n Slavic Almanac : The South African Journal for Slavic, Central and Eastern European Studies - 1909-2009 : a hundred years of Gogol adaptations in Russian and Soviet cinema

Volume 15, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1025-3386


From the birth of Russian cinema in 1908-1909, up to the present day, the works of Gogol have generated more than thirty adaptations in Russia / the USSR. In a country where paying literary tribute to the classics was an inherent cultural practice during the 20th century, such an interest on the part of filmmakers in one of the pillars of the national literary heritage seems self-explanatory. Yet, an analysis of these adaptations shows that the choice of Gogol has often come in response to various external cultural factors : the popularity of literary cinema in the pre-revolutionary period; experiments with cinematic techniques during the 1920s (the issue of the transferability of the Gogolian and other aspects of the writer's prose is central to several important theoretical works of the time (Tynianov, Eisenstein)); and attempts to promote the classics under Zhdanov. These contexts have naturally influenced the aesthetics of the films. During The Thaw, while literary topics allowed filmmakers to bypass censorship, the works of Gogol were reinvestigated by the Soviet filmmakers in an allegorical way (I. Iliienko). Since 1991, in the context of the contemporary trend of repeated references to national cultural values, filmmakers have had a double-edged relationship with Gogol's works. On the one hand, Gogolian satire still encourages them to draw thematic parallels between the two eras, and on the other, the level of interest in Gogol today often stems from purely commercial considerations.

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