Thursday, 24 November 2011

Andrei Tarkovsky, Marika Beiku, Aleksandr Gordon:The Killers - Убийцы (1956)

Directors: Marika Beiku, Aleksandr Gordon,Andrei Tarkovsky
Writers: Ernest Hemingway (short story), Aleksandr Gordon (screenplay),
Stars: Yuli Fait, Aleksandr Gordon, Valentin Vinogradov

The Killers is an adaptation of a short story by Ernest Hemingway. The story is divided into three scenes. The first and third scenes were directed by Beiku and Tarkovsky, the second by Gordon.
The first scene shows Nick Adams (Yuli Fait) observing two gangsters (Valentin Vinogradov and Boris Novikov) in black coats and black hats entering a small-town diner where Adams is eating. They tell the owner, George (Aleksandr Gordon), that they are searching for the boxer Ole Andreson and that they want to kill him. They tie up Nick Adams and the cook, and wait for Ole Andreson to appear. Three customers enter the restaurant and are sent away by George. One of the customers is played by Tarkovsky, who whistles Lullaby of Birdland.
The second scene shows Nick Adams visiting Ole Andreson (Vasili Shukshin) in his hide-out, a small room. He warns Andreson about the two gangsters, but Andreson is resigned to his fate and unwilling to flee.
The third scene shows Adams returning to the diner and informing the owner of Andreson's decision. ...

Because our institute didn't have enough equipment, the students had to work on films in twos and threes. The two of us asked a fellow student, Marika Beiku, to work with us. We chose her because she was kind and easy going. The story of how we shot Hemingway's The Killers is a simple one. In the spring Romm told us what we would have to do — shoot only indoors, use just a small group of actors and base the story on some dramatic event. It was Tarkovsky's idea to produce The Killers. The parts were to be played by fellow students — Nick Adams by Yuli Fait, Ole Anderson the former boxer, of course, by Vasily Shukshin. The murderers were Valentin Vinogradov, a directing student, and Boris Novikov, an acting student. I played the cafe owner.
The institute had very few props. We brought everything from home, from relatives and friends. I remember Andrei brought a round wall clock and his grandmother's small case for Shukshin. In the institute studio we fixed up an American bar (something that was regarded as the symbol of depravity) with bottles that bore foreign labels. It was a major event in the institute; students came to the set on guided tours.

We divided the story into three parts. I was in charge of the scene with the boxer Shukshin. The main scene in the cafe where the murderers, who were wearing black coats, hats and gloves, waited for their victim. Andrei and Marika did that, but Andrei was definitely in charge. Tarkovsky was serious about his work, but jolly at the same time. He gave the camera students, Alvarez and Rybin, plenty of time to do the lighting well. He created long pauses, generated lots of tension in those pauses, and demanded that the actors be natural. There was no music, just talking and the whistling of one of the bar custmers, played by Andrei himself.

Romm praised the film. And our fellow students liked it too. ...

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