Scen.: Vera Panova. F.: Vladimir Čumak. Scgf.: Aleksej Rudjakov. Mus.: Boris Čajkovskij. Int.: Natalija Bogunova (la ragazza), Nikolaj Burljaev (il ragazzo), Antonina Bendova (Tanja), Tamara Konovalova (Nadja), Pavel Kormunin (l’animatore), Valentina Čemberg (domestica), Ljudmila Šagalova (la donna alla stazione balneare), Evgenija Uvarova (infermiera alla maternità). Prod.: Lenfilm. DCP. D.: 70’. Col.
Mal’čik i devočka is by no means a love story. It is rather an existential drama, which changes its many subgenres and visual styles constantly. The vibrant eccentric colours of the opening scenes literally fade by the middle of the picture, only to be resurrected in the finale in a new quality (Vladimir Čumak’s brilliant photography alone makes the film worth seeing). All that must have irritated the censors, but these things were difficult to formulate. So the film was mostly criticized for immorality. The Minister of Film insisted on cutting out a completely innocent shot of two lovers peacefully sleeping in the grass. The director Julij Fajt cut it right in the projection booth, just before the screening. He stole the shot, and half-a-century later handed it over to Gosfilmofond, the Russian film archive – which was the first step in this restoration.
Mal’čik i devočka was not one of the scandalously banned films. A banned film instantly became famous, so the authorities came up with a much more refined way of sending a film into oblivion. If a film was assigned to the second or third category, it meant that no more than a couple dozen prints would be made for the whole Soviet Union, and even these few were mostly screened in small provincial towns.
This is exactly what happened to Mal’čik i devočka. Not only was it placed in the lowest category, but Fajt was forbidden from making fiction films and blacklisted from travelling abroad. His informal rehabilitation happened only ten years later, but, as he recalled, “a different man returned”. Fajt continued working, in fact he is still making films. But the “bloodless banning” of Mal’čik i devočka marked the end of a most promising, brilliant and smooth career.
Fajt belonged to the ‘cinematic aristocracy’. His father, Andrej Fajt, was a silent film star, the Soviet ‘man you love to hate’. So Julij was raised in the film world, he even had a bit part in Ėjzenštejn’s Ivan the Terrible. He graduated from VGIK where his classmate was Andrej Tarkovskij (Fajt starred in Tarkovskij’s first film, The Killers). Boris Barnet and Michail Romm supervised his first short, and after its success he was immediately offered a job at Lenfilm, one of the best film companies in the country. Four years later he made Mal’čik i devočka. Today it is considered a classic of the Soviet New Wave, which reached its peak in the mid-1960s. That’s when the Thaw ended, and Stagnation began with all its consequences.