Tag Archive: Shostakovich




[1] Howard Hodgkin’s 1999 painting Learning about Russian Music is in many ways a perfect metaphor for the artistic world surrounding Grigori Kozintsev’s 1964 film Hamlet. The painting is comprised of manifold layers which have been painted, scraped off, and then relayered with new colours and dynamics. It seems as if we are viewing the painting from the inside of an immanent and ongoing temporal process; one which not only continues past us, but also contains rhizomatically all that has happened, is happening, and will happened in the future. From this one senses that Hodgkin understood on an intimate level the complete trajectory of Russian music during the twentieth-century. Indeed, the history of Soviet art in the twentieth-century is one of layers, created by a constantly shifting complex of political and cultural influences. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in Grigori Kozintsev’s film Hamlet.



[2] Dmitri Shostakovich’s score for Hamlet is the crowning achievement of the composer’s long engagement with film. On the surface, the score appears to be similar to many of his other film efforts. Indeed, the disposition of the score’s three main thematic elements – the Hamlet, Ghost, and Ophelia themes – appears to function in response to the narrative needs of Kozintsev’s film. Yet when one examines the score more closely it becomes apparent that there is a deeper sense of structural organization here. It was Tatiana Egorova who first suggested that the score for Hamlet might be understood as being organized along the lines of a sonata-allegro movement. Sonata-allegro form was the predominant musico/structural form from the late seventeenth- to the twentieth-century. A traditional sonata-form movement is comprised of three main sections: A-B-A. The initial section is called the “exposition” and is divided into two thematic areas. The second part, the “development,” expands and develops various elements presented in section one. The final section, the “recapitulation,” returns to the disposition of the exposition, although with both themes now presented in the tonic key.



[3] As Egorova suggests, it is possible to understand the musical organization of Shostakovich’s score in this way. Such a reading is not incompatible with Shakespeare’s intentions, because the play can easily be discussed in terms of a three-part structure: The first segmentation, coinciding with Act I, is the exposition of Hamlet’s predicament; the second part is the extended period during which Hamlet contemplates rather than acts; and the third part consists of Hamlet’s return and the culmination of his destiny (Birenbaum, 1981: 19-20). By conceiving of the score this way, we open the possibility of constructing deep relationships between film and score. However, in order to do so, we will need to construct a methodological bridge which will allow the disciplines of music and film theory to discourse effectively. For this we will employ the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze.



The Three R’s of Hamlet



[4] The multilayered complexity of Kozintsev’s Hamlet makes any discussion of Shostakovich’s score a challenging endeavour. The score is not merely situated diegetically and nondiegetically around the film, but rather is drawn directly into the internal narrative. On this we shall have more to say later, but for the time being it is incumbent upon us to unpack the film’s multiple layers. In order to do this we will need to distinguish between the various layers of Kozintsev film as one would peel back the layers on an onion. Only by positioning the score within this complex structure will we be able to truly to understand the way in which it functions within the film’s universe. In order to do this we will need to employ three distinct but subtly related Deleuzian concepts: the eternal return, repetition, and the refrain. We will use the concept of the eternal return as a way to understand the outer structure of the film, its origins, its influences, and the derivative effects of these on the film. The concept of repetition will be discussed as it relates to issues of thematic return within the score and also as a way of bridging the gap between sonata-form and Deleuze’s concept of the refrain.
We will begin our preliminary analysis in the area of the eternal return.






[5] Deleuze draws his concept of the eternal return from the teachings of Friederich Nietzsche. The eternal return was crucial to Deleuze’s radical extension of a philosophy of immanence and univocity (Spinks, 2005: 82-3). Deleuze suggested that Nietzsche directed the aim of his philosophy towards the freeing of thought from the constraints of nihilism and its various forms. For Deleuze, this implied a new way of thinking, a veritable overturning of the principle on which pre-Nietzschean thought had depended. In its place Deleuze proposed a new way of thinking, one that affirmed both life and the will to life, and did this by expelling the whole of the negative. This was replaced by a belief in the innocence of the future and the past, and a belief in the eternal return (Deleuze, 2006: 35).



