This is some assiduous animation. Although Piotr Dumala has applied the same technique to other films of his, this time it also befits the picture's subject. Dumala carves his images into painted plaster, then destroys those images by creating new ones over them. In Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel "Crime and Punishment," Raskolnikov seeks to better humanity and create anew by murdering the pawnbroker with an axe. Both carving and destroying and recreating. The dream-like, non-linear narrative construction is also strangely appropriate for a book that places a lot of significance in dreams--or, more specifically, fever dreams and nightmares. Dumala also made a Kafka picture, which would also be apt for such an incubus. The paintings themselves are striking, textured compositions, too.
It's probably true that this animated short film will make little sense to a spectator unfamiliar with the source prose. It's a rewarding experience for me, however, since I've been reviewing a bunch of "Crime and Punishment" movies since reading the book. This one cuts down Dostoevsky's story to three main characters--Raskolnikov, Sonya and Svidrigaïlov--along with the two murder victims. And most of the plot here revolves around one key scene from the novel: that of Raskolnikov's confession to Sonya, as eavesdropped on by Svidrigaïlov. Thus, after alluding to the crime at the beginning, the picture only visits the murders in detail after he has already confessed them, and Sonya and Svidrigaïlov appear beside the crime scene that they weren't actually involved in. This is because we are seeing the crime as confessed and not as it happens in a traditional, linear narrative framework and because the perspective, or narrator, of that confession is shifting between the three characters, two of whom suture themselves into the scene as spectators after the fact (not unlike us movie viewers). Ultimately, however, the entire construction is part of the novel as dreamed by Dumala.
This explains the fascination with objects, which is quite reflective of an arduous animation process consumed by materials. So the picture focuses on the pocket watch he pawns, on the stairs he climbs, the streets he wanders, the keyhole from which Svidrigaïlov peeks in on a private moment, as well as, in various ways, the red of the blood. Less clear is the obsession with insects, which others inform is an eccentric trademark in Dumala's oeuvre--probably too wrapped in symbolism to have any concrete meaning. For me, I'll choose to consider it as stemming from a quotation from the novel, of Raskolnikov refusing he committed a crime: "That I killed a vile and noxious insect, an old pawnbroker woman, of use to no one!"
Another odd, if minor, aspect of this adaptation is that it's one of the few I've seen to not include the painters in another flat when Raskolnikov goes to murder the pawnbroker. And this is the only version I've seen that was actually painted! A lost opportunity, I suppose--painted without painters.
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