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News

“We All Liked the Film Very Much…”

14.09.2016

The year of 2016 is the Year of Russian Cinema, and it so happened that during this year we mark a number of “cinematographic anniversaries” including the 110th anniversary of the film director S.A.Gerasimov and the 60th anniversary of the start of shooting his film “The Quiet Don”. Soon after the film was released, hundreds of letters began coming to the writer in Vyoshenskaya from the readers and cinema-goers.

The premiere of the first two series of the film took place in 1957, the third series was shown in 1958. The film was a great success. Sergei Gerasimov remembered: “And the time came, when we took the first two series of “The Quiet Don” to Sholokhov in Vyoshenskaya. <…> When we got to the stanitsa’s square, we saw a marvelous scene. The stanitsa was overcrowded with people of different ages. They gathered in whole families thronging around the local club. The film show was to run around the clock – so many people had gathered wishing to watch “The Quiet Don”. In the cinema hall crammed full new and new spectators watched the film and on coming out, just in the square, they discussed it.

Each new work was followed by a meeting with the audience. But I must say that we had never before experienced such extensive meetings, such vivacity and observant acuity of spectators’ speeches.”

On seeing the film M.A.Sholokhov said: “This film is dear for me for its going in one harness with my novel…” The reviews of the spectators were rapturous, each of them wanted to tell the writer everything he thought of the screen version of his great novel. The texts of the letters are published for the first time.

“Dear Mikhail Alexandrovich! Recently we saw the film “The Quiet Don” demonstrated in our military unit. Impressed by it I decided to write to you. We all liked the film very much, and many soldiers leaving the cinema hall spoke with gratitude about you. I think the film is produced very well. (By the way, I know nothing about your role in making the film, but I am sure the crew couldn’t do without your advice, otherwise it would not be very good, if the new film based on such a fine novel failed (and with the author living).

I personally want to thank you a lot for everything you have written. Romashko Alexander Nikolayevich. The Leningrad Region, Sestroretsk District, military unit 92764 -“K”. 25 February, 1967.”

Sometimes the authors of the letters described the process of watching the film in details.

“Dear Mikhail Alexandrovich! I am an ordinary village teacher, I have read lots of works of fiction and have seen many films which I evaluated as skillfully and deeply as I could. On seeing the first series of “The Quiet Don” I dared to express a sincere gratitude to you from our countrymen of Stanitsa Ust-Buzuluk and from me, which for I beg your pardon.

We ordered tickets 3–4 days before the film was brought from the neighbouring Podtyolkov District; the cinemas were crowded with young and old to watch the film. It looked like pilgrimage. Contrary to custom there were seven runs in Ust-Buzuluk, and in the village of Nesterovka the cinema operator’s room was padlocked during the first session, lest the operator and the films should be kidnapped by the representatives of another collective farm from Sukhovsky Village. But they tried to do it and broke the lock. This can be explained by love for your great talent of not a regional, but a national scale.

Despite the big and small flaws of the film production observed in the film script of the first series the people watched the film with great satisfaction and said they were ready to watch all the further series without a break, even till morning. The film “The Quiet Don” and your novel will always teach the generations to understand correctly the beauty in life, and your descendants will be grateful to you for the novel “And Quiet Flows the Don” and for the monument for the famous Don Cossacks.

My best wishes of health and long life. I will be very glad if you read my letter. Viktor Potapov. The Stalingrad Region, Stanitsa Ust-Buzulukskaya. 19 January, 1958.”

Rather often the writer was asked to “further” the release of the next series.

“Dear Mikhail Alexandrovich! I am Drynkin Mikhail Alexandrovich, a cinema operator, writing to you on behalf of the workers, officials and intellectuals of Stanitsa Meshkovskaya the Migulinsky District. In our stanitsa, on December 6–7–8, there were shown the first series of the film “The Quiet Don” after your great novel. Lots of farmers came by cars from the neighbouring collective farms. Among them there were many old people disabled by age. After the film they all asked one and the same question: “When shall we have the second series?” We had to promise it for January 1958, as there were no second series scheduled in December. <…>

But on arrival of comrade Shipilov, head of the cinema circuit operation, from Millerovo, it became clear, that the second series wouldn’t be shown in January 1958, either. Comrade Sholokhov <…>, we have to ask you. Perhaps, you can promote demonstration of the second series of “The Quiet Don” in Stanitsa Meshkovskaya of the Migulinsky District. We are waiting for your answer. <…> The Rostov Region, Stanitsa Meshkovskaya, December 11, 1957.”

In their letters people argued about the characters of the protagonists, speculated about the artistic merits and demerits of the film adaptation.

“Dear Mikhail Alexandrovich! Yesterday we saw the film “The Quiet Don” and today, from early morning, we all talk in our teachers’ room only about it. We are unanimous only in one thing: the impression of the film is as great as that of the book. But there were heated disputes about Aksinya. Most people think this personage is absolutely negative. <…> So I decided on the approval of all others to write to you, because you are the only authority for everyone in this issue. If you can, please, write to us what you think of your heroine. You may say that the answer to this question is your book, but, perhaps, we understood it differently. <…>

On behalf of our teachers I am begging you to resolve our dispute and write to the address: The Kostroma Region, the Ivanovsky District, Odoyevskoye Village, School. With Komsomol greetings. L.Kudryavtseva. February 18, 1958.”

In the year of release, the film “The Quiet Don” was seen by about 47 million viewers. It was marked with a number of Russian and foreign awards, has become a classic of Russian cinematograph and has been loved and recognized by the audience even by now.

Yelena Popova