[6] Deleuze suggested that for Nietzsche, the eternal return was not a form of the identical, but instead was a form of synthesis, and that this view of life called for a new principle outside of traditional philosophic models. This new thought pattern privileged the reproduction of diversity and the repetition of difference. Deleuze argued that when employing the concept of the eternal return, it is not the “same” or the “one” which returns, but instead the return is the one that belongs to diversity and to that which differs (Deleuze, 2006: 46). Thus Nietzsche’s account of the eternal return advances a critique of the terminal or equilibrium state by suggesting that if such a state was in fact reality and becoming indeed had a terminal state, then it would have already been achieved (Deleuze, 2006: 47).



[7] For Deleuze the eternal becomes an answer “to the problem of passage,” and as such it should not be interpreted as the return of something that already is, something that is the “same.” He suggests that we misinterpret the concept if we understand it as “return of the same.” It is not the pre-existent that returns but rather the returning itself that constitutes being, because it is affirmed of becoming and of that which passes. In other words, Deleuze does not suggest that identity in the eternal return describes the nature of that which returns but instead the mere fact of returning for that which differs (Deleuze, 2006: 48). It is for this reason that the eternal return can only be understood as the expression of a principle that serves as an explanation of difference and its repetition (Deleuze, 2006: 49).



[8] By extension, if difference occurred in order to arrive at some terminal point, then we could also infer that the process of becoming also possess some ideal end point (Spinks, 2005: 83). Instead, the eternal return serves as the fundamental axiom of a philosophy of forces in which active force separates itself from and supplants reactive force and ultimately locates itself as the motor principle of becoming (Spinks, 2005: 83). By virtue of this we fail to understand the eternal return if we conceive of it as the ceaseless return of the same; instead, eternal return inscribes difference and becoming at the very heart of being (Spinks, 2005: 83-4).



[9] Of course when we consider the external layer of the film Hamlet we find that it is heavily imbued with the concept. On the most elemental level, there is the return of Shakespeare’s original play in the form of Pasternak’s translation, which of course transposes the play from Shakespeare’s setting in renaissance Denmark and places it on an unspoken level in Soviet Russia. Pasternak of course envisions the role of Claudius to be filled by Joseph Stalin. By extension, the play ceases to be about Shakespeare’s original conception and returns instead as Pasternak’s creative translation into a Soviet morality play which questions the role of inaction against a corrupt state. The return in this instance can be carried farther, for of course Pasternak’s stage play then returns as Kozintsev’s screenplay. Not only does the stage play return as cinema, but Pasternak’s morality play now becomes a vehicle for de-Stalinization. Lastly of course, Kozintsev’s film returns as Shostakovich’s score, a composition which the composer subsequently arranged and released as a series of symphonic suites. Thus Kozintsev’s film and Shostakovich’s score have now returned as a series of concert works that bears no tangible visual or aural markings of Shakespeare’s original effort, yet remains one with it. The play has become something different while maintaining itself within the difference of its return. It becomes something new in its difference, while remaining what it was in its instance of repetition.



[10] Of course there are other manifestations of the eternal return within the narrative world of Shakespeare’s original stage play. Hamlet returns to Elsinore, which is now no longer the world he left, but rather the same space and physical location but returned as the castle and throne of his Uncle Claudius. Hamlet’s father, the Ghost, returns to the world of the living and in so doing remains himself, but not without the corporal body which has been replaced by a spirit body. One must also mention the return of justice as injustice, and the return of structure as the lack of structure.



[11] We must also mention the role that Shostakovich’s score plays in the film. As we mentioned above, and as we shall further develop shortly, Shostakovich’s score was something very new and remarkable in the realm of film music. In essence, Shostakovich’s score is an instance of film music returning laden with the formal organizational structure of Western art music. In other words, by imposing a sonata-allegro plan upon the overall structure of the score Shostakovich has caused the film score to return as something new. It is still a film score and yet it is different by virtue of what it is organized by. Certainly, composers had used symphonic forms in multimedia works before this time. One thinks of Bernard Herrmann’s scores for The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942) and Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941) or Arnold Bax’s score for Oliver Twist (David Lean, 1948), each of which drew heavily upon standard structural forms drawn from traditional orchestral genres. However, Shostakovich’s score is something different because the overall score is organized symphonically on a large scale. Thus in Shostakovich’s score for Hamlet, the film score has returned as something different, yet the same.



