Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Igor Maslennikov: Bankrot - Банкрот (2009)

Director: Igor Maslennikov
Writer: Vladimir Valutskiy
Stars: Liya Akhedzhakova, Vladimir Akimov, Artem Anchukov

Director Igor Maslennikov finishes his trilogy about the history of capitalism in Russia In one of his interviews for the Rossiiskaya Gazeta (RG) Igor Maslennikov either jokingly or seriously confessed that our newspaper had motivated him to turn to ‘economic’ comedies written by Alexander Ostrovsky: “Reading RG I was impressed by the article titled ‘Information about the bankruptcy’. What is happening to this country, I thought, if thousands of these articles are published every Saturday? And I found the answers in Ostrovsky’s plays.” The main storyline of the film is a false bankruptcy; businessmen declare themselves bankrupt to avoid charges, and bill collections. The original plot is taken from the play ‘It's a Family Affair--We'll Settle It Ourselves’/ aka ‘Svoi ludi – sochtemsya.’ ‘Bankrupt’ is the final film in the trilogy about the history of capitalism in Russia based on Alexander Ostrovsky’s plays. The first film, ‘Russian Money’/ aka ‘Russkie Dengi,’ the script ofwhich was based on the play ‘Wolves and Sheep’/ aka ‘Volki I Ovtsy’ written by the director himself, was released in 2006. The premier screening of the film ‘No blood out of a stone’/ aka ‘Vzyatki Gladki’ based on the play ‘A Profitable Position’/ ‘Dokhodnoe Mesto’ is scheduled for this February. The scripts for this film and ‘Bankrupt’ were written by Vladimir Valutsky. Where will ‘Bankrupt’ be shot? - Since the St. Petersburg comedy ‘No blood out of a stone,’ about city officials who take bribes, was shot in St. Petersburg, then ‘Bankrupt,’ a story about Zamoskvorechye merchants, must be shot in Moscow locations – Bolotnaya Square, the side streets of Solyanka and Polyanka, Balchug and Vorobyovy Gory. But this is impossible, not due to financial or any other similar reasons. It is impossible to find these lively areas in the modern metropolis. There are no old streets; everything is filled with modern buildings and outdoor advertisements. That’s why we looked for something suitable in the suburbs. Some time ago, I found a place in Vologda when I visited the city’s Northern Light Festival. The city has amazingly remained a typically Russian city; it used to be wealthy and merchant. There are many old timber buildings, onion domes of churches (a large number of churches is a typical feature for Zamoskvorechye). We have already found the right backlots, and so the outdoor scenes will be shot there. What will be the cast of your film? - Leonid Kulagin as Bolshov Samson Silych, a merchant; Nina Usatova as Agraphena Kondratievna, his wife; Yuri Galtsev as Podkhalyuzin, their counterman; Yana Lakoba, a young and talented actress of the Alexandrinsky Theatre will play Lipochka, Bolshov’s daughter, who will marry Podkhalyuzin. Lia Akhedzhakova as a matchmaker, Zinaida Sharko as Fominishna, a housekeeper. Viktor Bychkov will take the part of Rispolozhensky, a solicitor. It’s a pleasure to work with good actors, no need to give long explanations. And the main goal is to bring this idea to life. A well-formed team is half of the director’s task. Your previous title ‘No blood out of a stone’ was backed by the Moscow city government. And who supported ‘Bankrupt’? - It’s state support again, namely of the Ministry of Culture. The finances are modest but we are used to saving money. Nobody is going to give large amounts for this film. Once they hear Ostrovsky’s name they make wry faces. But Ostrovsky is a brilliant playwright indeed and the author of wonderful plays. By the way, actors agree to take part in Ostrovsky’s screen adaptations without doubts and they don’t bargain over their fees. Actors lack good drama. Ostrovsky’s characters are lively, and have traits our writers can’t create. They compile storylines, actors recite their lines, but there are no feelings or emotions, and the viewers can’t get a sense of who is who. Ostrovsky’s plays are too theatrical of course and have become out of date in terms of the volume of text; there are many repetitions, which is a characteristic of modern plays, that’s why we had to exclude some parts. And this is a tough task since every character in Ostrovsky’s plays, even a supporting one, is entwined with the action, the relationships, and becomes very important; all the characters are interrelated, and each of them is special and lively. What do you think is the reason people prefer theatrical performances by A. Ostrovsky but the film industry understates this author? - The answer is simple. There are no mediators between the audience and theater. As an example, his plays are performed in 18 theaters and all of them are filled. But there are producers and distributors between television and movie audiences and the project, and they create their own system. We offered a stake in the film to a private company, but they were confident that since this is Ostrovsky they wouldn’t get a return on their investment. And one well-known screenwriter told me what the television management team said to him after reviewing the script: ‘There is no love triangle or adultery. We don’t need it.’ Such cheap mainstream content is targeted at the advertiser’s preferences and interests but not at the audience. These are wealthy people, their children study in England and the US, but we know about their roots and the reason why they have such rough tastes. They prefer to watch both Russian or foreign criminal fights, the fire scenes, and ice performances. And they invest their money in those productions but not in Ostrovsky’s plays’ adaptations! The audience may want to watch some good screen adaptations of literary classics but they are offered something different. And the genuinely good films are scheduled for late night hours when the advertisers either go to night clubs or casinos or sleep. ...

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