20 June 2012 | rmax304823
Better Than You Might Expect.
For a class project in a cinema program this isn't bad at all, more of a reenactment of Hemingways's killer short story than a feature film. It takes about as long to watch it as it does to read the original story, with which I assume most of us are familiar.
The images are rather crude, the sets spare, and some of the acting is amateurish, although Aleksandr Gordon as George, the manager, is pretty good. He has the pock-marked sullen face that seems suitable to the role of the ordinary man in a frightening one-down position. The other notable performance is by Vasili Shukshin as Ole Anderson, the resigned victim awaiting his fate in a dumpy rooming house.
The movie follows the written story closely. In print, when Ole is visited by Nick Adams and, halfway through the conversation, rolls over and faces the wall, he does the same on film. We don't see much of Ole's room. I suppose the budget didn't allow for much display. But when Ole stubs out his cigarette on the wall next to his bed, we see that numerous other butts have been stubbed out in the same place and that tells us most of what we need to know.
The directors have made a few changes that don't interfere with the narrative in any way -- bits of business in which one of the killers flicks a few tiny objects off the counter top with his fingertip, that sort of thing.
The only jarring change is the virtual elimination of the role of Sam the black cook. It's too bad because this is in no way a funny story and Sam provides the few light-hearted moments.
No sign of directorial self display. It opens with a POV shot and there are one or two other slight surprises but it's not a Fourth of July fireworks by any means. It's functionally presented.
The English names of the characters is retained and on the café window we see that coffee costs "5 centes." I call it admirable fealty to the source, mistake and all.
What must it have been like, living in a nation in which Ernest Hemingway's work wasn't allowed to be published until 1956? But never mind literature -- can you imagine American movies without ten versions of "Crime and Punishment"? I'm waiting for a Hollywood blockbuster called "The Master and Margarita" starring Jude Law and Angelina Jolie.