×

A Journey of Dmitry Shostakovich

An artful mix of archival footage, classical music and spoken selections from the composer's letters and diaries, "A Journey of Dmitry Shostakovich" may strike a responsive chord with venturesome auds who frequent film-series screenings at museums, college campuses and other not-for-profit venues.

With:
Voiceover: George Watts, Helga Landauer.

An artful mix of archival footage, classical music and spoken selections from the composer’s letters and diaries, “A Journey of Dmitry Shostakovich” may strike a responsive chord with venturesome auds who frequent film-series screenings at museums, college campuses and other not-for-profit venues. The Russian-U.S. co-production might also be used by canny fund-raisers for symphonies in small and midsized communities where commercial theaters rarely exhibit such esoteric fare. Pic begins its world-premiere engagement today at New York’s Two Boots Pioneer Theater, in both English- and Russian-language versions.

Helmers Oksana Dvornichenko and Helga Landauer effectively structure their dreamily paced documentary into nine chapters, each devoted to a day in the final ocean voyage of the composer’s life. In 1974, Shostakovich set sail aboard the Mikhail Lermontov, pride of the USSR line, on his way to receive an honorary doctorate of fine arts at Northwestern U.

Popular on Variety

During the cruise, Shostakovich was intended to serve as a kind of centerpiece for a Soviet public relations push that also included concerts, screenings of movies with Shostakovich scores and propaganda films ostensibly intended to show passengers what the USSR is all about.

It is the conceit of the filmmakers, however, that Shostakovich spent most of his copious free time during the voyage ruminating over his uncertain future (he already was partially incapacitated by polio) and, more important, his eventful past. (He died in Moscow in 1975.)

Pic adroitly matches newsreels, photos and homemovies (and, sometimes to humorous effect, promotional films for the ocean liner itself) to voiceover narration while offering an “autobiographical” portrait of the artist as an old man. Overall effect ranges from richly amusing (Shostakovich is decidedly less than nostalgic as he recalls providing musical accompaniment for silent movies) to sociopolitically astute.

Time and again, the pic underscores Shostakovich’s occasionally strained relationship with a government that viewed an artist as nothing more than another instrument of the state. At one point, a factory worker is quoted in Pravda as complaining the composer’s compositions are too high-toned: “We need the kind of music that can be understood by all Soviet people.” But for most auds, the pic’s chief appeal will be a soundtrack rich with selections from Shostakovich’s masterworks.

A Journey of Dmitry Shostakovich

Russia-U.S.

Production: A Horovod production. Produced by Oksana Dvornichenko. Directed, written by Oksana Dvornichenko, Helga Landauer.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), July Olshvang; editors, Alexander Sokin, Vladimir Samorodov; sound, Galina Siver. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, March 8, 2007. Running time: 75 MIN.

With: Voiceover: George Watts, Helga Landauer.

More Film

  • Mika Ronkainen and Merja Aakko

    ‘All the Sins’ Producers to Broaden Spanish-Language Ties (EXCLUSIVE)

    GÖTEBORG, Sweden: “All the Sins”’ Finnish co-writers and creators Mika Ronkainen and Merja Aakko, winners of last year’s Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize for outstanding Nordic screenplay, are developing for MRK Matila Röhr Productions an adoption drama set between Finland and Guatemala. Based on a true story, the six-part series “Act of Telling” (a [...]

  • A still from Vivos by Ai

    'Vivos': Film Review

    To the individual enduring it, sorrow seems a lonely, defenseless emotion, one from which others are too quick to look away. Shared and felt en masse, however, it can become something different: a galvanizing force, a wall, not diminished in pain but not diminished by it either. Ai Weiwei’s stirring new documentary “Vivos” runs on [...]

  • Jumbo

    'Jumbo': Film Review

    Tall, dark and handsome? The crush that Noémie Merlant’s character, Jeanne, explores in “Jumbo” is one out of three: a 25-foot-tall carnival ride who seduces the amusement park janitor as she spit-cleans his bulbs. During the night shift, Jumbo literally lights up Jeanne’s life, and while he’s not handsome in the traditional sense — especially [...]

  • Ironbark

    'Ironbark': Film Review

    Movie spies typically fall into one of two categories. There are the butterflies — flamboyant secret agents like James Bond or “Atomic Blonde” who behave as conspicuously as possible. And then there are the moth-like kind, who do their best to blend in. The character Benedict Cumberbatch plays in “Ironbark” belongs to the latter variety, [...]

  • Miss Juneteenth review

    'Miss Juneteenth': Film Review

    “Miss Juneteenth” richly captures the slow pace of ebbing small-town Texas life, even if you might wish there were a bit more narrative momentum to pick up the slack in writer-director Channing Godfrey Peoples’ first feature. She’s got a very relatable heroine in Nicole Beharie’s Turquoise, an erstwhile local beauty queen whose crown proved the [...]

  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always

    'Never Rarely Sometimes Always': Film Review

    The basic plot of “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is easy enough to describe. A 17-year-old girl named Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) winds up pregnant in a small Pennsylvania town. Prevented from seeking an abortion by the state’s parental consent laws, she takes off for New York City with her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder), where what they’d [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content