Dostoevsky on Film

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by RayS, Dec 19, 2015.

  1. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower Thread Starter

    Location:
    Out of My Element
    Last night I saw the 1935 Hollywood version of "Crime and Punishment" for the first time. Peter Lorre (who I think was a terrific actor) is miscast as Raskolnikov. He looks every bit of his 30+ years in the scene where he graduates from college (in a weird, minimalist setting that looks borrowed from a 1920's German silent film), and he is psychotic from the word "go", so we really don't get to see any evolution (or devolution) in the character across the film. Big chunks of the book's plot are cut out (including the second murder) which comes as little surprise. On the whole, this film is a big miss. I've seen the earlier of the two BBC TV versions (John Hurt is Raskolnikov in the first one, then plays the inspector in the second one) and I have seen a Russian version (both via YouTube). Looking at imdb, there are even more interpretations on the way (apart from the 25+ that Wikipedia mentions as existing).

    Anyway, if anyone shares this interest, I'm curious to hear other people's experiences and opinions with Dostoevsky's work being brought to the movie or TV screen.

    Here's one fairly recent one:

     
  2. Raylinds

    Raylinds Resident Lake Surfer

    I am a huge Dostoevsky fan and reread his books every few years. I was introduced to his work in a graduate class on existentialism where we read an excerpt from the Brothers Karamazov called The Grand Inquisitor on the Nature of Man. Something about that really resonated with me and I quickly got all of his novels that I still have to this day.

    I have always avoided any films of his novels because there is no way Hollywood could do them justice, but I will watch this thread with interest in case something promising turns up. One of my favorites is The Idiot, and I know there are several movies of that.

    Thanks for starting this thread RayS!
     
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  3. Adam9

    Adam9 Senior Member

    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    I haven't seen (or even heard of) any film adaptations. I think they would be difficult to do as there is so much psyclology in his works. I read a lot of his stuff at school and recently read House Of The Dead for the first time. That might be easier to do with all of the eccentric chararcters in the prison camp.
    Somewhat off-topic but I though the (70's?) BBC adaptation of Tolstoy's War and Peace was brilliant.
     
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  4. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower Thread Starter

    Location:
    Out of My Element
    You have great taste in literature! :) Whenever I am "between books" and am sitting waiting somewhere (at the DMV, for instance) for more than a few minutes, I find myself re-reading "Notes From Underground", which is always at the ready on my Kindle and my phone.

    "The Idiot" is a rare instance where two of my favorites cross paths - Dostoevsky and Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa made his film version of "The Idiot" in 1951. It's available in its entirety on YouTube if you are so inclined.



    For me, the film captures some of the elements of the book but misses others.

    I saw a theatrical production of "Notes From Underground" in 2010 - that may be the closest I've come to someone really capturing the essence of a Dostoevsky work. It was a three person production (two actors and an instrumentalist), so many of the scenes from the second half of the novel (the dinner with the old "comrades", for instance) were described rather than acted out.
     
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  5. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower Thread Starter

    Location:
    Out of My Element
    By the way, for those with access to Watch TCM Online, "Crime and Punishment" is available on demand until December 23rd.
     
  6. John B Good

    John B Good Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    NS, Canada
    Don't think I've ever seen a film version of any of his novels, but always wondered if Forrest Gump owed something to The Idiot.

    I hope to get to The Demons (I once read it as The Possessed) next year. Begs to be made a movie of, terrorism.
     
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  7. Captain Wiggette

    Captain Wiggette Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle
    I was just going to mention this!

    I read the book after having watched the film, as I'm a HUGE Kurosawa fan.

    Also, just to note, the 'entirety' of what is left of the film is available on Youtube. Kurosawa's lengthy version of the film was sliced by the studio and large portions replaced with text plates summarizing missing plot. Sadly, no copies of the original film material that was removed exist today (that anybody is aware of), so the full length of the film may never be recovered. :(

    I also will point out that it should be in higher quality on Hulu, through the Criterion collection:

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/223247?utm_source=site&utm_medium=play&utm_campaign=criterion
     
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  8. JozefK

    JozefK Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dixie
    I don't much care for Dostoevsky. His philosophy doesn't appeal to me, and while in college I was friends with a guy who went total Fyodor fanboy -- he wanted to talk about nothing else, quoting long sections from "The Grand Inquisitor", sometimes accosting complete strangers in restaurants to spread his gospel of existentialism. It was like something out of a movie -- it would have been comic if it were happening to someone else.

