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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Dr. Zhivago is Sick

The Times of London reports that Russia has finally made its own movie out of Boris Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago, and it sucks:

Nana Nemsitsveridze, a pianist, told The Times that she and her husband had waited eagerly for the first episode and watched it together. Then they watched the Hollywood version again. “I remember my feelings when I watched it for the first time — it seemed very primitive,” she said.

“But now I can tell that the characters are more exact in the English version. They are simpler and maybe it’s better. Also, the sentences are very short. I don’t feel the style of Pasternak.”

The film also failed to impress the author’s son, Yevgeni, who accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature on his father’s behalf in 1989. He has denounced the new version and the 1965 film as caricatures.

Doctor Zhivago is one of several Soviet classics enjoying a television renaissance that some attribute to the increasingly repressive political climate under President Putin. In late December, nearly half of Russia’s television viewers watched a serialisation of The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov’s satirical novel.

In January viewers were able to see the debut of The First Circle, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novel about life in a prison camp under Stalin.

So instead of producing new Bulgakovs, Pasternaks and Solzhenitsins, Russia is dredging up the old ones. Instead of reading them, it's watching them on TV in a bastardized form. In fact, you could get The Master and Margarita even during Soviet Times, but in a bastardized translation that made it seem to be a satire of religion rather than the Soviet state that supressed virtually all of Bulgakov's great stage plays entirely. And while carrying out this revival, Russia does nothing to come to terms with the abuses these authors received when they were alive (Pasternak was not allowed to accept his Nobel prize, Solzhenitisin was exiled). Perhaps the Kremlin is attempting to control these protest art forms, which woud be fully consistent with Vladimir Putin's basic modus operandi, namely that there was nothing wrong with the USSR except some ham-handed Politburo members weren't sophisticated enough. After all, why ban Solzhenitsin when you can so easily co-opt him? It is, of course, rather ironic that these shows are appearing on television even as Putin consolidates KGB rule over Russia, the very thing these writers struggle their whole lives to prevent, while no modern-day writers have arisen to take their place.

In other words, it's S.N.A.F.U.


Anonymous said...

I am sorry: I can't see your point at all! They are adapting for television the masterpieces of some of the most prosecuted writers of the soviet era; they are making people discover or re-discover some of the most brilliant masterpieces of russian litterature (because,yes, once I saw the series I re-read the books and I know some people, younger than me, who discovered those books thanks to the series)and it's still not good for you... What's the link with the "increasingly repressive political climate"???? I suppose you didn't watch Master and Margarita series: there are even more explicit references to Stalin's repressive regime than in the book!!! Why should Putin-the-evil allow films about repressive regimes if he wants to make one himself? If you mean that it is a reaction against the "repressive climate",I won't quite agree either. The revolution (Dr Zhivago), the stalinist era, the Gulags are parts of our history: it is a natural phenomenon for now-days russian directors, actors, screenwriters to reflect about those things, to be inspired by them because it is something that touches them, something that is a part of their culture. It is the natural phenomenon of "digesting" key events of the history of a nation. It's like the Germans making a film about Hitler (I don't know if you saw it: Das Untergang-I don't know the title inEnglish). It is because it's something that's a part of their common past, a common trauma that they want to understand; it is not because they want Hitler back!!!
But then, perhaps I didn't really get your point... Try to look at things in another way than through your "russophobic" glasses or else you'll sound more and more caricature-like.
In a response to the author of one of the comments on your blog, you wrote that your blog gets plenty of hits. I am sorry to upset you but I guess that lots of people come to laugh at you....

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I forgot: if you are not that completely prejudiced against Russia, then perhaps you're paid by Mr Berezovsky???

Anonymous said...

"In fact, you could get The Master and Margarita even during Soviet Times, but in a bastardized translation that made it seem to be a satire of religion rather than the Soviet state that supressed virtually all of Bulgakov's great stage plays entirely."

What are you talking about??!! "Master i Margarita" was written in Russian, they didn't need to tanslate it!!

And Bulgakov's play "Dni Turbinyh" was shown many, many times in Moscow theaters!

Fro the rest, I agree with the commenter above!