Filming the other Russian classics

When Russian novels make it to the big screen it is usually because they either already have enough melodrama to turn them into marketable films (Doctor Zhivago) or because screenwriting assassins can be found to cut out the wordy parts and stick to the scenes of carriage rides, furtive kisses and duels. Recently though, a couple adaptations from the more fantastic and strange side of the country’s literary tradition have been announced.

Director Richard Ayoade (“Submarine”) is slated to direct a version of Dostoevsky’s The Double starring Jesse Eisenberg as Golyadkin and co-starring Jesse Eisenberg as Golyadkin’s double. There actually are a lot of films called “The Double,” yet except for a Russian silent version none of them seem to have anything to do with Dostoevsky. Unless of course films about CIA agents and Soviet assassins, or Eric Roberts carrying out an astral projection of his body during a plane crash (as good a time as any, I suppose) were just the work of the Russian master put in a modern guise.

The other story going to celluloid is Gogol’s Overcoat, though in this case as an animated film. Irish public broadcaster RTÉ is sponsoring the showing of a 30-minute adaptation of the seminal short story at this year’s Cartoon Forum in Sopot, Poland (Sept 13-16). The film appears to be an Irish, UK, Polish collaboration though the picture illustrating the film of a boy sleeping as a bearded accordion player enters the room does not remind me of anything in Gogol’s story.

Speaking of doubles, there is actually another animated version of “The Overcoat” in the works by the great Russian animator Yuriy Norshteyn, co-written with Russian writer Lyudmila Petrushevskaya . Norshteyn has been working on the adaptation since 1981 and if it remains unfinished next year he is reportedly set to become the record holder for having the longest film production time in history.

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Categories: Books on Film


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  1. Dostoevsky’s The Gambler | literalab - 18/01/2012

    […] The Gambler The number of films based on the writings of Fyodor Dostoevsky is approaching the 200 mark, which is not quite Dickens territory (324 according to IMDB) but […]

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