    Anyway re movie versions:

    There was a Hollywood Karamazov from MGM in 1958, starring Yul Brynner. Purists will surely find it lacking; those only expecting a star vehicle should be satisfied.

    There is also a German version from 1931 on YouTube (note for the real old-time movie buffs: this is the film that convinced Sam Goldwyn to sign leading lady Anna Sten as a rival to Garbo and Dietrich -- her Hollywood films would fail famously, so much so that she even ended up in the lyrics of Cole Porter's "Anything Goes").

    Crime & Punishment: A French version was made the same year as the Lorre, considered superior by most who have seen it. There is also a Hollywood version with George Hamilton (!) from the late '50s by the Sanders Bros, best known for their Oscar-winning short A Time Out Of War.

    The Gambler was loosely Americanized and updated in 1974 with James Caan.
     
  9. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower Thread Starter

    Location:
    Out of My Element
    I used to accost people in public like that all the time, but since my liver started bothering me I mostly stay in.
     
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  10. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower Thread Starter

    Location:
    Out of My Element
    "The Student", a 2014 interpretation of "Crime and Punishment" set in modern day Kazakhstan, is free on Amazon Prime. I'm going to give it a go some time over the next couple of days. "The Double" (the trailer that was in my first post) was free on Prime when I saw it but is now a pay option.
     
  11. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower Thread Starter

    Location:
    Out of My Element
    "The Student" turned out to be disappointing. It has some elements of the "Crime and Punishment" story, but since the lead character is silent for 95% of the movie, and we are not privy to any interior monologue, the motivations for his violent actions are unclear (apart from some dialog near the end of the film, which doesn't add up to a whole lot).
     
  12. Dennis Metz

    Dennis Metz Born In A Motor City!

    Location:
    Fonthill, Ontario
    At least you think it's your liver:cheers:
     
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  13. lbangs

    lbangs Forum Resident

    I really enjoyed The Double, Dostoyevsky by way of Brazil.

    Shalom, y'all!

    L. Bangs
     
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  14. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower Thread Starter

    Location:
    Out of My Element
    Yes, I'd say that's a pretty apt "sound byte" review.
     
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  15. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower Thread Starter

    Location:
    Out of My Element
    There's a 4 part production of "Demons" made by Russian TV in 2014 currently available for "free" on Amazon Prime for anyone interested. I watched half of the first installment last night - they chose to start with an event from near the end of the book, and then go into flashbacks. Nice production value for "made for TV" - I'm sure I'll watch the whole thing over the next few days.
     
  16. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Chevelle Ma Belle

    Location:
    Mid Atlantic
    I don't know if this counts but Leos Janacek wrote an opera on House of the Dead. It is a very effective work. I have the DVD with Boulez conducting but there are several others.

    Prokofiev wrote an opera on The Gambler which has DVDs from Barenboim and Gergiev currently available. Other than those two I can't think of another Dostoyevsky based opera.
     
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  17. Raylinds

    Raylinds Resident Lake Surfer

    Thanks for that- will need to check it out.
     
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  18. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower Thread Starter

    Location:
    Out of My Element
    I've watched all 4 parts. It jumps around a bit, and of course some pieces of the novel had to be left out. My contention would be with what they added IN - not that there's much of it, but what there is is bothersome (including a coda that made no sense to me). Definitely worth a look for fans of the novel.
     