[12] Perhaps we will leave the final word here to Deleuze, who suggested that in the eternal return being ought to belong to becoming, but the being of becoming ought to belong to a single becoming-active (Deleuze, 2006: 190). In essence, in each case cited above, the intricacies of the layering in Kozintsev’s Hamlet have affirmed the power of the film to become something new. The eternal return has become “the distinct return of the outward movement, the distinct contemplation of the action, but also the return of the outward movement itself and the return of the action; at once moment and cycle of time.” (Deleuze, 2006: 25)



[13] Having unpacked the first layer of Kozintsev’s Hamlet with the help of the concept of the eternal return, it is now important that we peel back another layer of the film by considering the concept of repetition. The concept of repetition is vitally important for understanding the ways in which Shostakovich’s score for the film functions. First, the concept of repetition helps us to better understand the organizational principals of sonata-allegro form, a form which privileges the very notion of repetition. Secondly, the concept of repetition allows us to find a way in which to speak meaningfully about the elements of the score that are not part of the sonata-allegro structure, whether those elements repeat literally or just thematically. Last of all, the concept of repetition allows us to relate elements of the larger scheme of the eternal return to our eventual discussions of the refrain.



[14] For Deleuze, to repeat is to begin again and as such, repetition becomes a form of creative activity resulting in transformation (Parr, 2005: 224). In this regard, Deleuze encourages us to repeat because he sees in the action of repeating the possibility for reinvention (Parr, 2005: 224). As Adrian Parr suggests, for Deleuze repetition is best understood as discovery and experimentation, a process that allows for new experiences, new affects, and new expressions to emerge. By repeating we are able to affirm the power of the new and the unforeseeable (Parr, 2005: 223). However, repetition should be understood as a repeating of the same thing over and over again (Parr, 2005: 223). While it is true that repetition is infinite, it is not true that it occurs in a linear sequence whose ending marks the beginning of a new cycle (Parr, 2005: 224). Similarly, repetition is not produced by mimesis but rather via difference (Parr, 2005: 223).



[15] Each individual repetition can be understood as a limited form of remaking, suggesting, as we observed above, that the precursor text is never singular and that the repetitions and remakes differ textually from other examples not so much in kind, but rather in degree (Verevis, 2005: 226). With this in mind, it is correct to discern repetition when we are confronted by identical elements with exactly the same concept. However, as Deleuze reminds us, we must distinguish between the discrete elements, the repeated objects, and a type of hidden subject which is in many ways the real subject of repetition. This hidden subject repeats itself through the other, less covered elements of repetition. If we are able to uncover the hidden subject we can locate the Self of repetition: the singularity within that which repeats (Deleuze, 1994: 23).



[16] Thus, in essence, the concept of repetition as proposed by Deleuze allows for the emergence of fresh experiences, affects, and expressions. With this in mind, both Kozintsev’s film and Shostakovich’s score can be understood as instances of repetition that differ from Shakespeare’s original not in intent, but rather in degree of relation. As Deleuze suggests, “to repeat is to behave in a certain manner, but in relation to something unique or singular which has no equal or equivalent” (Deleuze, 1994: 1). As an example of this Deleuze offers the example of the rhyme, suggesting that while it can be conceived of as a form of verbal repetition, it is still repetition which includes the difference between two words and by virtue of this inscribes that difference at the heart of a poetic Idea, in a space which it determines (Deleuze, 1994: 21).



[17] As we mentioned above, by discussing Shostakovich’s score in terms of sonata-allegro form, we are in essence privileging the concept of repetition as a structural boundary, for sonata-allegro form is constructed with the idea of thematic repetition and return at its very core. As a way of understanding the role that this principal plays in Shostakovich’s score and the manner in which this relates the score to the film’s internal narrative, we will be employing Deleuze’s concept of the refrain. The refrain of course is understood musically as analogously recurring passages in musical forms. However, for Deleuze the concept of refrain has much further reaching implications and these will become particularly useful as we consider Shostakovich’s score for Hamlet. Let us examine why.



[18] Deleuze suggests the aim of music is the rendering audible of inaudible forces (Bogue, 2003: 165). This is very helpful, because it suggests that music possesses an internality which can only be revealed by the power of sensation rendered audible. In other words, music is not simply what we hear, i.e. sound, but it is more specifically what it transmits, which we can understand as force rendered through sensation.



