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
I have read M&M probably 10 times, the Michael Glenny English translation (the others are worthless). This series is a great effort to visualise Bulgakov's grand novel. It is immediately apparent that a series of short films is the best format, so good on the funders and producers for getting that right. Most scenes are just how I pictured them, which really says something for Bulgakov's powers of communication.
I really liked the cast. Initially I was very surprised at the 'old' Pilate (Kirill Lavrov - at 80!), but after 5 minutes of being mesmerised, I realised he must be one of Russia's greats (and indeed he is). Although his age is technically unrealistic for a Roman procurator of Judea, it is a masterclass in acting. Woland (Oleg Basilashvili) is a towering presence, just the right combination of menace and pathos. Kovalchuk certainly looks the part as Margarita - and I am not sure that she could have played her much differently: it is a difficult character to understand from the book, one whose actions but not thoughts are externalised.
Great music. Decent enough special effects & animatronics to cover the magic bits (some younger people will complain about them, but you are forgetting that good actors in a real theatre can make you believe anything, and there the sets are just painted wood). Overall the pace feels right. I think its an excellent overall effort.
Any true M&M fans will appreciate this work, and I am sure find it easy to ignore the small flaws.
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