  19. IronWaffle

    IronWaffle It’s all over now, baby blue

    Robert Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar references Dostoevsky and, if not a literal adaptation, owes a debt to his The Idiot (Идио́т):


    Several years ago I was fortunate to catch this during a series of weekly screenings that alternated between the films of Robert Bresson and Yasujiro Ozu at the National Gallery of Art. Most of Bresson's films were met by a brief silence before the audiences filed out, seemingly indifferent. This was one of two exceptions. After the methodical prison escape film A Man Escaped, the audience gave a solid applause, likely due to the film's muted but recognizable genre tropes and cathartic ending. This film, on the other hand, was met with a response somewhere in between: a brief silence followed by a long period where a large chunk of the audience commiserated.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
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  20. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower Thread Starter

    Location:
    Out of My Element
    Apart from "Demons" there are two Russian TV versions of "Crime and Punishment" currently available on Amazon Prime. The earlier one (1970) is in two parts, totally about 3:30. The later one (2006?) is one part running about two hours. Interestingly, they derive from a nearly identical script (with the 2006 script being edited down, obviously). Either is worth a view, IMO.
     
  21. There are a few relatively newer films that seem to borrow from Dostoevsky's works. Besides The Double, in the same year there was a movie called Enemy that plays off the double motif. Interestingly the novel which the movie is based off of is called, The Double. The Machinist 2004 reminds me something Dostoevsky would write and there are some easter eggs in the film that are a nod to Dostoevsky. An animated swedish film in 2009 called Metropia reminded me of Dostoevsky or Kafka. Also, the Gambler and the main character from Hellraiser (like Alexei Ivanovich) on a bad trip.
     
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  22. John B Good

    John B Good Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    NS, Canada
    Anyone give me any clue on how this showed up? I am very disappointed.

    https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B078HYTZNR/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    I wanted to watch a movie version of The Idiot before getting to the novel (which I last read in the 1960s).

    Nothing on the Amazon Canadian site indicated this did not have either an English dubbed soundtrack, or at least English sub-titles, but here I am with a DVD that has a choice (offered in English! on the menu) of only Japanese or Korean subtitles. :(
     
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  23. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower Thread Starter

    Location:
    Out of My Element
    I've come across some cheapo Kurosawa DVDs (earlier films) on which the subtitles have clearly gone through a difficult Japanese -> Chinese -> English process, making them borderline nonsensical. But your purchase sounds worse.
     
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  24. John B Good

    John B Good Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    NS, Canada
    I can say I enjoyed the film as to atmosphere and the incidental music (tho there wasn't much of it) and the face of the actor playing the The Idiot was remarkable, but I may be asking Amazon for a refund :(

    I'll need to read the book to have more of a clue as to what was going on...

    Amazon listings for movies and DVD are often lamentable but this one really stung.
     
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  25. masswriter

    masswriter Minister At Large

    Location:
    New England
    This is the best version of The Idiot that I have watched:

    ENGLISH SUBTITLES. Directed by Vladimir Bortko Produced by Valery Todorovsky Music by Igor Kornelyuk Credited cast: Evgeny Mironov, Lidiya Velezheva, Vladimir Mashkov, Aleksandr Lazarev, Oleg Basilashvili, Inna Churikova, Olga Budina, Aleksandr Domogarov, Aleksey Petrenko, Vladimir Ilyin, Mikhail Boyarsky, Anastasiya Melnikova, Maria Kiseleva... Based on the novel of Fyodor Dostoevsky “The Idiot” Count Myshkin comes back to Russia from Switzerland where he was under care in psychiatric hospital. He meets Parfen Rogozhin on a train on his way to St.Petersburg. Rogozhin tells Myshkin about his passionate love for Nastasia Filippovna who used to be a kept-woman of millionaire Totsky. When the count gets to Petersburg, he comes to the house of his distant relative Epanchina who is a wife of a general. Myshkin meets Epanchina’s husband, their daughters, and general’s secretary Ganya Ivolgin. Nastasia Filippovna’s portrait that was accidentally spotted by the count on the general’s table creates a big impression on Myshkin… This incarnation of ”The Idiot” is arguably the first which portrays Dostoyevsky’s entire novel; earlier versions have focused on only the first part, or the main storyline. No effort was spared in reproducing period detail; several museums provided fabric and lace for the costumes.
     

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