[19] Musical refrains have venerable associations with territoriality, with many being associated with a specific region or province or with nature, as in birdsong (Bogue, 2003: 16). Deleuze suggests that refrains can be classified in one of four ways: (1) territorial refrains that seek, mark, and assemble a territory; (2) territorialized function refrains that assume a special function within an assemblage; (3) territorialized function refrains that mark new assemblages; and (4) refrains of confrontation that collect or gather forces, either at the heart of the territory, or in order to go outside it (Deleuze, 1987: 326-7). Each of these instances reveals a particular power of the refrain and unleashes a particular “force” which performs a specific role. Let’s examine how this happens.



[20] Deleuze offers three examples: (1) a child who is afraid in the dark sings a song to reassure herself; (2) a cat sprays the corners of a house and the trees and bushes of a yard in order to demarcate a dimensional area; and (3) impromptu bird songs at the break of day which opens territories to other milieus. These three examples can be summed up in the following way, which Deleuze suggests are the three principal aspects of the refrain: a point of stability, a circle of property, and an opening to the outside (Bogue, 2003: 17).



[21] Let us consider each of these instances of the refrain in turn. A child in the dark is gripped by fear and is comforted by singing under his or her breath. Here the refrain becomes a shelter, orienting the child as much as it is able. The song provides a model for calming and stabilizing and in essence becomes a safe center in the heart of chaos (Deleuze, 1987: 311).



[22] In the second instance, the refrain creates a home, a domain, but it is a home that did not preexist. Instead it becomes necessary to draw a circle around an uncertain and fragile center in order to organize a limited space against the forces of chaos, which are now located outside of the circle as much as possible. The defined internal territory in essence protects the germinal forces of a task that remains to be fulfilled. In this instance, the sonorous or vocal components become a form of sound wall, which in essence keep the forces of chaos at bay (Deleuze, 1987: 311). Thus, as Ian Buchanan suggests, “the refrain is our means of erecting hastily if needs be, a portable territory that can secure us in troubled territory” (Buchanan, 2004: 16).



[23] In the final instance, the refrain is opened to the cosmos through a small crack in order to allow communication with some concept, person, or thing. However, this is done not on the side which is challenged by the forces of chaos but in some new area, some line of flight which is created by the boundary itself. The new opening becomes an improvisation, but an improvisation which forces the inhabiter of the territory to join with the world, or to meld with it; one ventures away from home carried forth on the notes of an improvised refrain and as such becomes one with something new (Deleuze, 1987: 311). In other words, as Deleuze argues, the refrain is an “open structure that permeates the world” (Bogue, 2003: 14).



[24] However, the refrain is also a means of preventing music, or of warding it off and forgoing it (Deleuze, 1987: 300). In essence, music is a creative, active operation that consists of deterritorializing the refrain. Whereas the refrain is essentially territorial, territorializing, or reterritorializing, music makes it a deterritorialized content for a deterritorializing form of expression (Deleuze, 1987: 300). It is the refrain’s role musically to stabilize the instability created by the free flight of chaos. The refrain provides structure and preempts the co-opting of music by the reterritorialization of the refrain, which returns either in the cloak of repetition or of difference.






[25] So just what is a refrain? Well, for Deleuze the refrain “is a prism, a crystal of space-time,” something that acts upon that which surrounds it and by virtue of this extracts various vibrations, decompositions, projections, or transformations from it. The refrain also possesses a catalytic function which not only increases the speed of exchanges and the reactions in the things which surround it, but also assures indirect interactions between elements devoid of so-called natural affinity, and thereby forms organized masses (Deleuze, 1987: 348). However, according to Deleuze, the deterritorialized refrain can also be the final end of music, a line of flight released to the Cosmos in essence opening the entire assemblage onto a cosmic force. Deleuze warns that in the passage from one state to the other, from an assemblage of sounds (sensations) to the Machine (the film apparatus) that renders it sonorous many dangers may crop up (Deleuze, 1987: 350). In the following section, we will examine the way in which Shostakovich’s score, organized as it is embraces the concepts of the refrain and its subsequent return and repetition to bear this fact out.

