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Allow me to voice my ideas on this subject. In my humble opinion, you wrote a superb diary about Russian cinema, an interesting subject for which there appears to be little comprehensive coverage available in English. That seems to me to be a subject perfectly suited to European Tribune (ET) where some readers surely come by in hope of getting a glimpse of familiar and unfamiliar European countries, with their many political issues, and of every facet of culture here. Therefore, you have done ET readers a service. Unfortunately, the Internet is the marketplace of yesteryear expanded to the nth degree, grouping all kinds of people, often most unlikely bedfellows. You could write your heart out on a topic that you feel strongly about, and at least one of the people in the marketplace would surely label your contribution "troll." For that reason, you have to write to satisfy yourself.  I cannot help but believe that you yourself must feel that you did an excellent job on your diary. That's what counts. Accolades are gratifying, but they're still icing on a cake that has to please you personally.

The Russian cinema, in my opinion, gives insight into tastes not only of Russian filmmakers but also of Russian audiences since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Therefore, the subject must be interesting to those watching the development of events in a country that's such an important international player. I was especially interested in The Island because public treatment of religious topics will probably long remain a novelty to me after observing the ruthless persecution of religions in the USSR for a very long time. I particularly appreciated the performance of Pyotr Mamonov as Father Anatoli. He's also a well-know musician, poet and translator of English. I chuckled over the exchange in the clip when Father Iov (Dmitry Dyuzhev) drags in a coffin, explaining how to improve the looks of it, and Father Anatoli says dryly: "Мне гроб нужен, не буфет" (I need a coffin, not a buffet).

by Anthony Williamson on Fri May 23rd, 2008 at 09:33:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this comment.

Allow me to voice my ideas on this subject. In my humble opinion, you wrote a superb diary about Russian cinema, an interesting subject for which there appears to be little comprehensive coverage available in English. That seems to me to be a subject perfectly suited to European Tribune (ET) where some readers surely come by in hope of getting a glimpse of familiar and unfamiliar European countries, with their many political issues, and of every facet of culture here. Therefore, you have done ET readers a service. Unfortunately, the Internet is the marketplace of yesteryear expanded to the nth degree, grouping all kinds of people, often most unlikely bedfellows. You could write your heart out on a topic that you feel strongly about, and at least one of the people in the marketplace would surely label your contribution "troll." For that reason, you have to write to satisfy yourself.  I cannot help but believe that you yourself must feel that you did an excellent job on your diary. That's what counts. Accolades are gratifying, but they're still icing on a cake that has to please you personally.

Thank you, and I do write to satisfy myself, and I did do this mostly to address my own curiosity on the subject.  But I also do it because I want other people to care and you can't make people care.  Over on Sean's Russia Blog there was a post talking about a new Politkovskaya documentary, and how it probably won't get much play in Russia, and how some people will interpret that fact as proof of everything they fear about Russian totalitarianism - censorship.  But in fact, it's a matter of economics - all film is - and there is probably not a big audience for such a documentary.  Anyway, I try to make people care about such things so they don't just believe everything they read in the papers...

The Russian cinema, in my opinion, gives insight into tastes not only of Russian filmmakers but also of Russian audiences since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Yes.  (see above comment.)

Therefore, the subject must be interesting to those watching the development of events in a country that's such an important international player. I was especially interested in The Island because public treatment of religious topics will probably long remain a novelty to me after observing the ruthless persecution of religions in the USSR for a very long time. I particularly appreciated the performance of Pyotr Mamonov as Father Anatoli. He's also a well-know musician, poet and translator of English. I chuckled over the exchange in the clip when Father Iov (Dmitry Dyuzhev) drags in a coffin, explaining how to improve the looks of it, and Father Anatoli says dryly: "Мне гроб нужен, не буфет" (I need a coffin, not a buffet).

It's a great film.  I am just worried about jumping from one frying pan into another.  Religious ideology can be every bit as totalitarian and oppressive as Political ideology.  And I do not accept the argument that this is some celebration of newly gained religious freedom, because while the Orthodox Church is wildly popular, other religions are not so well-accepted, such as Protestantism, Judaism and Islam (depending on what region you are in.)  Some of this is political maneuvering, some of it is just variations of racism.  The Island doesn't celebrate or signify religious freedom, but religious freedom for those who are Orthodox and the primacy of their religion.  It's a beautiful film and I am glad it could be made.  But it doesn't make me optimistic.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri May 23rd, 2008 at 12:54:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Russian Orthodoxy is intricately intertwined with Russian nationalism. The Church does not suffer competition from other churches gladly. Young Russians polled recently about whether they were Russian Orthodox answered in many a case: "Yes, of course, I'm a Russian." It was the state religion under the tsars and survived the brutal persecution of the commissars, albeit not unscathed, both physically and morally. In some quarters, the Church seems to have returned to some of its regrettable old ways before the Revolution, like not being able to bring itself to issue resolute condemnations of anti-Semitism, which some people even accuse it of still promoting in Russia. Russian nationalists continue to be embroiled in bitter arguments about whether Dmitri Medvedev has Jewish roots and is therefore unsuited to be president of Russia. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz had a good article about this.

Soviet films invariably showed religion - Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism etc. - as harmful superstition befuddling the mind. One such film ridicules an old peasant woman who often prays to her icons and is caught by her husband invoking an old folk belief by trying to entice the spirit of the hearth into a shoe for the move with her family to a new home. During a period of some liberalization known as the "Khrushchev thaw," the antiwar film The Cranes Are Flying with Tatyana Samoilova was released (1957). In that film, Boris's grandmother makes the sign of the cross on him before he leaves for the war. That was considered "daring" at the time, although it fitted Soviet stereotypes of old people unable to rid themselves of religious superstition. It was not for nothing that Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, told Soviet media that he hadn't seen any angels up there. Many a Russian Christian was doubtless hurt by his remark.

Anna Politkovskaya is another case typical of modern Russian society. Just a handful of Russians insist on knowing the whole truth about her murder and the people behind it. Vladimir Putin was right when he said the case was more important to foreigners than to Russians. Nor are Russians clamoring for democratic elections or democratic media.

These are all ideas with potential for great films.

by Anthony Williamson on Sat May 24th, 2008 at 04:24:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was not for nothing that Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, told Soviet media that he hadn't seen any angels up there. Many a Russian Christian was doubtless hurt by his remark.

So what?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat May 24th, 2008 at 07:03:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I didn't make the Gagarin remark clear. The comment by the top hero of his day in the USSR
was hailed as a contribution underpinning Soviet teachings against religion. The brutal persecution of religious denominations, including the execution as well as the imprisonment of the clergy, is one of the darkest chapters of Soviet history. It's one of the many Soviet themes that might offer subjects for the Russian cinema today.
by Anthony Williamson on Sun May 25th, 2008 at 06:59:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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