8 December 2017 | LeMoFa
Is it an attempt of an adaptation or of a parody?
I am a big fan of the great satiric writers Ilya Ilf and Yevgeni Petrov, therefore I try to check out adaptations of their work I can find, including this TV movie for the first Russian television and the Ukrainian channel "Inter". But what was it?
According to an interview the filmmakers wanted to bring the young audience to the timeless classics of Ilf and Petrov. Nice thought. But: Good source material and many (also talented) actors don't make a good movie, even if you feature many songs in it, which were even written by the grand-son of one of the greatest composers in Russia, Isaak Dunayevskiy (who wrote also the music to the movie "Tsirk", another Ilf and Petrov adaptation). This movie is basically showing Ilf and Petrov, who don't look anything like their real-life-prototypes, writing the novel and arguing what to do next in the book, while the characters perform it in front of a studio set. And while the first part of the movie more or less follows the original story, in the second part they seemed to be run out of time and desperately tried to put in the rest of the novel as quickly as possible in the left running time, no matter if it fits or not, just to mention it because it is also in the novel. Best example is a chess game on the stage of the Columbus Theater with Bender on stage, who also offers himself as a painter, which in the book are completely different chapters with more plot in-between. Why did they do it? What was the reason behind it?
Considering the fact that everything was shot in a studio (which isn't necessarily a bad thing) and there are no exterior-shots, this movie looks more like a parody of the 1976-adaptation of the novel, which was very long and very detailed and was more of a musical than this one. It seems like the creators just said: Hey, let's play "Adapting '12 chairs' into a movie". This will be a success. And lets add as many actors everyone knows in the Russian-speaking regions as possible." And therefore we have many comedy celebrities in 1920s costumes singing songs. But all these elements don't make a movie.
One good highlight is when Nicolai Fomenko is performing one of the main themes of the movie, his song "Led tronuslya" (The ice is melting), followed by a children march behind him (like in the 1976-version). This is a real ear worm. But the rest is just a "game of adaptation", without the actual satiric idea from the original.
If you want a great adaptation of the "Twelve Chairs", check out Leonid Gaidai's version from 1971. And read the original novel, of course.
But you don't miss anything if you don't see this.