We would like to bring to your attention the extended CFP for our seminar session(s) on "Shakespeare and Music" as a part of this year's European Shakespeare Congress which is held in Gdansk from 27 to 30 July. We have already received expression of interest from publishers and we plan to develop this seminar into a regular international study group.
Yuri Viktorovich Kara [12.11.1954, Stalino — nowadays Donetsk, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic] is a Soviet and Russian film director, script writer, producer and actor. Honoured arts worker of the Russian Federation (2005).
In 1972 he finished the physical-mathematical school No. 17 of Donetsk city and won admission into the Physical and Chemical Faculty at Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys. During his studies he was heading a vocal-instrumental ensemble there. In 1978 he obtained a degree in physics of metals and returned to his native Donetsk, where he began to work as an engineer-radiophysicist.
In 1982 he was enrolled in the All-Union State Institute of Cinematography (aka the VGIK; the workshop of S.A. Gerasimov and T.F. Makarova). He graduated from the Institute in 1987.
His degree work in the VGIK “Tomorrow was the War” (1987, based on the story of the same title by B.L. Vasiliev) carried him forward. The dramatic movie-essay was awarded on a number of international film festivals and was sold in 48 countries.
In 1988 he shot a criminal drama entitled “Thieves within the Law” based on F.A. Iskander’s works. In 1989 his film “The Feasts of Belshazzar, or a Night with Stalin” came out (a screen adaptation of novella “The Feasts of Belshazzar” from the novel “Sandro of Chegem” by F.A. Iskander), which was shot in the manner of socialist realism and in the aesthetics of the 1930s. In the “boisterous 1990s” he was filming “Yeralash” and commercials.
In 1994 Yu.V. Kara cinematized M.M. Bulgakov’s novel “The Master and Margarita”. Because of the numerous problems, including the difficulties between the director, producers and the descendants of the third wife of the writer, E.S. Bulgakova (née Nurenberg), the work was officially released only 17 years later, in 2011.
In the first decade of the 21st century the following Yu.V. Kara’s works came out: “Interesting Men” (2001), “I'm a Doll” (2001), “The Star of an Epoch” (2005), “Korolev” (2007), “Reporters” (2007).
The cover of DVD version of
“Hamlet. 21st Century”
directed by Yu.V. Kara
In 2010 a four-part film “Hamlet. 21st Century” based on the W. Shakespeare’s tragedy came out (tentative title — “Hamlet: the History Repeats”). The director and script writer — Yuri Kara, camera man — Vadim Semenovykh, art directors — Yuri Ustinov, Aleksandra Andreeva. The cast: Hamlet — Gela Meskhi, Claudius — Dmitry Diuzhev, Gertrude — Eugenia Kryukova, Laertes — Danila Kozlovsky, Ophelia — Julia Kara, Polonius — Andrei Fomin, Horatio — Dmitry Beroev, Rosencrantz — Aleksandr Berdnikov, Guildenstern — Ilya Obolonkov, Osric — Viktor Sukhorukov, Ghost — Igor Lagutin, Gravedigger — Armen Dzhigarkhanyan; and others.
The slogan of the film — “Shakespeare’s mystical Gothicism is wakening”. The director placed his bets on young actors, as, in his opinion, “the question To be or not to be is eternal, every new generation faces it. But one should pose this question much earlier than the heroes of Kenneth Branagh, Laurence Olivier or Innokentiy Smoktunovsky did — one should begin to think over this from the tender nail” (hereinafter, the translation of the citations from Russian into English is mine. — B. G.). In one of the interviews, Yu. Kara stated that he was aspiring to show “a tragedy of contemporary educated person who is bent on murder. In Shakespeare’s times the blood vengeance was justifiable, but whether one should go as low as murderers being a civilized person or not — that is the question”.
Several hundred actors were claiming the part of Hamlet, including Aleksei Serebriakov, Dmitry Diuzhev, Maxim Matveev, and Konstantin Kryukov. There were even negotiations with a British actor, JudeLaw, who was offered the part of Claudius, but he did not adopt the proposal, because he had already been holding rehearsals of “Hamlet” on the stage of London’s Donmar West End. The director decided in favour of a 23-years old (at the moment) graduate of the Studio School at the Moscow Art Theatre (the class of K.A. Raikin) Gela Meskhi. This was the actor’s debut on screen.
The characters of the movie dressed in the costumes of contemporary Gothic subculture with the specific make-up (bleached-out faces, mascaraed eyes) devote themselves to routine amusements of a significant part of the youth of our times: dances of semi-naked crowds in nightclubs with loud music (Deep Purple, Tokyo), endless fireworks, sport car races, etc.
