The movie "12" is undoubtedly an accurate representation of reality in Russia and countries of former USSR. The brilliance of this movie is in its simplicity. With a tiny budget of $2.5 million, the movie surpasses all expectations and is nominated for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in September of 2007. Turns out having expensive stuns, video effects, equipment, top paid cast is not the only way to get on the nominee list. The fact that people chose content over glitter and shimmer is comforting. The movie, almost in its entirety, is shot in a single location - a school gymnasium. Nikita Mikhalkov uses symbolism extensively, thus adding more meaning and depth to the movie. In my opinion, the gymnasium itself is symbolic. It represents Russia. The absence of proper lighting, old rotten pipes, an unusual mix of most random objects scattered around, dirt and the obsolete condition of everything, represents Russia - dark, broken, chaotic, dazed and confused, quite unable to recover from Soviet past. The jurors are carefully selected and represent all socio-economic classes across Russian border. The history of being a union of 15 countries under USSR rule mixed and blended together people of different ethnicity, religion, and backgrounds. The variety in education level, occupation, social status, and wealth of the 12 jurors allows Nikita Mikhalkov to draw a very full picture of Russia, its people, what undermines and plagues it, and what makes it stronger.
People who are capable of a simple act of kindness and sympathy make Russia stronger. The first juror to disagree with a hastily decided upon "guily" verdict is able to turn things around by a simple request for the rest of the jurors to "take responsibility" for their decision. His story of salvation shows that not all people are what others so quickly classify them as. Sometimes people are driven by circumstances into the lowest and most miserable states of existence and all it takes is a kind word to lift them back up. It becomes more difficult to meet people capable of sympathy. For years, Russian folk learned to cope, adapt and survive against all odds - wars, oppression, censorship, corruption, starvation, poverty, hopelessness. Estranged, cruel, bitter, indifferent to others - are definitions that well describe Russian folk.
One of the jurors makes a very true statement about human nature in general. Unless people are affected by something on a "personal level", they cannot relate to it or fully grasp the importance and implications of it. At the beginning, jurors are eager to get out of the gymnasium as soon as possible no matter the verdict and its implications. Only by sharing their personal experiences and establishing a unique emotional link with the case at hand, causes them to change their votes. Through sharing life experiences, making earnest confessions, and leading heated arguments they not only decide the fate of the defendant, but also come to realization of reality they live in. The trial is a wake up call, the call for change and action.