Twenty-Six Days in the Life of Dostoyevsky was entered on February 16th at the 1981 Berlin Film Festival to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Dostoyevsky’s death on February 9th, 1881, and won a “Best Actor” award for Anatoly Solonitsyn as Dostoyevsky. Solonitsyn was a favorite actor in Andrei Tarkovsky’s films, and this was to be his penultimate role. This brief imaginary period in the famed Russian writer’s life encapsulates one of his darker moments in 1866. At that time he was still a relatively unknown writer whose first widely acclaimed work, Crime and Punishment, was just on the horizon. His life was at a very low ebb as he struggled with debts he could not pay, and as he fought depression over the loss of his wife to tuberculosis, and the death of his brother, who was very close to him. His first literary journal had to be scrapped because of political reasons, and the second venture needed funding. The police come to see him, sent by his publisher who is demanding recompense for debts overdue. Desperate to escape the pressure on all sides, Dostoyevsky decides to undertake the impossible and write the story of The Gambler in 26 days, thereby satisfying the debt to the publisher at least.The secretary who takes down the dictation for the book slowly becomes enamored of Dostoyevsky, whose foibles and passions are revealed in the autobiographical tale she is transcribing. As “The Gambler” himself, Dostoyevsky traveled through Europe in 1862, deeply involved in two disparate loves: gambling and Polina Suslova Ewa Szykulska. Before long, the secretary becomes more and more entwined in Dostoyevsky’s life as their relationship begins to blossom and the basis of a mutual love is formed. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, All Movie Guide
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