Aleksandr Zarkhi – Dvadtsat shest dney iz zhizni Dostoevskogo AKA 26 Days in the Life of Dostoyevsky (1981)

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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. Continue reading

Aleksandr Zarkhi – Anna Karenina (1967)

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After several previous attempts by foreign directors who miss the mark, this Russian film version of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel Anna Karenina most accurately follows the Tolstoy novel and remains superior to all other versions to date. It concerns the struggle of a woman to find her place in Russian society. Anna (Tatiana Samoilova) is shunned by society when she leaves her older husband and small son for the dashing young cavalry officer Vronsky (Vassili Lanovai). The officer is torn between his love for Anna and his social and military responsibilities. Bolshoi ballet star Maia Plisetskaya is the noble Princess who at first helps Anna, then turns her back on her. Anna is caught between the worlds of high society and privilege and the downtrodden peasants who are victimized by the economic elite. She tries desperately to follow her heart as she is harshly judged by society for trying to find her place. Continue reading