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Saturday, 16 January 2010

Chekhov adaptations in Russian/Soviet film.

In today's Guardian an editorial is dedicated to Anton Pavlovich Chekhov with the title 'Still the One to Trust' stating that his plays were the one's that lasted the best of all. Very true, although I have think his stories are still the best of Chekhov (though I have read too few of them). Chekhov was perhaps the most adapted author on Russian and Soviet screens. Soloviev has made some valiant efforts and even Mikhalkov's 'An Unfinished Piece for the Mechanical Piano' is worthy of mention (whatever one may think of Mikhalkov himself). Kheifits, Annensky, Bondarchuk, Lotianu were all to make their own well-known and loved adaptations of Chekhov's stories. Above are two of the more recent adaptations - a trailer for Shakhnazarov's 'Ward No. 6' which was premiered at the Moscow International Film Festival in June last year and shown at the Russian Film Festival in London this Autumn and Muratova's excellent 'Chekhovian Motifs' which I saw at the Moscow Film Festival in 2002. Her incredibly lengthy marriage scene is wonderful as is the earlier part of the film - this passage shows a family argument over money but in Muratova's inimitable style.

If there is a Chekhov in Russian cinema it is surely Boris Barnet. I think that Neya Zorkaya made this argument in one of her articles and it is undoubtedly true that his ability to merge comic elements with tragedy is Chekhovian to the hilt. Though Barnet himself never worked on a Chekhov adaptation. Of Chekhov's major plays adapted to the Soviet screen I think Konchalovsky's 'Uncle Vanya' & Karasik's 'The Seagull' are the immediate ones that come to mind. Not (as far as I remember) masterpieces like Konchalovsky's adaptation of Turgensky 'A Nest of Nobility' but both definitely worth a viewing.

Other significant films from Chekhov (which I have yet to watch) have been Dykhovichny's 'The Black Monk' & Sniezhkin's 'Marigolds in Flower' which was less of an adaptation and more of a transposition of a Chekhovian spirit at least according to contemporary reviews.

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