Russia's Oscar-tipped "Leviathan" got a belated release at home on Thursday, showing on hundreds of screens in a censored version following harsh criticism from officials and Orthodox clerics.
Andrei Zvyagintsev's bleak social drama, widely predicted to win best foreign-language film at this month's Oscars, is getting a major cinema release on 650 screens across Russia, several months after it came out in the West.
The film was set for November release in Russia but delayed due to a new law banning swearing in cinemas that forced changes to its expletive-littered dialogue.
In Russia, the movie, which is banned for anyone under 18, is being shown with all the swear words cut from the soundtrack without beeps, the characters silently mouthing them.
Despite its Oscar hopes and last month winning Russia's first Golden Globe since the 1960s, the film has faced accusations it is "anti-Russian" and slanted to win Western prizes.
Outspoken culture minister Vladimir Medinsky -- whose ministry partly funded the film -- complained of its "existential hopelessness" and lack of "positive hero."
Orthodox Church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin slammed the film as "pessimistic" and "anti-Christian."
Producer Alexander Rodnyansky admitted the heated debate over the film had "attracted far more cinemas... than we expected," a number comparable to a mainstream commercial release.
"The film has taken on a life that maybe we haven't dreamt of since the Perestroika era," he said at a news conference, referring to the Soviet period when cinema began to freely show social problems and sex.
The sweeping drama tells the story of a small-town mechanic in northern Russia, played by Alexei Serebryakov, who wages a legal battle with the grossly corrupt local mayor to save his family house.
It shows the authorities loyal to President Vladimir Putin hand-in-glove with police and courts, while Russian Orthodox clerics turn a blind eye to official wrongdoing in order to boost their standing.
The film "has been discussed even by those who haven't watched it and don't plan to," wrote Vedomosti business daily.
Afisha listings magazine called it "the biggest Russian film of the decade... discussed for a whole month by everyone, from ministers to angry milkmaids."
The film was leaked online and the makers estimated it had been watched by 3-6 million people ahead of its Russian release.