The Exposition as Statement: A Circle of Property

[26] Hamlet begins with an establishing shot of the ocean taken from the shore beneath Elsinore Castle. The camera pans slowly to a close-up of the massive stonework that comprises the castle wall. Kozintsev leaves the camera fixed on the castle wall, yet we continue to hear the sound of the sea crashing against the rocks below. This sequence of shots will be revisited regularly throughout the film. One might ask why Kozintsev chose to begin his film in this manner, but the answer comes quickly. The director cuts to a fast- moving shot of Hamlet racing on horseback across the Danish countryside as he returns to Elsinore Castle. This shot is accompanied by the first statement of the Hamlet theme, whose frenetic energy and jaunty rhythms perfectly mirror the desperate movements of horse and rider. Hamlet enters the castle by crossing a drawbridge contained within a circular tower. The drawbridge is raised after he crosses it, sealing the castle completely and in essence trapping Hamlet within the “prison” that Denmark has become. The Overture concludes as soon as the drawbridge reaches its full upright position.



[27] Thus, Kozintsev establishes that Hamlet is returning to Elsinore because he has received troubling news and also establishes the Hamlet theme as the musical representation of the character Hamlet. However, such a reading provides no justification for the odd opening shots of the sea and the castle wall. I would like to suggest that the film’s opening establishes that the sea represents the cosmos, the world if you will, beyond the constraints of the castle. This is the place where Hamlet will find his “opening to the outside,” his line of flight into the cosmos. In essence, the sea represents the crack in the circle of property that Hamlet will form to protect himself in the first act of the film and will become the place to which he returns as he seeks a course of action in the film’s second act.



[28] Kozintsev establishes the Hamlet theme as the musical representation of the man right from the film’s outset and the music dies with the closing of the drawbridge. Interestingly, as the drawbridge closes, it reveals beneath it a circular cistern filled with water which is encased within the stones of the tower: a fitting visual metaphor for Hamlet’s situation. The statement of the Hamlet theme at the film’s beginning creates a cloak of identity inside which Hamlet will secure himself once he is drawn into the sickness of Elsinore’s world. The closing of the circle of property that he will create to protect himself will come later when the first complete statement of the Ghost theme is heard: a moment in which Hamlet will understand the complete story.



[29] One of the roles of the refrain is to prevent music from spinning out of control, thereby interrupting and opposing the freedom of the “verse” by calling it to return to the order of the refrain. It is indicative of this that all of the themes associated with Claudius and the Court are brief and possess little musical interest, and because of this have little or no ability to develop musically. Indeed, one could suggest that the Court-related cues are so insignificant and artificial that they possess no music to prevent, a fact which reduces the Court cues to refrains that prevent development. In fact, immediately following the conclusion of the Overture we experience four quick examples of the inarticulateness and simplicity of Shostakovich’s cues for Claudius and his court. Inside the sealed castle, the snare drum rolls to call the people to attention as the court crier announces the news of Claudius and Gertrude’s marriage. The snare drum roll is official, but uninteresting. It does not possess any of the interest and creativity that subsequent uses of percussion related to Hamlet will possess.



[30] The snare drum roll is followed by a cue which Shostakovich calls “Military Music,” a cue used to accompany the return of a group of soldiers to the castle. Again, there is little of interest here. In fact, Shostakovich has composed the cue in a style that represents what we expect to hear from a music accompanying movie images of a court and its’ military. The harmonic vocabulary alternates between the tonic and the dominant and, while suitably martial in character, is not imaginative. As we shall see, this sense of artificiality pervades many of the cues that Shostakovich composed for the court.



[31] During the preceding scene in the ballroom, Hamlet wanders amongst the guests engaged in an internal monologue that questions the current state of affairs at the Court. This is the first indication given by Kozintsev that he views Hamlet as a man of internal retrospection. Indeed, one has the sense that as Hamlet circles the ballroom pensively, he is conducting preliminary reconnaissance aimed at establishing the beginnings of the protective “circle of property.” Of course this cannot be accomplished until the facts surrounding his father’s death are revealed to him by the Ghost, at which time Shostakovich will need to introduce the Ghost theme. By doing this, Shostakovich will be closing not only Hamlet’s “circle of property,” but also concluding the formal exposition/ statement of both the musical and narrative elements of the first section of the film.



