Friday, December 18, 2015

Vremya zhelany / Time of Desires

Yuli Raizman: Время желаний / Vremya zhelany / Time of Desires (SU 1984) starring Vera Alentova as Svetlana Vasilyevna.

Время желаний / Vremja zhelani / Toiveiden aika / Förhoppningarnas tid.
    SU 1984. PC: Mosfilm. P: Vladimir Zeitlin.
    D: Juli Raizman / Yuli Raizman. SC: Anatoli Grebnev. DP: Nikolai Olonovski / Nikolai Olonovsky. PD: Tatjana Lapshina / Tatyana Lapshina. Cost: Nadezhda Buzina. Makeup: Irina Kirejeva / Irina Kireyeva. M: Aleksandr Beljajev / Aleksandr Belyayev. ED: Galina Patrikejeva / Galina Patrikeyeva. S: Igor Urvantsev.
    C: Vera Alentova (Svetlana Vasilyevna), Anatoli Papanov (Vladimir Lobanov), Tatyana Yegorova (Mila), Vladislav Strzhelchik (Nikolai Nikolayevich, composer), Aleksei Mikhaylov (Valeri), Vladimir Antonik (Dima), Stanislav Zhitaryov (Lyosha Yeremeyev), Boris Ivanov (Andrei Sergeyevich).
    Soviet premiere: September 1984. Helsinki premiere: 21.12.1984 Kosmos 1, released by: Kosmos-Filmi – VET 92174 – S – 2810 m / 103 min
    A vintage KAVI 35 mm Orwocolor print (deposited by Kosmos-Filmi) with Finnish / Swedish subtitles.
    Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Yuli Raizman), 18 Dec 2015

Time of Desires, Yuli Raizman's final film, had its premiere on the eve of perestroika and glasnost. Raizman was 80 years old; he lived to see the full period of change, dying at 90 just before his 91th birthday. Making Time of Desires he was the oldest still active Soviet director. He had been working without a break during seven decades as a director, screenwriter, and in charge of a production unit, even fleetingly as an actor in a bit part (as a pharmacist's assistant in Pudovkin's Chess Fever).

Many Soviet films of the stagnation and glasnost periods (including even Abuladze's momentous Repentance) were sclerotic and needlessly prolonged, carrying the curse of the planned economy mentality: the longer the film the higher the bonus.

None of that happened with Raizman. Neither does Time of Desires belong to the special class of veterans' final films with a senior master's aesthetics such as The Countess from Hong Kong (Chaplin), Gertrud (Dreyer), or L'innocente (Visconti).

Time of Desires is a film of wisdom, crisp, witty, and acutely aware of the conditions of life in the contemporary Soviet Union. There is nothing archaic, nostalgic or stylized here.

Raizman's Time of Desires and Private Life are Chekhovian films. As in "Dama s sobachkoi" ("The Lady with the Dog") there is here is a woman alone visiting a popular holiday resort. And as in "Poprygunya" ("The Grasshopper") the wife proves fatal to the husband. The narratives and the characters in Chekhov and Raizman's works are quite different, but the affinity runs deep. There is something similar in the sagaciousness about people and the simple yet complex art of observation.

Chekhov has been criticized, by Sophie Laffitte and Irmeli Niemi, among others, for his misogynist streak. One could imagine how Chekhov might have handled Time of Desires. In this aspect Raizman is more sophisticated. Even in his stories of "strange women" he is never misogynistic. What Svetlana accomplishes in Time of Desires is catastrophic, but we understand that she is a victim, as well.

Watching the film I was thinking about Donald Winnicott's distinction between "true self" and "false self". In his own way, considered as too humble by Svetlana, Vladimir Lobanov has found his true self. With her relentless energy and talent Svetlana focuses on changing Vladimir so totally that he becomes a stranger in his own life. Vladimir's weakness is his passivity. He is unable to resist the acts of Svetlana whom he truly loves. Svetlana's tragic weakness is that she has never found her true self. She has no life of her own. She lives through her husband, and when the husband's circumstances prove too modest, she changes them. She is an ingenious opportunist, and she, too, really loves her spouse in her own way and is faithful, devoted and committed. (Maybe even too much so). Vladimir dies of heartbreak. Both lose everything.

