January 18th, 2011

drawing, old man

Under Yesteryear's Snowfall (1983), Deep Blue Sea, Light White Foam (1984), and some others

The film known as Падал прошлогодний снег is a cult classic of Russian animation made in 1983 by Aleksandr Tatarskiy. It became very popular soon after its release, and was also critically successful; it was Tatarskiy's first to be accepted into an international film festival, where it won a medal (Varna '83; for more about that story, read the "Land!" chapter of the director's 1986 essay).

With nearly 300 Russian animated film translations in existence, why hadn't someone attempted a translation of it? Simply, it's one of those notoriously difficult texts that depends so much on wordplay and expressions specific to the Russian language. So it was my joy to discover a few days ago that axmxz (who has done a lot to help me on translating a few films, but had never done a project of her own) has completed a wonderful translation of it. As far back as March 4, 2008, axmxz had sent me a message saying that her dream was to translate this movie. It took a while, but the end result is worth it! She really had a lot of fun with it, and the result is very much in the spirit of the film (quote from the translator: "Way more fun to translate cartoons than patent papers about nuclear waste management..." I love that!)

axmxz chose to translate the title as "Under Yesteryear's Snowfall". Another translation that you may have seen is "Last Year's Snow Was Falling".

(to turn on the subtitles, click on CC in the lower-right corner):

The subtitle file can be downloaded here (UPD: link updated to 2011-02-13 version of subtitles). Actually, there was also an earlier translation made in September by neo1024 which I had missed. You can download that one here (nobody has uploaded it to a video site yet).

Some personal thoughts: It seemed to me when I first saw it (and still kind of does) that the logical place for the film to end would have been at the halfway point, and everything after that was made because Tatarskiy just couldn't let go of his character. The film has a few major themes. One of them is that it's not good to be too greedy. Another one is that fairy tales rarely tell the whole truth. The narrator is constantly trying to turn what's happening on the screen into a moral, and sometimes succeeds, but the main character refuses to stop living just because the "point" has already been made. And the wacky fairy tale turns decidedly sober at the end, with the poor protagonist being hugged by the crow who had been bothering him the whole time. Have fun while you're alive, the film seems to say, but don't forget what it means to be human.

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