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Master and Margarita (1994) is based on the eponymous book by Mikhail A. Bulgakov. The film is set in the 1930s Moscow under Stalin and in Jerusalem under Pilate, and has several story-lines that are intertwined. Master (Rakov) is a talented writer in Moscow working on a manuscript about the biblical Jesus (Burlyayev) and Pontius Pilate (Ulyanov). Authorities in Moscow are harassing Master by surveillance and intimidation. Victimized by their harassment, Master throws his manuscript into the fire, before he is locked up in a mental clinic. His assistant and Muse Margarita (Vertinskaya) uses the supernatural powers of Woland (Gaft), trying to help Master. The character of Master is thought to be autobiographical, burning of his manuscript alludes to what Bulgakov himself did under threats from Soviet authorities. Written by
When the film was completed, producer Vladimir Skorij failed to resolve copyright problems with the Bulgakov estate. After a few screenings, the film was shelved. A video version is available in Russia. See more »
I've never been a big fan of Bulgakov (And to every "proper" Russian who just called me an uneducated ignoramus, I have a PhD, thank you.). His novels use simple science fiction or mystic plots to carry overbearing doses of caustic satire, making fun of the Soviet way of life. Master and Margaret, his most famous novel, which was faithfully followed by the creators of this movie, talks about Satan visiting 1930's Moscow from what seems to be idle curiosity, allowing his minions pull all sort of pranks on the greedy, dishonest, cowardly, and hypocritical soviet citizens of all levels. But there's more to this one story than satire - we meet two characters that aren't your cookie-cutter soviets. Master, who, with his artistic vision, perceives the true story of Jesus Crist and Pontius Pilate, and Margaret, who loves Master and suffers for him. Besides being amazingly true to the book, this 1994 movie version brought together some of the most talented actors of the soviet era, from Gaft as Satan to Durov as St. Matthew. And the entire cast, old and new, managed to feel the responsibility of playing one of the greatest Soviet novels of the 20th century, and so they've put on a great performance. The characters are so vivid, sometimes it feels like a theater play rather than a movie, but, in this setting, it works. The only things I didn't like were technical items, such as effects and, in some places sound editing or camera was lacking.. but it's understandable considering the difficult post-soviet times when this was made. (oh, and avoid the horribly cut 2-hour version)
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