Master and Margarita (2005) is a Menippean film based on the eponymous book by Mikhail A. Bulgakov. Set in Moscow under Stalin and in Jerusalem under Pilate, it has several story-lines ... See full summary »
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Master and Margarita (2005) is a Menippean film based on the eponymous book by Mikhail A. Bulgakov. Set in Moscow under Stalin and in Jerusalem under Pilate, it has several story-lines where history, religion and politics are intertwined. The story of Master (Galibin), a talented author of a manuscript about the biblical Pontius Pilate, and Master's muse - Margarita (Kovalchuk), is paralleled by the biblical story of Ieshua in Ierushalaim, and the deceit of the cowardly ambiguous Pilate (Lavrov), whose character alludes to a Soviet leader. The reality is distorted by Satan - Woland (Basilashvili), and his lieutenants, who are manipulating public events and people's lives by pushing buttons of human weaknesses and sins. Margarita taps into Woland's power, trying to save Master. The character of Master is autobiographical, burning of his manuscript alludes to what Bulgakov himself did under threats from Soviet authorities. Written by
'Say at last--who art thou?' 'That Power I serve Which wills forever evil Yet does forever good.' Goethe, Faust
"Master and Margarita", the book and the movie:
I have read "Master and Margarita" three times, and I am sure that I will read it again. I was very lucky because all three times I read it in Russian, and even the best translation can not compare to the original. Every time, I found something new in the book; it would turn to me by different facets. "Master and Margarita" is incredibly beautiful, deep, sophisticated yet playful and sparkling book with unforgettable characters. In fact, it is not one novel but three. First, about the adventures of the Devil and his company in 1920's Moscow; second, about Pontius Pilatus and Jesus in Jerusalem of the first century, and the third one, about the Master, the writer who wrote the second novel, and his eternal and true love, Margarita. The story of Master and Margarita is the story of Bulgakov and his wife and muse, Elena. All three stories are interconnected and intertwined. All three end with the exactly same phrase, "...the cruel fifth procurator of Judea, the equestrian Pontius Pilatus."
So, what is the book about? Good, evil, betrayal, talent, love, forgiveness? Yes, it is. But it is so much more.
I had a lot of doubts before watching the film because as much as I wanted to see "Master and Margarita" on screen I was not sure that it was possible to adapt it and not to lose anything significant - which is everything.
I am pleasantly surprised - the film is very good. It is respectful, thoughtful and as close to the spirit of the greatest Russian novel of the last century as possible.
The movie is not perfect (and I don't think that the perfect transfer is possible) but the choice of actors, the music score, the visual palette that change as we enter the different eras, places, and dimensions are outstanding. I was initially surprised by some names but almost every actor proved him/herself very capable in bringing to the screen well known and beloved characters. I would say that some of special effects could be ...well, more special - for example, the mischievous talking cat Behemoth could be done more interestingly. I also don't see the exact reason for creating a new character, the man in uniform with the glasses and very recognizable accent who is in charge of investigating the "crimes of the band of powerful hypnotists"
how they call Woland and his entourage. One can argue that the
titular couple, the tragic lovers, Master and Margarita are weaker and their story seems pale in the comparison to one of Pilatus
(bravo to 80 year old stage and screen legend, Kirill Lavrov who can be remembered as Ivan Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov (1969) and Ieshua Ha-Notsri (incredible performance by the young bright star, Sergei Bezrukov of "Brigada"'s fame, almost unrecognizable as Ieshua). I think no one can deny that Oleg Basilashvili as powerful, cynical and eternally wise Woland, the part of Power " Which wills forever evil Yet does forever good" IS the true Master of the series. My fascination and admiration belong to Alexander Abdulov on whom I as a young girl had a huge crush in his early film "Obyknovennoye Chudo" . For many years he had been the Russian sex symbol but his enormous comical talent found its match in the part of Woland's assistant/ translator, Koroviev. His and Behemoth's adventures in Moscow are screamingly funny. I think that the film is a successful and enjoyable adaptation of the beloved cult novel and I recommend seeing it. I am going to order the sound track. As I mentioned, the music by Igor Kornelyuk is one of the film's treasures.
P.S. I used to work on the street where the last home of Mikhail Bulgakov was. He was taken to the cemetery from there.
The famous "Pashkov's House" with the rotunda on the top where Woland and his team gathered together before they left Moscow forever, was in walking distance from my work, and I remember, once, I almost got hit by a car -I walked and looked at that music in stone and could not take my eyes off it.
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