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By chance I was invited to see a showing of this film with an
introduction from the director. This may be why I am willing to offer
it the generous scoring of 6 out of 10 rather than something lower,
because he was there to explain a bit more the production of his film,
his association with Konchalovsky, and the filming locations. As a
mostly accurate historical portrayal of Russian novelist Fyodor
Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, it is a spot on piece. The details of his life
were offered in such a way to give the audience a feel of the times and
mental state of Dostoevsky, who was himself an epileptic. Those who are
familiar with Dosteovsky will certainly appreciate the way in which the
film discusses his life, while those who come in with little knowledge
of the author will have to trust the accuracy of the film (and need not
fear doing so). Demoni was filmed in Turin, Italy which the director
felt closely resembled St. Petersburg, a city which was indeed
partially designed by the Swiss-Italian architect Domenico Trezzini.
This was a clever move from the director, but as a film I still feel that it was nothing particularly special. A biopic of Dostoevsky seemed so strange in Italian, filmed in such a distinctive Italian style. I felt as a film the production was a little cheap and resembled an artistic TV-movie rather than actually standing on its own as an artistic film. Aside from Miki Manojlovic, who plays the grown Dostoevsky, the acting was too over the top for my taste. There was not really a believable spark between any of the actors, relationships were to be assumed rather than felt. The film was certainly not something earth-shattering but that's not to say it isn't watchable. Depends on what you're looking for.
Before viewing this one, I was a little sceptical about it all, but
after viewing it (till the last credits faded out) I know that this is
a very good movie.
When reading Dostoevsky, you get a very strong impression of the mood and people that live in the world he has written down. I must admit that I don't know much about his life, so I cannot say this film is accurate. But that doesn't really matter, for I Demoni di San Pietroburgo is more of a story where a writer is confronted with his own world. But I cannot say much about this, for the story is not about actions that shape events and how the world reacts, but people that grow and face themselves.
Montaldo is the right man to direct this movie. Not only has his earlier films touched subjects that are akin to the works of Dostoevsky, but he has shown experience in making a historical world believable (Marco Polo).
I don't know any of the actors in this (except for Roberto Herlitzka) but they are all very good. I will find something more with Miki Manojlovic in it to see, for his portrayal was interesting. The people in 'lesser' roles were all very good.
The cinematography by Arnaldo Catinari is just excellent. Every shot is well done, but still in service of the movie. It's almost always cold and pale. When there is light, it's lanterns that cast long shadows that serve the dark world very well.
The production is very good. Completely believable. I have no idea where it is filmed, but if it isn't St. Petersburg...it certainly feels like it. There are numerous extras and they all look like they belong there. The one special effect I could detect wasn't that great, but it was still good enough.
The editing was good. Few surprises, but it isn't a movie for strange montage.
And the music, at last. Ennio Morricone has composed for 40 years for Montaldo now. I can be brief around; he is not the best because he creates music that you expect, but because it's just what the movie needs. The score is sometimes very oldschool suspense-like, with fitting emotional moments. The music itself might not be very easy to listen too for some people, but it gives the film just what it needs at the right moment.
I own an Italian DVD with English subtitles.
Without doubt one of those European films that are just rock-solid, but tend to disappear between the blockbusters that just get more attention. Still, Montaldo proves it again; he is one of the best!
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