, in less than two years.

Eduard Veniaminovich Savenko was born in 1943, and Limonov’s formative years were marked by petty crimes and self-described hooliganism, but also an emerging interest in writing poetry. His early poetry career had some success and he and his wife immigrated from the Soviet Union to the United States in 1974.

Limonov worked for a Russian-language newspaper in New York and was influenced by radical politics and the punk subculture. His first novel, It’s Me, Eddie, shocked many with its bald depiction of the sexual adventures of an immigrant, as the author, the FBI harassing the protagonist. Disillusioned in New York, Limonov moved to Paris in 1980, staying there for a decade before returning to Russia in 1991 after the fall of communism to break a political path.

In 1992 he founded the National Bolshevik Front, an amalgamation of six smaller anti-establishment groups with early members including the controversial political philosopher Alexander Dugin. In 1993 this became the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), an ultra-nationalist movement calling for a return to Soviet rule.

The party was distinguished by a mixture of far-left and far-right ideology, Soviet nostalgia and skinhead culture, and direct action that attracted attention in Russia and abroad. She was accused many times of racism and fascism, which her members denied.

Several prominent NBP members were arrested and imprisoned, including Limonov himself in April 2001. The elderly activist was accused of terrorism—specifically, of trying to form an army to invade Kazakhstan—and finally found guilty of the lesser charge of purchasing weapons.

Limonov would be arrested three more times at anti-government rallies in Moscow and Saint Petersburg between 2007 and 2009. The BNP was unable to officially register as a party and was dissolved by the Russian state in 2007 on charges of “extremism”. After its dissolution, Limonov co-founded the anti-Putin Other Russia umbrella group in 2010.

Despite his anti-establishment stance, Limonov supported Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and supported Russia in the war in the Donbass. He died in Moscow in March 2020 at the age of 77, after a long battle with cancer.

In September 2021, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the NBP’s dissolution was “unnecessary and disproportionate” and a violation of members’ rights. Limonov’s teenage child was among the six applicants who took the case to the European Court of Human Rights over the dissolution of NBP – and each received $10,000 in compensation.

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