August 12th, 2009

drawing, old man

Mumu (1987, Valentin Karavayev)

I subtitled this film ( profile) a long time ago, but only uploaded it online in May of this year. This is an adaptation of a story written by Ivan Turgenev in 1854 that is very well-known in Russia. The film was directed in 1987 by Valentin Karavayev (best known for the films starring Kesha the Parrot), using the cut-out animation technique.

An English translation by Contance Garnett of the original story can be read here.

Some of my own thoughts:

There is a lot to like about the film, and though it is sad, it is often also very beautiful. My favourite thing of all may be the outstanding animation of the little dog, which really made me think of it as a living creature.

I think that the ending in this film wasn't quite there, personally; it left out a few important details from the story that I think are crucial to it (especially if one hasn't read the story beforehand). First - in the story, the old lady at the end wants Gerasim back & acts horrified by what has happened (paralleling the scene of the killing of the fly, at the beginning of this film - a very smart addition to the film that wasn't in the original). But in the film, we do not see her reaction. Second, I think that mentioning what happened to Gerasim after his return would have been important. Third, his psychological state isn't made very clear at the end in the film. Someone who sees the film before reading the story may naturally ask "why doesn't Gerasim go with his dog to his village instead of killing her?" In the story, he kills Mumu because he promised to the head steward after everyone surrounded his house, and he does not break promises. He had to promise to do it because if he did not, they were going to do it themselves - he's strong, but not strong enough to fight everyone off. And he couldn't just leave - he was a serf, bound to the place by law. In the written story, he only gets away because the old lady soon dies and her heirs have no time to worry about him.
drawing, old man

Kolobok (2006, Vladlen Barbè)

Kolobok is a traditional Russian fairy-tale that is very similar to "The Gingerbread Man" (it existed earlier, though). "Kolobok" means "dough ball".

This 2006 film by Vladlen Barbè ( profile) shows that even the simplest of fairy tales can have a core of something very serious behind them. As such, although there is nothing "age-restricted" about it, this film is really more for adults. It is a ballad about individualism, and the modern world.

"Kolobok" won 10 awards from various domestic and international film festivals, which are listed (in Russian) here.

It is very different from Barbè's very first (also brilliant) film, "The Box of Pencil Crayons" (I wrote about it earlier), which was made in 1985.

Translation/subtitles made by me.

Dina Radbel, in the Ukrainian "Rossiya" newspaper, wrote about its screening at the 2007 Open Russian Festival of Animated Film:

After the screening, people were shouting: "Thank you, Vlad!". That is the degree to which "Kolobok" moved them. In this backwards version of the tale, Kolobok does not run away from anyone. He runs away just once, from his parents. Nobody else gives a damn about him, one way or the other. The Wolf, Hare, and Fox are given their own complex fates by the director, in which there is no place for Kolobok. The only people who need him are the ones who made him.

Larisa Malyukova has a similar view of the plot:

Kolobok slammed the door of his parents' house. Now completely free, he yells out to the stars: "Here I am!" But the world isn't waiting for him with open arms. Nobody needs Kolobok, nobody even tries to eat him.


The film has a somewhat complex production history. Vladimir Odinokov writes:
"Kolobok" was originally conceived as a 3D film, but Konstantin convinced Barbè to make it in an unusual form of cutout animation using MOHO (which allows one to deform the drawings, using skeletons)
There were four of us working on it...
But "Classica Studio" entered a dark period after they were expelled from the Central Studio for Documentary Film, and everything went quiet...
The studio was re-energized after around a year, and they offered us the chance to finish "Kolobok", but the four of us already had other stable jobs, and it was unrealistic to make the film in our spare time, and we didn't want to risk dropping everything to finish "Kolobok". So obviously, Barbè began making it in 3D...

Also, 3D became "hip", and 2D became old-fashioned...
What a sad joke...

Here is a frame from the version of the film which was being made with cutout animation: