Sog.: from the play Platonov (1881) by Anton Čechov. Scen.: Aleksandr Adabaš’jan, Nikita Michalkov. F.: Pavel Lebešev. M.: Ljudmila Eljan. Mus.: Ėduard Artem’ev. Int.: Aleksandr Kaljagin (Michail Vasil’evič Platonov), Elena Solovej (Sof’ja Egorovna Vojniceva), Evgenija Glušenko (Sašen’ka), Antonina Šuranova (Anna Petrovna Vojniceva), Jurij Bogatyrëv (Sergey Pavlovič Vojnicev). Prod.: Mosfil’m. DCP. Col.
Mikhalkov based this Chekhovian film on play Platonov, a comedy the dramatist wrote when he was 17 years old. The beginning, even if well directed, is a little bit boring: once again a Soviet filmmaker masterfully copies a Russian classic. For what reason? But it quickly liberates itself from the theatre. Czarist society is shown in all its splendour: rifts, vanity, doubts and, as you would expect from Chekhov, dark forebodings about its transience. That a muzik can play a piano is a scandalous event, almost a revolution. But it was only a mechanical piano. The nobility and bourgeoisie are perfectly balanced between yes and no, what denies their very existence and what – for now – reassures their supremacy. And yet everything is creaking. The only servant obeys poorly and is already becoming stuck up. Sentimental games tend to- ward comedy-drama, as in The Rules of the Game. The ridiculous desire to ‘do something’ to stop history is connected to examinations of conscience, self-pity, and childish or exorbitant plans: feed the children of farmers, empower women, run off with another partner to start over again and, why not, die. Platonov decides to drown himself but, like the Tramp in Modern Times, immerses himself in 50cm of water; Sergey Voynitsev, whose wife cheats on him right in front of his eyes, orders a carriage that will never leave because there are no more horses. As in Wajda’s The Wedding, a world forgets that it is dying while dreaming of defending itself. The beauty of the images, the skilful way they are connected, the authenticity of the locations and the characters call for comparison with another poet of decadence, I would say Visconti – if Visconti had been more often sarcastic than bitter.
Barthélemy Amengual, “Positif”, n. 195-196, July-August 1977
I feel very close to Chekhov because he does not answer the questions he asks. His favourite punctuation mark is not the period, question mark or exclamation mark, but the ellipsis… Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, with all their undeniable greatness and power, struggle to teach us something. Instead, Chekhov teaches himself in the company of his readers… As sitting room heroes, Chekhov’s characters seek an answer they will never find. I don’t know this answer. I’m not even sure that knowing it would make me happier. What is important is the search for truth, which is happiness… I’m not an antiquarian: in Neokonchennaya I tried to avoid the entire ‘last stage of society in decline’ quality. I think the film deals with a very immediate problem: how an individual must find his place in the world.
Nikita Mikhalkov, interviewed by Pierre Murat, “Télérama”, 25 April 1979