Svetlana is a memorable anti-heroine. She is a survivor, a player, an arranger. Truth has no meaning for her. She bends facts at will. Both Vladimir and another man interested in her, the composer Nikolai Nikolayevich, see through her lies but are fascinated by her all the same. And even though she has been exposed she goes on in her truth-ignoring fashion. Her perseverence is remarkable, but there is also something self-destructive in her behaviour.

One way to sum up Time of Desires is to say it is a tragedy of living in a lie.

The performances are excellent, including smaller roles. The veteran Anatoli Papanov creates a character who is very laid back and whose refined qualities emerge gradually. The impact of his performance keeps growing after the screening. Vera Alentova had become a star known by everybody in her performance in Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears. Before that he had played one of the nurses in Miklós Jancsó's The Red and the White. Her Svetlana is an expert swimmer in the turmoil of life, but there is a sense that her inner core is somnolent. To convey that is difficult, and Vera Alentova succeeds in it very well.

In the most disturbing sequence of the movie, as Svetlana is preparing to sell her apartment, a man from her past, Valya, appears. He, too, has keys to the apartment. He is an ex-lover, a married man, drunk and violent. He rapes Svetlana. It is also because Svetlana abhors men like him that she has selected Vladimir. I do not know how common it was for a Soviet film to depict sexual violence. The scene is very convincing and disturbing, making its point with clarity without being explicit or exploitative.

The most elegic sequence is the one at the dacha full of memories dear to Vladimir since childhood. Thanks to Svetlana, it, too, has to go.

The middle-aged Vladimir (his first wife has died and he has a grown-up son) is in great physical shape. He exercises and always walks to the office. Until Svetlana comes along. After Vladimir's promotion to a senior position, there is a company car. Vladimir's health breaks down.

According to Mia Öhman (her source: Mosfilm. 90 shagov. "Vremja zhelani") Time of Desires is the third part of Raizman's Gubanov trilogy (The Communist, Your Contemporary, Time of Desires). Svetlana Vasilyevna is the daughter of Vasili Gubanov (Jr.) (Your Contemporary) and the granddaughter of Vasili Gubanov (Sr.) (The Communist). In Time of Desires the name Gubanov never appears. In fact, when Svetlana is asked what her family name is she replies: "I won't tell".

Ten years later Russia was sucked into a vortex of predatory private enterprise and a ruthless stealing mentality. Perhaps Svetlana is already a figure of the coming age. She advances her private goals and only protects those who protect her. She has no social conscience.

The print is used with splices invisible to the viewer and fine rain in the changeovers, but the visual quality is brilliant. The colour is perfect, and there is the fine soft detail typical for a print of a first generation. If this print has not been struck from the negative it is at least not far removed from it.


"Yuli Raizman [--] has an exceptional understanding of women. He has been making films for years, he is now about 90 years old, and has almost always placed women characters in the centre of his films."  - Maria Zvereva

Juli Raizman olisi voinut lopettaa pitkän uransa viimeistään Oscar-ehdokkaaksikin nousseeseen Yksityiselämään (Tshastnaja zhizn, 1982), mutta perestroikan kynnyksellä valmistui vielä Toiveiden aika. Raizmania pyydettiin muuttamaan elokuvan nimi, mutta hän kieltäytyi ehdottomasti. Nimi on linkki kahteen aikaisempaan elokuvaan, joissa kerrotaan Vasili Gubanoveista: Aamunkoitteessa (Kommunist, 1957) ja Sinun aikalaisesi (Tvoi sovremennik, 1968), jonka nimi oli vielä kuvausvaiheessa Vremja trevog i nadezhd eli Huolen ja toiveiden aika.

Päähenkilö on alkuperäisen kommunisti-Gubanovin lapsenlapsi. Rooliin Raizman pyysi Vera Alentovan, joka oli esittänyt ikimuistettavasti Katjaa Vladimir Menshovin elokuvassa Moskova ei usko kyyneliin (Moskva slezam ne verit, 1979). Katjan tarinan olivat nähneet lähes kaikki neuvostoliittolaiset, joten Alentova esittämässä täysin erilaista henkilöä, itse asiassa neuvostoelokuvassa täysin uutta naistyyppiä, sai katsojat hämilleen.

