This disturbing image appears in several articles about the film, and will be the cover of the DVD. The path takes him from here to the Gulag, from there to the camps.
Nikolina Gora, Serge Prokofiev's dacha.
On April 14 at the new Mariyinsky Theater in St. Petersburg the film "Prokofiev: En Route",
directed by Anne Matison and starring Valery Gergiev and Konstantin Khabensky,
was screened for the press.
Serguei Prokofieff Jr.
The release of a new film about Sergei Prokofiev should have been a great event, especially for his descendants, since, alas, nothing of distinction has appeared on the screen in some time—with the exception of the successful (but regrettably short) Canadian film "The Unfinished Diary".
For me personally it was odd to learn about the appearance of the new project only on the internet. One would think that questions would have arisen during the filming, but for the young people involved (and the director is very young) such questions did not arise, since they evidently felt they had the answers to everything and never doubted the rightness of their thinking.
But such is hardly, hardly the case. Such is evident by the comments of the director published on various websites (links below) after the film was unveiled on April 14. All of the postings are similar and there’s no point in looking at each and every one of them, since they are all of a piece. Here is what the director says and what I think about it.
- "The non-documentary part of the film was shot with the participation of Konstantin Khabensky in Prokofiev's actual dacha. The dacha was put on the market and for many years was left abandoned, untouched. It contained recordings of the composer's music, his books and personal items. They will be sent to the various Prokofiev museums."
First, it’s completely senseless to assert that the dacha contained these materials. What personal items?!
What recordings?! What books?!
After the death of Mira Mendelson (the composer's second wife, for those who don't know) everything—everything—that belonged to Prokofiev, from his recordings to his manuscripts and piano was in accordance with Mira Mendelson's will and her personal wishes transferred to the Glinka Museum. What was left was a rather humble and meagre residence, whose contents were listed in a disgraceful (it must be said) document that I have in my possession. After the matter was litigated and a buyout arranged the dacha came into the possession of Lina Prokofiev (Prokofiev's first wife) and his two sons Svyatoslav and Oleg. The dacha was vacant with the exception of a pair of "lame" stools, a buffet… I saw it myself. The director's disturbed fantasy about the contents of the dacha attest to her lack of knowledge of the matter and incompetence in general.
From the time of the transfer almost 40 (!) years passed. In 2007, when we bid farewell to the dacha, I spent a week there, going through what was left. Some of the things that remained were given to friends and acquaintances, since we weren’t physically able to take everything with us and had no need to. There was nothing of value in the dacha (none of the recordings, books, and personal items that the director imagines) when we lived there in the summer, and nothing of value after we left in the winter. There was no point is keeping anything there since Nikolina Gora was routinely targeted by thieves, especially in the winter.
There were numerous books in the dacha, but most were recent publications from Lina Prokofiev’s personal collection as well as our own, since we didn't have space for them in the city in our “luxurious” apartment of 26 square meters. Some of the older books came from the library of Prokofiev's son Svyatoslav. They had never belonged to the composer.
- "They will be sent to the various Prokofiev museums."
And how many such museums are there? Of the places that might fit this definition there is only one, in the former village of Sontsovka, now Krasnoye, outside of Donetsk, Ukraine. There are no others. The possibility that my old coat will be given to his museum as one of Prokofiev's "personal items"” rather amuses me. It would truly be funny if it weren't so sad.
- According to the director it took more time to obtain rights for the music used in the film than to make the film itself.
If a director starts to make a film about a famous composer without receiving permission to use the music from the publishers it indicates that the director is either incompetent or inadequately financed or both. Given that a lot of attention is given in the film to Mr. Gergiev, who is no doubt familiar with this issue, it is strange indeed to hear such misplaced grousing about the length of time needed to obtain the necessary permits. He could have explained the procedure to the director right at the start, had he been asked. Apparently he wasn't asked. I won't be surprised if the request for rights was made at the last second, as is often the case and after it is too late, the work having already been done. An absolutely unacceptable practice!
Incidentally, on the subject of rights, with respect to the music everything is clear, but I don’t recall mention being made of the acquisition of rights for the use of Prokofiev's diaries in the film, which are also under the same legal protections!
- "To a large degree I would define it as a documentary, since documentary material forms its basis."
Here is a crucial phrase, which causes me to doubt the objectivity of this so-called documentary. If the author is so misguided in her assessment of the value of the source material (see above), then just about anything can be expected from her in terms of her thoughts and ideas about it. The value of the diaries as source material cannot be doubted. But, as is the case here, they can be used in a non-documentary manner. The scene on the dacha's terrace, used as a "teaser" (in Russian-what a dreadful word!) is extremely arbitrary. And Khabensky in the role of Prokofiev? Well, I can't say I'm convinced.
It's difficult to say if the film will be a success. I doubt it.
Perhaps someone else can be the judge.
PS I anticipate the usual dissonant chorus of detractors: "Here we go again, the heirs are unhappy, they’re never satisfied. They haven't even seen the film and they're complaining!" It's true, we haven't seen it.
Nobody invited us to see it. But the reasons for our displeasure are self-evident. And who if not the heirs should be concerned about amateurish representations of the composer by untalented artists, the end result being new misunderstandings that are extremely difficult to correct? Prokofiev hasn't been especially fortunate in this respect.
Reviews (in Russian) of the film have been published, for example, here, here, here and here.