суббота, 25 июля 2009 г.

Well-known Russian writer, film director and actor Vasily Shukshin would have turned 80 on July 25th, 2009.


By Lyubov Tsarevskaya

Vasily Shukshin lived a frustratingly short life — just 45 years. But in the incomplete 20 years of intensive creative effort he managed to achieve so much, becoming an acknowledged author, actor and film director.

Shukshin was born in Altai region in 1929, in the old village of Srostki. His father was executed by the Bolsheviks, and his mother was forced to bring her children up all alone. Vasily went off to work when still a teenager, and tried his hand at numerous trades: he served in the Navy, was director of a school in his own native village. So when at 25 Shukshin arrived in Moscow to enter the directing department of the Institute of Cinematography, he boasted quite an impressive life experience. An unprepossessing-looking fellow in an army shirt and boots, he was obviously less versed in the sciences than other applicants, yet one could definitely sense in him a genuine inherent talent, besides the fact that he had his own opinions and outlook on art. The pedagogues of the Cinematography institute were initially fearful of enrolling him: blunt to a fault, he didn’t seem to know what could be said, and what should be kept to oneself. Shukshin attracted the attention of well-known at the time film director Mikhail Romm, who placed his trust in the young man. At the exam he asked Shukshin about Tolstoy's novel "War and Peace". However, it transpired the young fellow hadn't read it! "Too thick a book. I can't seem to get round to reading it," quipped Shukshin.

Romm frowned: «What kind of school director are you!? You are not a cultured man. No… You cannot be a film director." Suddenly Shukshin began yelling at him: “And do you know what it is to be a school director? You need to obtain a decent supply of wood for the winter, then go out and chop it up so the youngsters don't get too cold. Then you need to somehow get all the required textbooks, fix the broken school desks, find lodging for the teachers… hardly time left for book reading…”

Romm's answer was remarkable: “Only a very talented person could espouse such untraditional views. I am giving him a top mark.”

Shukshin was a remarkable actor, a unique film director and a truly writer of the people. All of Shukshin's art was devoted to rural life — the Russian village, which he loved deeply and which he knew inside-out. His “minor homeland” nourished his art, supplying it with characters, story-lines, tableaus and details of daily life. In his early literary works and films Shukshin injected motifs of moral superiority of the peasant environment over the city one. However, there gradually appeared other accents — anguish and concern over the destruction of the peasant mode of life. Indeed, in the second half of the 20th century village youth, tempted by the city life, tended to leave the rural areas en masse. With only the elderly folk staying on, many villages were practically deserted and died out. But that was not the worst of it. A peasant who moved to town, did not become a regular town dweller and ceased to be a villager, too. The entire gallery of Shukshin's character portraits is a manifestation of the human drama of one who finds himself without roots, in other words, without morals, traditions, without a past, and is rendered thus capable of the very worst. This theme was most fully revealed in Shukshin's later films, particularly in the film "Red Snowball Bush", where he doubled as film director and lead actor.

The character of the film is a criminal who, upon being released from prison yet again, finds himself in a situation when he is receives a powerful moral and emotional upheaval, as a result of which he feels deep remorse for all his sins. He had literally wasted 40 years of his life. A desperate attempt to alter the course of his life, change his inner self, is a failure: his own conscience cannot forgive his numerous sins and failings and leads to a tragic finale.

The film “Red Snowball Bush” received the top award of the PanUnion film festival of 1974 and was shown at many international festivals. Italian critics ranked it alongside world cinema masterpieces of the 70s, while the French wrote that "Shukshin's name was worthy of being relegated by experts to the encyclopedias, and by viewers — to their hearts.” Possibly, in this film the author succeeded in full measure to express what in common life he defined by the simple words: "Conscience, conscience, conscience… This is what should never disappear.”

Vasily Shukshin died at the height of his artistic career, during the filming of the movie “They Fought for Their Motherland”. He left behind a rich legacy of books, films, which raise eternal moral problems, and as such — are timeless and always topical…


Vasily Shukshin's story "A top-class driver" is possible to listen here

Source:The Voice of Russia

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