November 08, 2004

Bulgakov on Film

America, it seems, isn't the only country where organized religion has a problem with the movie business. According to this Guardian article, the Orthodox Church has "reacted with dismay" to a Russian director's plans to film Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita:

A senior Orthodox official told the Guardian that cinema was "not an adequate means of interpreting the Gospel" - icons were more appropriate. Father Mikhail Dudko, head of the secretariat for church and society, said: "We Christians know four gospels, and in Bulgakov's book we see a kind of fifth: a gospel narrated by Satan, [who is called] Woland in the book. And the interpretation is in Satan's favour. Our reaction to such an interpretation can be nothing but negative."

I'm not quite convinced that there's a real controversy here: The Guardian has quoted one prominent church official's ambiguous comments on the movie without showing that there's any larger outcry from Russian Orthodoxy. In fact, The Master and Margarita is such a well-loved book that I don't expect any major opposition to the project.

My main point in writing this post isn't to talk about the controversy, though: it's to draw attention to the movie, which sounds really cool. (Strictly speaking, I guess it's really a ten-part TV series, but it seems to have more of the trappings of a real movie than most American mini-series.) The project has proven controversial in other ways as well--it's being filmed in St. Petersburg, even though the novel took place in Moscow!--and I'll be interested in seeing what Bortko does with the book.

Then again, perhaps I shouldn't get my hopes up. Weird things can happen when directors try to adapt famous novels for the screen!

Posted by Ed at November 8, 2004 08:37 PM
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