Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kreutzerova sonáta (cinema concert with Mauri Saarikoski, Marko Puro)

The Kreutzer Sonata. CZ 1927. PC: Julius Schmitt. P: Julius Schmitt. D+SC: Gustav Machatý – based on the tale by Leo Tolstoy (Kreitzerova sonata, 1889). DP: Otto Heller. AD: Vilém Rittershain. Studios: Kavalírka (Prague) and Schönbrunn (Vienna). Starring: Jan W. Speerger (Pozdnyšev), Eva Byronová (Nataša, his wife), Miloslav Paul (Truchačevský). Print: Národni filmovy archiv (Prague) 1943 m /20 fps/ 84 min. Screened with e-subtitles in Finnish by Tomas Lehecka.

Cinema concert at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Leo Tolstoy), 27 April 2010, arranged and performed by Mauri Saarikoski (violin) and Marko Puro (piano).

The violist Mauri Saarikoski and the pianist Marko Puro played with inspiration not only Beethoven but also Leoš Janáček (The 1. String Quartet inspired by Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata) – in this presentation we had not only Tolstoy meeting Beethoven but also the meeting of two leading Czech artists of the age, the director Gustav Machatý and the composer Leoš Janáček! The arrangement and the timing were excellent.

In his first feature film Machatý presents a faithful Tolstoy adaptation with slight updates such as introducing cars. In Tolstoy's tale it remains unclear if anything happens between Natasha and Truchachevsky. Machatý shows love scenes of theirs which to me meant that they were having an affair, but other viewers regarded those scenes as belonging to Pozdnyshev's imagination. Following Tolstoy, Machatý narrates the tragedy as flashbacks told by Pozdnyshev during a train journey.

Machatý has already an assured grip on the structure of the film. Recurrent images include train stations, thick clouds of smoke, and the four pendula of the clock. Machatýs grip gets stronger towards the end, after the statement "previously you liked Beethoven". We see Natasha's suicide attempt, Pozdnyshev's tenderness at her sickbed, the reconciliation, and then the Kreutzer Sonata scene ("Do you know The Kreutzer Sonata? It is terrible, it excites but does not give any satisfaction") with an excellent array of memorable reaction shots from the stupefied audience.

Machatý knows how to use pauses, even long ones, between the action scenes. The last part of the film is built like a suspense thriller. The end is devastating, and the only thing missing are Tolstoy's sermons against marriage and sex. Jan W. Speerger is good as Pozdnyshev.

The image of the film had low contrast in our presentation. There was like a slight reflection over the whole image not caused by the musicians' lights or the subtitling projection.

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