Friday, 24 September 2010

Lev Kulidzhanov: Crime And Punishment - Преступление и наказание (1969)

Director: Lev Kulidzhanov
Actors: George Taratorkin, Innocent Smoktunovsky , Tatiana Bedova ,
Yefim Kopelyan, Evgeny Lebedev, Viktor Fyodorov, Maya Bulgakov

1970 Soviet film in two parts directed by Lev Kulidzhanov, based on the eponymous novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Filmed in the novel's original setting of St. Petersburg, this epic 1969 adaptation features a host of seasoned Russian actors, making one of cinema's definitive takes, writes Anthony Nield.

A homegrown interpretation of Dostoevsky's classic novel,Lev Kulidzhanov's Crime and Punishment was shot in black and white widescreen with a host of celebrated Soviet performers. The combination of Dostoevsky's tongue and intended setting, not to mention the requisite length with which to tell his tale, adds up to one of cinema's more definitive takes.

Not that Kulidzhanov concerns himself with strict reality. The opening credits unfold over a dream sequence, one that's marked by its use of freeze frames, jump cuts and slow motion. It immediately puts us inside the mind of Raskolnikov, the ex-student who will soon commit premeditated murder to test his theory that he is a 'great man' and therefore exempt from moral codes. From this point onwards we are firmly with him throughout his deterioration. We hear the internal monologue and are subjected to further dream sequences (though nightmare would be more applicable) in a style that is often woozy or oppressive.

Many of the actors may not be recognisable to UK viewers (with the possible exception of Innokenty Smoktunovksy, who had played Hamlet for Grigori Kozintsev in 1964), though that only adds to the sense of place. We’re assured of the quality of the performers, but are unlikely to be distracted by their other roles. Instead they are free to settle into their parts and the authentically Russian locations, creating a screen version of Crime and Punishment with an added advantage over the many of the others.

For all the style Kulidzhanov never loses sight of his performers. Georgi Taratorkin is superb in the lead, visibly weakening as the film progresses to the point where, oddly enough, he reminds of Terence Stamp's Toby Dammit in Federico Fellini's portion of Histoires extraordinaires (Spirits of the Dead); a usually handsome actor reduced to his own sickly, pale shadow.

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