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quietearth [Celluloid 03.19.12] Russia drama

Konstantin Lopushansky, protege of auteur Andrei Tarkovsky is working on his next which unfortunately is not a Strugatsky adaptation or even science fiction. A drama set in 1919 which he will both write and direct, the story revolves around a man pulling a doppleganger on a Red Army leader. We've included more details below and some choice trailers for Lopushansky's works.

Here's the details we received from the production company. I've excluded the spoilers. No release date has been set as Lopushansky is now running the funding route and just received his first dispensation. Unfortunately no further information is available.

The story begins in Siberia in 1919. A young provincial actor, Nicholas Yevlakhov, a true follower of Yevreinov's theories, shuttles from one railroad station to another together with White Guards seeking refuge from the Red Army and their partisans. Close to the Rytva station, the Reds manage to capture General Rhodenberg's train. Yevlakhov and his wife, Natalie, are passengers. When the station comes under attack from the Whites, the two rebels commanding the unit, Plotnikov and Spiridonov, decide to shoot all the captured officers. To cull the military officers from the civilians on board, Plotnikov lines his prisoners up and stares into their face, convinced his “revolutionary conscience” will rightly tell him who should live and who should die.

He stops in front of Yevlakhov and then moves on. Yevlakhov will live. But then he comes back and stares at the actor. Although Yevlakhov has a beard and is wearing a woman’s scarf around his neck, he looks exactly like Plotnikov. The actor sees the striking similarity, too, and wonders what fate has in store for him. But Plotnikov is interrupted before he decides. Enemy cavalry breaks through the defense perimeter. Plotnikov shouts to Spiridonov to sort it out and rushes into the battle, where he is killed. Spiridonov orders all the prisoners shot, but in the confusion of battle many of them, including Yevlakhov and his wife, manage to escape.

The curious encounter with Plotnikov keeps Yevlakhov up at night. What had it been – the seal of fate or just happenstance? Strongly under the influence of symbolist traditions and Yevreinov's theories, he considers the event as his only chance to become a truly great actor. He is further tempted when he learns that although Plotnikov’s death had been witnessed by many, his body has never been recovered and buried.

Yevlakhov starts collecting information on Plotnikov, a Red leader well known in Siberia. He continues his search continued in Finland where he manages to emigrate after the Civil War. Local smugglers even help him to get hold of Plotnikov's archives kept in a Suberian museum.

The idea of performing this unprecedented role obsesses Yevlakhov. Natalie comes to believe his is mentally ill and appeals to a psychoanalyst, Dr.Schoffmann, for help. But all their efforts to stop him are in vain.

Yevlakhov crafts a legend and Plotnikov-Yevlakhov crosses the border, again with the help of local smugglers. The curtain rises and the performance begins.

Director's statement about the film:
Many written sources dealing with the Russian revolution and Civil war mention the art of performance and a kind of playfulness that seem incompatible with that cruel time. It is odder still that this attention to performance was on both sides of the barricades. But perhaps it is not so strange: Revolutions have always been made by performing personalities, but in Russia this revolutionary performance art was intensified by the symbolist ideology that exhorted people to play their lives.

In the world of symbolism inhabited by the writers Alexander Blok, Andrei Bely, Valery Bryusov, Nikolai Gumilev, and N.Yevreinov, revolution occurred internally as well as externally. The new Soviet worldview and the aesthetics of symbolism, however incompatibale they seemed, merged, mutually transformed each other, and forged the complicated artistic world of the 1920s. The fictional Yevlakhov was a true man of his times.

The film is about a unique experiment in acting, when art demands “never reading, but defeat and death,” as Boris Pasternak wrote. But to my mind, the script is about something else… in fact, this grand experiment is a pretext to explore other things under the surface.

For me, the focal point of the story is the theme of the doppelganger – doubles –the “white” actor Yevlakhov and the “red” leader Plotnikov. The two men are tragically linked at a railroad station in Siberia. The link cannot be broken. The film is the story of how Yevlakhov studies the soul of the other man, how he delves into an alien world, how he becomes obsessed with that unfathomable – to him – world. Since Yevlakhov is an actor, he can only do this through acting; the hero’s path would be different if he were a painter or writer. This is key to understanding Yevlakhov’s nature. In essence, Yevlakhov resurrects Plotnikov, who died at the Rytva train station, and follows his fate to its tragic end.

It’s important to show that Plotnikov could have no other fate. Yevlakhov, a gifted psychologist, must have known this when he began to recreate his character’s life. This heroic performance demanded sacrifice, including the sacrifice of life itself.

Another, equally important problem is that of the world recreated by Yevlakhov, the world in which he and his hero are doomed to cohabitate. For me, the world of the film is close to, if not exactly like, the world of Andrei Platonov’s fiction, which serves as the imaginary and metaphorical starting point for the visual world of the film. But there is another Russian writer whose fictional world has relevance to this hero – Fyodor Dostoevsky. What Dostoevsky only tragically guessed or predicted was to become Platonov's reality: a world where God is long dead and man is left behind, orphaned on the empty and cold earth.

Indeed, the title of the film might be Reflections on Dostoyevsky or Raskolnikov Forty Years Later. This is the role Yevlakhov is playing. He writes his life’s theme as someone who knows Dostoevsky’s writings intimately and understands the direct relationship between the writer's prophecies and the realities of life. This is emphasized with indirect philosophical associations with Dostoyevsky's works in all the main tragic episodes of the script. In fact, the plot itself is reminiscent of the twisted world Dostoyevsky's characters inhabited.

These considerations about the characters and Russian literary traditions define the visual world of the film. It will be shot in black and white, but printed on color film, which results in an illusion of color (similar to my film, Letters From a Dead Man, which was perceived as a color film although it was monochrome). This will allow us to extensively use documentary footage with post-production compositing in order to seamlessly submerge the actors into the reality of the past (a technique I used on my two most recent films). This is not so much a measure of economy, but rather a way of achieving a higher level of veracity than through reconstruction.

Ultimately, the film will strive to be “true to life.” This usually means that directors select actors who ressemble their characters’ analogs in old photographs. However, I don’t believe that is the way to go for this film (with the exception of secondary parts, minor episodes, etc.). The unique dramatic possibilities of the script need Russia’s top actors – not for their fame, but for the abilities and creativity.

I lied, here are some of Luposhansky's full films on youtube complete with English subtitles.

And one trailer for Ugly Swans (Gadkie Lebedi), my personal favorite.

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Pedro G (9 years ago) Reply

Do you know where can I buy his movies? Thank you very much for the information regarding 'The Role Of A Lifetime'.

Thanks in advance!

Best regards,

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