Catcher of meanings: Vadim Abdrashitov died


Director Vadim Abdrashitov died on February 12 at the age of 79. For three decades of active creative activity, he shot a little more than a dozen films, but each of them became an event for cinema and society. His films were called “the cinema of moral anxiety”, because the director was able, like no one else, to notice the moral failure of society in the bud and make an accurate diagnosis. Izvestia recalls the life path of the famous director.


Vadim Abdrashitov was born into a military family on January 19, 1945 in Kharkov, but the director’s hometown almost did not remain in the director’s memory – soon the family moved to Kamchatka, then to Sakhalin, where the future director went to school, later to Leningrad, where his father, railway officer Shakir Abdrashitov, studied at the academy. After graduation, he moved his family to a new duty station – to the Novosibirsk region, where Vadim fell seriously ill. The doctors’ verdict was unequivocal: the boy needed to regain his health. Sun, fruits, vitamins. And then the father sent a letter of transfer personally to the Minister of Defense Malinovsky. Oddly enough, the officer’s family circumstances were taken into account: the Abdrashitovs moved to Alma-Ata.

Alma-Ata relatives helped to quickly get used to the new place. Vadim went to a local school, then to the Alma-Ata College of Railway Transport. At the same time, he went to study at the theater studio at the Alma-Ata Youth Theater, where he met and became friends for life with Alexander Filippenko and Vladimir Tolokonnikov (Sharikov in Heart of a Dog). I thought about becoming an actor – but Gagarin’s flight in 1961 changed everything. Abdrashitov was sure that the future of mankind is connected exclusively with physics – and after school he applied to the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. A capable young man, who easily mastered the school curriculum, passed the examination sieve without any problems.

Phystech in the 1960s was one of the centers of the capital’s cultural life. Often there were creative evenings, meetings with interesting people. One of them was Mikhail Romm, who presented the painting “Nine Days of One Year” to the students. She made an indelible impression on Abdrashitov. Perhaps it was then that he decided to connect his life with cinema. From Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology he left for the Institute of Chemical Technology, where he already professionally took up filming: he photographed a lot, experimented with film. After the institute for distribution, he came to the Moscow plant of electric lamp devices. The young engineer was predicted to have a successful career and was persuaded to join the party. But Abdrashitov refused: he was already seriously preparing to enter VGIK.

Path to cinema

In 1970, Vadim Abdrashitov, on the first attempt, entered the directing department of VGIK, the course of Mikhail Roma. His first student work, a six-minute silent film Reporting from the Asphalt, was highly praised by his teacher. Romm even wanted to include it in his big documentary The World Today, but he died without completing the picture. After the death of Romm, Abdrashitov continued his studies in the studio of Lev Kulidzhanov. Abdrashitov’s graduation film, the short comedy “Stop Potapov!”, which became the director’s only comedy work, was highly appreciated by colleagues and teachers.

After graduating from VGIK, Yuri Raizman, an associate of Mikhail Romm and the head of one of the creative associations of Mosfilm, immediately invited the young director to his studio. Right there, at Mosfilm, Abdrashitov met screenwriter Alexander Mindadze, in the creative community with whom all 11 feature films of the director were subsequently shot.

The first picture of Abdrashitov was “The Word for Protection” – a criminal moral drama, in which Marina Neelova and Galina Yatskina played the main roles. The picture was very popular – in the USSR it was watched by more than 20 million viewers. Two years later, in 1978, the director’s next film, The Turn, starring Oleg Yankovsky and Irina Kupchenko, was released. And here moral problems are put at the forefront – remorse of the conscience of a young scientist who unwittingly became the culprit of a fatal accident. Is the death of a person worth ruining another life, a brilliant career and a happy family? The already well-formed tandem of Abdrashitov and Mindadze in his film narrative posed a question to the viewer, to which it was impossible to find unambiguous answers. Abdrashitov’s third film “Fox Hunt” became equally ambiguous – about a strange moral connection between a criminal who has no moral guidelines and his victim, who also only gropes for his own moral core, with difficulty finding his own guidelines in complex moral issues.

Abdrashitov is one of the directors whose creative style, once defined, has undergone little change over the years. In his paintings, there is more thought than action, they unfold slowly, but each turn of the plot is filled with internal tension, and the hero’s dialogues are followed by second and third scrapped meanings, and their ambiguity is understandable even to an unprepared viewer. The moral choice of the hero becomes the core of the plot – but it is never simple and unambiguous. This multipolarity of moral choice in the director’s films often strained Soviet censorship. Abdrashitov himself told Izvestia about this, telling about the history of the appearance on the screens of another of his famous paintings.

“How could a film called “The train stopped” come out? But the situation was idiotic! – said the director. – The script was called “Death of the Engineer”. When I first started punching it, I was told that it was stupidity – how can a Soviet machinist die! The film was supposed to be shot for TV, in two series, so the characters constantly argued, emphasizing the stylistic minimalism of the picture. And we called it “Dialogues”. But then a campaign against foreign words began. At that time, the main thing was not to get into some kind of campaign. For example, against smoking. I fell under her. In the film “Turn” there is a moment where Lyuba Strizhenova smokes the whole scene. The scene is filmed, and because of it, the film may not come out. I re-edited all this, there is no cigarette in the frame, but Luba Strizhenova, like Zmey Gorynych, smokes from her mouth when she speaks. And so it remained. Then the campaign ended.

Prophet in his own country

Despite censorship problems, Abdrashitov’s paintings, so different and yet united by a common theme of a difficult moral choice and the search for their own moral guidelines, each time became events. And every time, the director admitted, he shot the film as if from scratch, each time facing a new problem and a new task. “You can’t compare “The Train Stopped” with the “Parade of the Planets”! he said. – Every time we started from scratch, every time I went on the court, I felt like a debutant, no past experience worked. Even working with actors was fundamentally different.”

The last picture of Vaditm Abdrashitov was the film “Magnetic Storms”, released in 2003. After that, the director fell silent. It was rumored that he could not find money for filming, that many producers consider his cinematography irrelevant. However, the public thought otherwise. And not just the public—many critics have noted how pictures taken during the Soviet era surprisingly reflect the same moral dilemmas that our contemporaries face.

Abdrashitov himself, however, did not consider himself a prophet. “I would not call our films prophecies or even premonitions,” he said. – We, and above all the author of all these films, Alexander Mindadze, were simply attentive to what was happening. Almost all of his scripts are not invented, but taken from real life. Let’s say there is a somewhat conditional character Plumbum. But the viewer perceives him as if it were a person next to him. And he came out of an article in Moskovsky Komsomolets about a combatant who abused power. Mindadze and I talked a lot about this, and it turned into the idea of ​​the film. Mindadze in the script turned this teenager into a man who is both 15 and 40 years old and who does not feel pain. There is no foresight here. True, something similar is happening now, but rather a certain cyclical nature of our history is at work here.

In recent years, the director has repeatedly said that modern cinema lacks a powerful artistic idea – such as the “new wave” for France, and for the USSR – “thaw cinema”, which combined classics with neorealism. He believed in the future renaissance of cinema. Well, if it happens, the prophetic and, with all the conservatism of the form, certainly innovative in posing problems, the paintings of Vadim Abdrashitov will become its foundation.


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