CANNES, France (Reuters) - Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov Saturday defended his new movie "Burned by the Sun 2," which performed poorly at the domestic box office and was criticized by war veterans for historical inaccuracies.
His follow-up to the 1994 Oscar-winning drama "Burned by the Sun" resurrects the original characters as, five years later, they face advancing German forces in 1941.
Colonel Kotov, played by Mikhalkov and who viewers presumed to have died at the end of the original when he is driven away by Soviet agents, has survived Stalin's purge.
Convinced his beloved daughter Nadia is dead, he decides to fight on the front where he and his poorly equipped comrades suffer heavy losses.
Nadia, meanwhile, is sure Kotov is still alive, and as she witnesses death all around her comes to realize that she is living solely in order to see her father once more.
The movie premieres at the Cannes film festival later on Saturday, and is the last of 19 movies in the main competition lineup to screen to the media.
At a news conference, reporters asked Mikhalkov about veterans' criticism of the film's accuracy.
"We studied lots of archives and chronicles of the time," he said, speaking through an interpreter. "On the other hand we didn't do this ... to make a cut-and-paste version in the film.
"For me what was really important was to respect the spirit of the period and the relationships that people could have at that time, and I am prepared to defend the fact that I betrayed nothing in that respect."
Mikhalkov also addressed questions about the film's budget, widely reported to be around $55 million, making it the most expensive Russian production ever.
The director said "Burned by the Sun 2," and its sequel, "Citadel," which is due in theatres this autumn, in fact cost $40 million combined. A small part of the funding -- $1 million each for Burned By The Sun 2 and 3 -- came from the state.
"If you listened to people who say that for the same budget we could have made 20 films, yes, perhaps, but that's not what will help the cinema industry to survive.
"I love art house cinema. I've already made films of this kind. But this kind of film, you have to understand that they are oysters, that is to say nobody can survive just by eating oysters -- you need bread, butter, you need sausages and that's what we are doing."
Another competition film, Hungarian entry "Tender Son: The Frankenstein Project," has its premiere in Cannes Saturday.
Directed by Kornel Mundruczo, it is a loose retelling of the Frankenstein story. Rudi, 17, returns to a father who never knew him only to become a hunted murderer, forcing the father to face his own monstrous creation.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Maria Golovnina