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“The Quiet Don”: the Viewers’ Opinions

04.02.2016

The new screen version “The Quiet Don” (the film director S.Ursulyak), which was first shown late in November last year, aroused hot discussions and various contradictory responses.

The public-opinion poll posted on our website on December 4, which ran for two months, showed that from the 565 people, who joined the vote, only 30 of them (5%) had not seen the film. The interest for the new interpretation of the great novel by M.A.Sholokhov was great and not by chance it was called the premiere of the year: according to TNS Russia the serial on the TV channel “Rossiya” gathered 20% of the total TV audience daily. The channel leaders underline, that such interest is especially impressive considering the fact that filming of literature classics is traditionally of less demand among the viewers.

The All-Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (ВЦИОМ) stated that “The Quiet Don” was recognized the best serial of 2015. The website “Otzovik” showed 61% visitors advising to see the serial.

Almost all the press and electronic mass media published the materials about the new filming and it was widely discussed on the websites, Internet portals, in blogs and social networks.

We asked our website visitors to answer what they liked best, and now we can see the results. The majority of the respondents highly appreciated the show of nature –125(22%); the work of the film director won 118 (21%); then the polls showed the following: the cast – 84 (15%); the picture of the Cossack way of life – 68 (12%); the music – 29 (5%); the screenplay – 20 (4%); the costumery – 7 (1%). The answer “I like nothing” was given by 84 people (15%), 30 people did not see the film (5%). The results are available in the polls archives on: http://www.sholokhov.ru/polls_archive/

The viewers shared their impressions in letters to the Museum-Reserve. There are some of them.

Natalya Koltun: “On seeing the film “The Quiet Don” by the film director S.Ursulyak I realized that I like everything in it. The film is very realistic in showing the Cossack everyday life and their speech (I have grown up in the Don region, heard this speech from my childhood and now I enjoyed this outdated seldom used language). The Don landscapes do not leave anyone indifferent and the performance of the young actors makes the film more vital comparing to the early filmings of the novel, and even Gerasimov’s work has lost its charm for me against the new film. Great thanks to all who took part in the work over this film!”

Tatyana Andreyeva: “For almost all the week I have been living by this film, Sholokhov and everything that is connected with the novel. I thank the film director for making this filming and assembling such a team of actors. I think all the actors, even in episodes, are very natural. And all the leading roles are performed perfectly! I thank the operator and composer, their work for me has merged together, the music of the film sounds continually inside me, and the film

stills, nearly each of them, claim to be fixed on the canvas. I feel as if I have lived through these 10 years in Tatarsky Village and the events burn my soul, so authentically was everything performed and filmed.

Among the brightest and sticking in our memory scenes is Grigory’s returning home, his leaving all his bygone before going into the river, then his going out of the river like a tragic revival, and before that is his “meeting” with his beloved people lost. The loneliness of Grigory embracing his beloved earth, his Motherland, symbolizes a tragedy of the Cossacks, who lost forever all that was dearest for them.

The battle scenes, costumes, conversations, songs – everything is topping! The flaws – I have not seen them!”

Anna Zaborskaya: “Ursulyak managed to read everything between the lines. I want to say to the film director: “Serghei Vladimirovich, bravo! The film is good, we enjoy it.” The actors are interesting in their creations and each of them deserves to be spoken about with great respect. Though there is something I don’t like: the music. The motif molestation makes the film a kind of recollection, but not complicity in action. Withal, there could be shown so many sound effects of the Don: the flow and noises of the River Don, a steppe wind (it can be so strong), singing of titmice on a winter farmstead, neighing of horses, bleating of sheep, lowing of cows, buzzing of bees, chirring of crickets and grasshoppers… So, you have missed it and simplified the film music. I wish creative achievements to all the actors and makers of the film. New creative victories to you!”

Valery Dronov: “The new filming “The Quiet Don” did not leave the Don folks indifferent. Here, there is what you can’t find in many of today’s “odd jobs”: love, hatred, passion, struggle. My special gratitude is for the Don songs, which capture and give us food for thought. It’s adorable to hear Cossacks singing. The show of nature is magnificent, the sights of steep slopes, of the river left bank and chalky spurs are shown brilliantly.

However, to my mind, a country life is not true to reality; it was in vain that the authors succumbed to a fashionable trend of over-romanticizing our forefathers. All the costumes are visibly spick and span, the women are wearing white kerchiefs while doing about the stockyard, a Cossack woman is milking a cow while wearing a white blouse…

The Cossack dialect is not quite authentic. I think, S.Gerasimov was quite right to make the actors live for longer time in the stanitsas to pick up the Cossack dialect in its environment.

In many episodes we see an impressive church of Stanitsa Yelanskaya. But the film shows Tatarsky Village, a small settlement, and in such villages there was only a one-altar wooden church. Cossack kurens (houses) are shown as big houses of the rich, but in small villages there were at least two or three of them, not more. I have an impression that the authors did not see the illustrations by S.Korolkov, an adept of Cossack life, or by O.Vereisky.

An undoubted success is to show the cavalry. The posture of the horsemen is quite that of a Cossack, the array is Cossack, too, everything is reliable and

spectacular! But in the film there is not shown a Cossack sword blow, which was the main blow of a Cossack bout.

The hero of the novel is Grigory Melekhov. In the film Grigory is rather short and thin. This Grigory lacks character strength and boisterousness of P.Glebov. The experienced actors, who performed Pantelei Melekhov and chieftain Korshunov are convincing and wonderful in their roles.

The young actress playing a part of Aksinya, at first glance, yields to E.Bystritskaya. But to my mind, Bystritskaya lacked the “quietness” of a Cossack woman, and in the new film an imperceptible dedication, which is a feature of Cossack women, is shown by the young actress more pronouncedly and convincingly.

A doubtless godsend is Mitka Korshunov. Nikita Yefremov is unmatched in his posture astride a horse, Cossack behaviour and look from head to toes!

And the last. The problem of all filmings is an abridged plot. However here it is shortened purposely: there is no Shtockman, peasants and nonresidents. But without showing the interclass acute contradictions, which took place in the Don area, the doing motivation of both the Reds and the Whites looks unconvincing.”

Vladimir Pronsky: “The new filming can be spoken about either long or can’t be spoken at all, because the comments uttered would not affect the film. Otherwise, if there comes some lionheart to dare make a new performance, he would at least in any way take into account the comments and suggestions of the onlookers. Though, enough is as good as a feast: The film production by S.Gerasimov is for all times. But the present film production is full of fictional things with the film director hiding behind the guise of “based on…”.The author, Mikhail Alexandrovich Sholokhov, wrote everything as he saw it and felt. So, Sirs filmmakers, follow his texts and don’t try to assert yourselves at the expense of the great writer.”

Without a signature; “I think, speaking the words of the great writer, the truth is one, and there is no other truth. There is attitude towards it. That is why I consider there should be no arbitrary interpretation of the novel device while filming his works. Great thanks to Sholokhov for everything he created for us.”

Now we have quoted only some of the letters sent to the Museum-Reserve. You can see how hot was the discussion of the new screen version judging by the numerous responses in the Internet. The opinions are quite different – from enthusiastic to indignant, but they were unanimous about the fact that the film attracted attention to the work of Sholokhov, aroused a desire to read and reread the novel and visit Sholokhov country.

We sincerely thank you all who shared your impressions and tool part in the polls. We hope, in the Year of Russian Cinema, to continue our talk on filming Sholokhov’s works.

 

Olga Bakhtiyarova