The first “Elegy” by Alexander Sokurov appeared in 1984. The legendary fame of the great Russian singer Fiodor Shaliapin, the fame that was still alive in his homeland, resisted to the official tendency of reproaching him for emigrating from Russia. When Sokurov, whose first films seemed to be buried forever in the closed film archives and whose every new work was stopped in the very beginning, made his “Elegy” — without financing, supported only by the enthusiasm of his team, — the Leningrad Documentary Films Productions tried to legalize the film, but with no success. The answer of the highest cinema officials was: “Shaliapin is not forgiven.” It was the time when Shaliapin had not yet got the “imperial” pardon.
The film is centred on the reburial of Shaliapin from les Batignolles cemetery in Paris to Novo–Devitchye cemetery in Moscow. The daughters from Shaliapin’s second marriage came to this ceremony to Moscow and then to Leningrad. It was quite an official event timed to the jubilee of Soviet–French diplomatic relations.
Sokurov used Shaliapin’s destiny, Shaliapin’s name, Shaliapin’s “Elegy” as facts of Russian life and culture, as a point of reference on his scale of values. In the film the family, the children, the home are important parts of History. All these touching photos, reminiscences, details do not appear to be just details of a private life, but important links in a historical and cultural epos. The archive images are submitted not to an exact chronology of facts, but to a logic of interior individual experience. The archive footage of the post–revolutionary Petrograd, documentary plans filmed in the beginning of 1920th in a hungry Russia and in a western music–hall find their place in the story of Shaliapin not as illustrations of objective historical and biographical narration, but as expressive outbursts of somebody’s anxious, acute and suffering memory.
347MB | 27m 36s | 624×448 | avi