"It was the sixteenth spring in my life, but for me it was a first spring. All the former springs simply mixed up" - the opening line of Ivan Shmelyov's "A Love Story"
"Moya lyubov" or "My Love", paint-on-glass-animated 2006 short film (26 minutes) directed by Aleksandr Petrov is based on "A Love Story" or "Istoriya Lyubovnaya" (1927) by Ivan Shmelyov. It takes place in the 19th century Russia and tells about the first love of the sixteen-year-old boy Anton who is torn apart by his feelings for a pure and gentle girl, the maid-servant for his wealthy family, Pasha and a mysterious enigmatic next door neighbor Serafima. Shemelyv's story was inspired by one of the most captivating love stories ever told, his famous namesake Ivan Turgenev's "Pervaya lyubov" (1860; First Love), a novella that depicts the love of a sixteen-year-old boy Vladimir for his neighbor, 20 years old princess Zinaida, unattainable, devious but alluring and unforgettable. By the words of Petrov, the film "is about waking of first love, naive and childish, both resolute, and silly, with all tortures of a romantic soul. Not that I have gone through such feelings myself, but I deeply felt all of them." At the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film, "Moya Lyubov" was called an "exquisite impressionist vision with a very poetic narrative and profound psychology". I believe that Petrov's film was the best of five nominees in the category Short Animated Films and deserved all awards possible. As much as I enjoyed the 2008 Oscar winner, the slow-motion updated to modern Russia version of Sergey Prokofiev's "Peter and Wolf", Petrov's film is simply in league of its own. Work on the film took place in Yaroslavl, Russia over a period of three years painting on glass sheets, using mostly his own fingers, resulted in 18720 paintings. The film's style is similar to that used in Petrov's other films ("Korova", "Rusalka", Oscar winning "Starik i More") and can be characterized as a type of Romantic realism. People and landscapes are painted on glass and animated in a very realistic yet delicate and dream-like fashion. In "Moya lyubov" Petrov includes Anton's inner thoughts while the boy reads Turgenev's "Pervaya Lyubov" and identifies with its narrator, Vladimir, the boy of the same age and the nightmarish scene when the ill boy imagines himself being buried beneath freshly-fallen deep snow on a dark night.
Every frame of the incredibly beautiful work is literally breathtaking. I can't compare him to any working animator. His films bring to mind the paintings of such poetic Russian Artists as Mikhail Nesterov, Vasiliy Polenov, Victor Borisov-Musatov, and even frescoes and icons of Andrei Rublyov that under magic fingers of the master became living and breathing.
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