Film frame (Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern)
On the whole, the movie’s script is based on the fragments of classical Russian translations of “Hamlet” by: M.L. Lozinsky (“Moi gosudar', // Dozvol'te mne vo Frantsiiu vernut'sia”, “…opasnei i vrednei // Ukryt' liubov', chem ob"iavit' o nei”), A.I. Kroneberg (“Pust' znaet mir, chto ty blizhaishii k tronu”), B.L. Pasternak (“O zhenshchiny, vam imia — verolomstvo!”, “S pokhoron // Na brachnyi stol poshel pirog pominnyi”, “Po plat'iu poznaetsia chelovek”, “Porvalas' dnei sviazuiushchaia nit' // Kak mne obryvki ikh soedinit'!”, “Kakoe chudo prirody chelovek!”; “Ved' shcheki shliukhi, esli sniat' rumiana, // Ne tak uzhasny, kak dela moi”; “Zabavno budet, esli sam podryvnik // Vzletit na vozdukh”), P.P. Gnedich (“On chelovek byl v polnom smysle slova!”), A.D. Radlova (“Ty byl vsegda ottsom blagikh vestei”). However, there can be found contemporary authorial pieces “on target”. For instance: “Tot samyi shalopai iz Kurshevelia” (“The very happy-go-lucky from Courchevel” — an allusion of the so-called Courchevel scandal); “Tak v zheltoi presse sdelaiut reklamu emu sovsem besplatno” (“They’ll do advertising for him in tabloids free of charge”); “Za imidzhem zhe nadobno sledit', chtoby sozdavat' puti dlia prodvizheniia” (“One should control his image in order to make ways for promotion”); “Ne dolzhen opuskat'sia ia do zlykh srednevekovykh pravil mesti” (“I should not go down to the evil medieval rules of vengeance”); “Slyshish', cherstvyi pop, moia sestra na nebo angelom vzletit, a ty v adu sgorish'” (“Look, cold-hearted pope, my sister will fly to heaven like an angel, and you will fry in hell”); “Ty slishkom zaniat byl svoimi gonkami, devchonkami, rok-muzykoi i prochei suetoi” (“You have been too much engaged in your races, girls, rock music and any other fuss”); etc.
From my point of view, such an approach of the director added a larger degree of “clip structure” into the film. In the reviews one can find an opinion that the contrast between the Shakespeare’s language and visual background attracts and makes the viewers “delve into the plot and picture on the screen”. Here is a tragedy of modern age: the screen picture is more important than the meaning of actors’ cues and lines.
Yu.V. Kara mostly did not leave any secrets behind for his audience. For example, it is evident that Claudius tells Osric to dispose of Ophelia, because he is afraid that Polonius’s mad daughter can blunder something out, but the main reason is that Ophelia is probably pregnant, and the villain does not want to have another possible heir to the throne. The climax is also indicative: Hamlet and Laertes compete in a race again. Claudius orders to damage the transmission of Hamlet’s car, but the Prince manages not only to survive, but also to gain a victory. Furious Laertes flies at Hamlet and they fight with cold arms, Hamlet kills Laertes (I note in parentheses that the scene of their mutual forgiveness is missing). Hamlet sees that it looks as if Gertrude has fallen asleep in the armchair, he cries over his mother; Claudius comes closer and stabs Hamlet with a dagger. The King scores his triumph, the crowd greets him, but Hamlet summons the energy to impale the murderer. The evening comes; the Ghost of Hamlet's Father appears, and Hamlet at his last gasp tells the Ghost that he did not want to, but he had to descend to the level of murderers, but now his father is avenged. And the Ghost replies: “Ia lish' khotel, chtoby ty podnialsia nad liudskoiu suetoi i ponial, chto tebe sud'boiu nachertano vershit' liudskie sud'by, i byt' otvetstvennym za vse, chto proiskhodit v mire” (“I just wanted you to rise above the people’s vanity and to understand that your fate was to rule the servants’ destinies and to be responsible for all the events that took place in the world.”) Hamlet: “Vse koncheno, otets moi. Bog s toboiu! Proshchai! Ia vizhu, dal'she — tishina” (“It is all over, my father. God is with you! Farewell! I see, the rest is silence”). The Ghost: “Pogiblo nashe korolevstvo” (“Our kingdom has been fallen”). Osric-Sukhorukov appears for several seconds. Apparently, he will inthrone.
Some reviewers accuse Yu.V. Kara of stylistic plagiarism “for the conception of screen adaptation of Shakespeare in gothic entourage has already been used by director Julie Taymor”. On the whole, the film is done as in the model of modern adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, where the background is shifted to our times [for instance, “Romeo + Juliet” directed by Baz Luhrmann with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the leading roles (1996); TV film “Othello” by Geoffrey Sax with Eamonn Walker (2001), adaptations of “A Midsummer Night's Dream”, “Macbeth”, “Much Ado About Nothing” on BBC (2005), etc.].
In one of the interviews, the director frankly confessed that he “had decided to modernize the text in order that it was interesting and comprehensible for young people”. Nevertheless, the film did not draw a wide public response. In my opinion, two reasons of that can be mentioned as follows:
1) If Hamlet is a significant constant, which is in the center of the viewers’ cultural thesaurus, then such people probably cannot find a degree of profundity of the protagonist that could be significantly interesting for them. This interpretation of the image of Hamlet of the first decade of the third millennium is comparatively pale and poor in the comparison with the classical versions.
2) People who have the character of Hamlet at the periphery of their thesauri or who come to know this iconic hero in this interpretation for the first time ever, they do not find anything that could set this film apart from thousands of other motion pictures with races, explosions and other stunts. The verbal content is not interesting for them and they do not pay much attention to it.
From my way of thinking, even the gorgeous Crimean sights could not help the director and the cast to add a larger degree of Hamletism into the film. Yu.V. Kara’s version of “Hamlet” can be ranged among numerous kitschy adaptations of classical literary works addressed to gross audience. It is difficult to rank a great part of this production among the masterpieces of the world cinema. However, these films fulfill an important function: they retain the eternal images (iconic characters) in the cultural thesauri (at least, at their peripheries) of representatives of different generations, social classes, nations, etc.
 Russkie novosti Kann: zarabotal rossiiskii pavil'on, predstavleny «Utomlennye solntsem-2» Nikity Mikhalkova, Iurii Kara rasskazal o svoem «Gamlete» [Electronic resource] // Rossiiskaia gazeta. 15.05.2009. URL: http://rg.ru/2009/05/15/rusnews-anons.html (retrieved on: 8.07.2012).
The article was written and published within the framework of the project "The Image of Hamlet as a Constant of Russian Culture" with the support of the Russian Foundation for the Humanities (grant No. 11-34-00221a1).