Svetlana Vasiljevna haluaa mennä naimisiin kiltin ja luotettavan, itseään vanhemman miehen kanssa. Aikaisempi suhde naimissa olevaan, karkeakäytöksiseen mieheen on ollut pettymys. Svetlana löytää sopivan sulhasen, Vladimir Lobanovin, ja alkaa rakentaa puitteita hyvälle elämälle keinoja kaihtamatta. Kaiken haluamisen arvoisen saa vaihtamalla, järjestämällä tai jotenkin suhteilla hankkimalla.

Raizman kuvasi keskeisen kohtauksen, jossa Svetlana tutustuu miehensä huvilaan, vasta kun lunta oli satanut riittävästi. Maalaisidylli on täydellinen, mies haaveilee rauhallisesta elämästä, mutta Svetlanalla on jo valmis suunnitelma. Hän tarkistaa mökin ja ilmoittaa tuomionsa: laitetaan kuntoon ja myydään pois. Vladimir ei halua luopua paikasta, jossa on viettänyt lapsuutensa. Tästä keskustelusta lähtien molemmille on selvää, etteivät erilaiset elämänkatsomukset kohtaa. Onni on saavuttamattomissa, mutta rauhan säilyttämiseksi toimitaan kuten Svetlana haluaa. Ja Svetlana haluaa kaiken saavutettavissa olevan eikä ymmärrä, miksi joku ei haluaisi.

Miespääosaan kokeiltiin mm. Georg Zhzhonovia, mutta Raizman ei ollut tyytyväinen. Lopulta harvoin isoja rooleja tehnyt, mutta paljon elokuvissa näytellyt Anatoli Papanov (mm. Belorusski vokzal, 1970) sopi aviomiehen rooliin täydellisesti. Neuvostokriitikko Neja Zorkaja näkee Papanovin työskentelyssä paljon samaa hiljaista huumoria kuin legendaarisen Boris Shtshukinin roolityössä lähes 50 vuotta aikaisemmassa Raizmanin ohjauksessa Lentäjät (Ljotshiki, 1935). Mielenkiintoinen sivuhenkilö on heti elokuvan alussa esiteltävä säveltäjä Nikolai (Vladislav Strzheltshik), joka näkee Svetlanan läpi, mutta lumoutuu silti tästä erikoisesta naisesta. Svetlanaa taiteilijan suoruus ei imartele.

Svetlana on kuin huippuunsa viritetty kone, joka suoriutuu ketterästi monimutkaisista haasteista. Pitkin matkaa vihjataan kuitenkin, että Svetlanasta on tullut sellainen kuin on olosuhteiden pakosta. Koskettavimmillaan Svetlanan henkilö on kohtauksessa entisen miehen kanssa, kun tilanne riistäytyy käsistä, ja tullessaan tapaamisesta kotiin väsyneenä, ilman mitään päälle vedettyä roolia. Ihailtavalla sinnikkyydellä hän kokoaa itsensä ja tervehtii Vladimirin vieraita, ennen kuin kaatuu uupuneena vuoteeseen.

Aviomies Vladimirin mielestä Svetlanaa ei voi syyttää siitä, miten tämä on oppinut toimimaan, kun "naisten täytyy nykyään pärjätä omillaan". Yli kaksikymmenminuuttinen jakso, jossa näytetään Svetlanan normaali päivä, on melkoista taiteilua eri roolien esittämisestä ja asioiden järjestämisestä fyysiseen paikasta toiseen siirtymiseen. 80-vuotiaan ohjaajan terävät huomiot moskovalaisesta arjesta ihastuttivat ja ihmetyttivät yleisöä.

Lopetus on julma, mutta koko venäläisen elokuvan historian huomioon ottaen ainoa mahdollinen. Historiasta on kysymys: yhteiskunnan muuttumisesta, kommunismin muuttumisesta, ihmisten muuttumisesta.

Mia Öhman 18.12.2015

Lähteitä: Neja Zorkaja: Raizman: sgustki istorii, Iskusstvo Kino 2/2004 Mosfilm. 90 shagov. "Vremja zhelani"

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