Cinema Lumiere - Sala Scorsese > 18:30


Grigorij Nikulin
Introduced by

Olaf Möller and Peter Bagrov


Wednesday 29/06/2016


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Screen adaptations of stage productions emerged at the end of Stalin’s era as the most chaste genre possible. Twice filtered by the censors – in the theatre and on the screen – they had little to do with the art of cinema and were unanimously despised by filmmakers. Grigorij Nikulin was aware of that: one of the few Soviet directors who combined theatre and film throughout his whole life, he never mixed the two. His previous stage production (Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters) was cinematized by others – faithfully, and that’s exactly what killed the film. This time he decided to ‘translate’ a play himself, changing the techniques fundamentally.
The Death of Pazuchin is a play by Michail Saltykov-Ščedrin, one of the greatest Russian satirists of the XIX century. The hyper-pathetic style of the Leningrad Bol’šoj Drama Theatre seemed archaic in Čechov or Gor’kij but paradoxically suited a grotesque comedy where all the passions revolve around death and inheritance. When transferring this to film Nikulin decided to turn a defect into an effect by using expressionist lighting and a subjective camera. Dmitrij Meschiev, the favourite pupil of the great Andrej Moskvin, applied his master’s style from The Overcoat and Ivan the Terrible and immediately gained the reputation of one of the best Soviet cameramen.
In Tsarist Russia Saltykov-Ščedrin’s comedy was banned with a verdict: “Characters presented there are set to prove that our society lies in a state of total moral devastation”. Nikulin and Meschiev used this as a guideline. “Nothing sacred” is the keynote of their film. Orthodox symbols are abused throughout the whole film with great taste and knowledge; halos, icons, erotic paintings and banknotes are filmed with equal affection; and the morals are pronounced by the two most degraded characters, shown upside down reflected in a puddle… Smert’ Pazuchina did not become a commercial success, but Nikulin and Meschiev were welcomed to the highbrow family of Leningrad filmmakers.

Peter Bagrov

Cast and Credits

Sog.: dall’omonima pièce di Michail Saltykov-Ščedrin. Scen.: Grigorij Nikulin. F.: Dmitrij Meschiev. Scgf.: Boris Burmistrov. Mus.: Aleksandr Manevič. Int.: Michail Trojanovskij (Ivan Prokofievič Pazuchin), Vitalij Policejmako (Prokofij Ivanyč Pazuchin), Nikolaj Korn (Furnačev), Anna Lisjanskaja (Nastas’ja Ivanovna), Ivan Efremov (Lobastov), Ol’ga Kaziko (Živoedova), Michail Ivanov (Živnovskij), Nikolaj Dmitriev (Baev), Ol’ga Vinding (Vasilisa Parfent’evna), Nina Urgant (Mavra Grigor’evna). Prod.: Lenfilm. 35mm. D.: 85’. Bn.