Thursday, March 25, 2010

Voskreseniye

Воскресение (1-я серия, 2-я серия) / Ylösnousemus / Katjushan tarina / Uppståndelse / Resurrection. SU 1961. PC: Mosfilm. P: A. Ashkinazi (dir. kartiny). D: Mihail Schweitzer. SC: Mihail Schweitzer, Jevgeni Gabrilovitsh – based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy (1899). DP: Era Saveljeva (1.), Sergei Polujanov (2.) – originally b&w and Magicolor. AD: Abram Frejdin, David Vinitski. FX: Grigori Aizenberg, A. Vinokurov. Cost: Ganna Ganevskaja. Make-up: A. Patenovskaja. M: Georgi Sviridov. S: Konstantin Gordon, Valeri Popov. ED: Klavdija Alejeva. CAST: Tamara Sjomina (Katjusha Maslova), Jevgeni Matvejev (prince Nehljudov), Pavel Massalski (chairman of the court), Viktor Kulakov (member of the court), Vasili Bokarev (member of the court), Lev Zolotuhin (assistant prosecutor), Nikolai Sergejev (prison guard), Anastasija Zujeva (Matrjona Harina), Vladimir Gusev (Simonson), Klara Rumjanova (Bogoduhovskaja), V. Lanovaja (Shtshetinina), Vasili Livanov (Kryltsov), Vladimir Belokurov (Maslennikov). Original length 2760 m / 101 min + 2970 m / 108 min = 209 min – US duration 152 min – Finnish classification length 5020 m / 184 min. A vintage print, 177 min, with Finnish / Swedish subtitles, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Leo Tolstoy), 24 March 2010.

Mikhail Schweitzer (1920-2000) was a talented director in the thaw period, and his Resurrection is the most ambitious adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's final novel which has been filmed many times, D.W. Griffith among the first to do so. Tolstoy's novel is a magnificent account of a corrupt society, viewed through the story of the nobleman Nekhlyudov and the country maid Katyusha, seduced and abandoned by him. When he meets her ten years later in a trial, he a member of the jury, she wrongly accused of murder, his conscience is awakened, and follows a bitter odyssey through the judicial system of imperial Russia. Nekhlyudov even proposes to Katyusha and follows her on her long march to the forced labour camps of Siberia. For the first time Tolstoy deals with the revolutionaries, whom Katyusha joins, rejecting the prince's proposal. "First you used me for pleasure, now you want to use me for your redemption". A magnificent, passionate, and devastating novel. It includes the most biting account of bureaucracy that I know in world literature.

Schweitzer's film is very sober and correct, but it lacks the irresistible passion and drive of Tolstoy's novel. It also lacks the gripping density of Tolstoy's account of the imperial society and its manners and mores. Tatyana Syomina as Katyusha is excellent in all her incarnations: the innocent maid, the prostitute who's seen it all, and the Siberian prisoner who finds her identity in the ranks of the revolutionaries. There's nothing wrong with Yevgeni Matveyev, but he fails to give a shattering portrait of a nobleman who realizes the damage he's inflicted.

In the Soviet Union, films were often Troyan horses. Interestingly, Schweitzer and Gabrilovich's adaptation is less inflammatory an attack on bureaucracy and the prison system than Tolstoy's original novel. The Troyan message here might be that the best people are to be found in the prison camps of Siberia.

The best part of the film is the deeply moving and complex finale with Katyusha and Nekhlyudov. Both actors are at their best in that memorable scene. There is no resolution, only a realization that the journey of self-discovery is endless.

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