Jolly Cinema > 15:30


Nadežda Koševerova, Mihail Šapiro

Saint Petersburg native Nadezhda Nikoleyevna Kosheverova (1902-1989) was first an actress in the theatre before turning to cinema in the late 1920s. She studied at Kozintsev and Trauberg’s FEKS, and remained with them from The New Babylon on. After being an assistant director on the Maxim trilogy (1935-1938), she became a director at the Lenfilm studio. Her second film Arinka, a comedy about everyday life in the countryside (a train driver in love with the switch-woman, complete with songs and the inevitable saboteur) was a great success: with 22.9 million spectators it was the third most profitable film of 1940. That same year, her medium- length Galya was forbidden. The uncanny story of a teenage girl who resolves, while her father is away fighting in the war against Finland, to complete the heroic statue that he started, causing confusion among the cultural officials, did not find appreciation amongst those same officials. The father-daughter relationship that would reappear in her work is already noticeable, as is her pictorial style: Leningrad’s landscapes look like miniature works of art. In 1944 she began a collaboration with director Mikhail Shapiro with a film of Tchaikovsky’s opera Cherevichki, based on Gogol’s short story. Her taste for the fantastic would flourish with Zolushka, which attracted 18.3 million spectators in 1947. After that film, screenwriter and playwright Evgeny Schwartz wrote a screenplay for Kosheverova and Shapiro, Dva druga (Two Friends), which they would only be able to film in 1963 under the title Kain XVIII (Cain XVIII). In 1971 she also adapted Schwartz’s play Tyen (The Shadow), which had been banned in 1940. Until 1987 she filmed regularly, mostly making children’s films, musicals, comedies and fairytales (Oslinaya shkura, The Donkey’s Hide, 1982). She worked three times with Klimenti Mints, the screenwriter of Barnet’s film By the Bluest of Seas, from the avant-garde group OBERIU, and occasionally worked again with actors from Zolushka such as Faina Ranevskaya (Ostorozhno, babushka!, Be Careful, Grandma!, 1960) or Erast Garin (Kain XVIII).

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz


Sunday 30/08/2020


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Upon returning to a war-torn Leningrad, Nadezhda Kosheverova filmed a fairytale. With Zolushka she turned her back on reality and took a resolutely aesthetic perspective. Faithful to individuals and ideas, she surrounded herself with close collaborators and longtime friends. Theatre director and production designer Nikolay Akimov (1901- 1968) had been her first husband (in 1953 she would film his production of Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin’s Teni/ Shadows). He had been collaborating for 20 years with the playwright and satirist Evgeny Schwartz (1896-1958), who wrote the screenplay. Schwartz wrote plays that incorporated fairytale elements with contemporary allusions (here, to name one example, about the importance of being well-connected) – and his vitriolic humour earned him numerous bans. He wasn’t taking that risk with Zolushka but, instead of making a fairytale that conformed to the dominant ideology, as Aleksandr Ptushko was doing in his films, he wrote lines that would delight Soviet audiences for a long time afterwards.
Unlike Ptushko’s Kamennyy tsvetok (The Stone Flower) made in Moscow and filmed in Sovcolor the previous year, Zolushka had to be shot in black and white. However, Nikolay Akimov’s colour sketches have been preserved (many of those sketches have been published in colour in Peter Bagrov’s book, Zolushka, zhiteli skazochnogo korolevstva, ZAO, Moscow 2011) and they give an idea of the intense desire to create a synthetic world, evoking miniature art, book illustrators or theater decorators at the end of the 19th century.
Kosheverova’s co-director was Mikhail Shapiro (1908-1971), also from Leningrad, for the second of their three collaborations. Above all, she fought to give the main role to Yanina Zheymo (1909- 1987), one of FEKS’s greatest talents (in two short films by Antonina Kudriavtseva, Schwartz had created for Zheymo the comic character of Lenochka), despite her age. “We don’t need”, said Kosheverova, “a budding sexuality to make the role a success, but a kindness, spontaneity and child-like innocence. And no one can play that better than Yanina Zheymo. Even at the age of 37”. She was supported by enthusiastic actors Erast Garin and Faina Ranevskaya. This creative reunion made the film an immediate and lasting success, achieving the dubious triumph of being colourised in 2009.

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz       

Cast and Credits

Sog.: dalla fiaba omonima di Charles Perrault. Scen.: Evgenij Švarc. F.: Evgenij Šapiro. M.: Valentina Mironova. Scgf.: Nikolaj Akimov. Mus.: Antonio Spadavekkia. Int.: Janina Žejmo (Zoluska), Aleksej Konsovskij (il principe), Ėrast Garin (il re), Faina Ranevskaja (la matrigna), Vasilij Merkur’ev (forestale), Aleksandr Rumnev (Pas-de-trois), Varvara Mjasnikova (fata), Igor’ Klimenkov (paggio). Prod.: Lenfil’m. 35mm. Bn.