[32] We do not have to wait long for the preliminary statement of the Ghost theme, for upon meeting Horatio in the next scene, Hamlet is told that Horatio believes that he has seen Hamlet’s father walking on the castle ramparts. Interestingly, Kozintsev felt that the part of the Ghost was insignificant at best, going so far as to suggest that it would even possible to simply cut the role (Kozintsev, 1966: 147). Shostakovich’s cue for the introduction of the Ghost theme makes use of unusual orchestrational elements including metallic percussion, harp, and piano. These unusual elements help to establish a sense of otherworldliness as Shostakovich exposes segments of the theme through thematic fragmentation. In essence, he is revealing the Ghost to us musically as Horatio does so narratively. Strangely, in Kozintsev’s film the Ghost does not make the three appearances called for by Shakespeare, but rather appears only once on screen. Hamlet will see the Ghost later in his mother’s chamber, but we will only be aware of this because Shostakovich will alert us to its presence with the Ghost theme.



[33] Kozintsev, having exposed the idea of the Ghost in the scene with Horatio, now brings the image of the Ghost to “life” before Hamlet’s eyes. The internal manifestation of the Ghost is revealed by the first complete statement of the score’s secondary thematic element, the Ghost theme. By virtue of this exposition, Hamlet’s circle of property, his defence against chaos is completed. This completes the first conceptual area of the return/ repetition/refrain, as realized in Shostakovich’s score through the application of sonata form. This also completes the formal exposition, as the Ghost theme is associated with Hamlet’s father.



[34] Kozintsev frames Hamlet’s encounter with the Ghost against the backdrop of the sea. For Hamlet, the sea represents a period of contemplation and openness, something which only happens outside of the castle. Hamlet has been freed from things as they appear and now sees them as they truly are. The Ghost theme closes Hamlet’s circle of property; he understands what has happened and because of this he is emotionally separated from the remainder of the court. In the midst of the court’s chaos, Hamlet is called to act, a call which he is powerless to refuse. In essence, Hamlet has been separated musically and personally thereby becoming a man of action. This realization concludes the exposition of both Shostakovich’s score and Shakespeare’s play.



[35] The Ghost leaves Hamlet, who now understands the situation completely and knowing this, falls into a deep sleep. As he awakes, he realizes that time has become out of joint, the position between what is and what will be, between life and death, truth and deception, has caused him to experience complete openness to what must be. Deleuze suggests that Hamlet’s acknowledgement that time is out of joint shows that he is now open to the future. Time is no longer time in the cosmic sense, but the time of the city without a closure (Wilson, 2007: 227).



[36] The exposition concludes with a transitional scene/cue, in which Hamlet and Ophelia part without speaking a word to each other. The scene is accompanied by the artificial stiltedness of Ophelia’s theme group, which is completely overwhelmed by the passion and obsession of Hamlet’s theme. Ophelia becomes the platform on which Hamlet’s becoming as a man of action, the ascendancy of his personal theme, his circle of property, can now be realized and enacted.



The Development as an Opening to the Outside

[37] During the second act of the film, Hamlet’s circle of property is opened to the cosmos as he considers a course of action. During this portion of the film Hamlet will become an actor, a position he will maintain throughout the “development” of the film. Hamlet’s role is to become an actor within the play/film that he is acting within. To facilitate this, Hamlet must be exposed to an opening in the circle of property that he created in the first section of the film. As Deleuze reminds us, the opening comes not from the side of the circle where chaos reigns, but from another unexpected side. Appropriately, the opening in the circle will be provided by the arrival of a troop of players who, like Hamlet, adopt roles in order to meet the particular needs of individual requirements. In this section of the film, the concept of development in the form of role-playing, internal contemplation, and thematic elaboration are privileged above everything else. As such, Hamlet realizes that he must become, that he must act, and therefore it is only sensible that Shostakovich’s score following the tenets of sonata-allegro form will mirror this.



[38] What changes in the development section of the film/score is that everything associated with Hamlet now becomes something deceptive, something functioning as something else. As the scene develops, Hamlet greets the players, who are accompanied by a theme that seems at once martial in character but farcical in tone. This is a very different approach than Shostakovich used in his earlier representations of the Hamlet, Ghost, and Court themes. Unlike the Court-related themes, which are deceptive, false, and limited by their simplicity, here Shostakovich represents the players with a cue that is at once sophisticated and sarcastic. The players are actors, deceivers in the conventional sense, but their deception is false in an overt way, not in the clandestine and artificial sense that characterizes Claudius’s court cues.



[39] The player’s roles as re(en)actors is made clear almost immediately, as Hamlet is greeted by a young boy who imitates the sound of a trumpet, yet makes no attempt to conceal his deception. His falsetto imitation is a performance vehicle designed to display his ability to play the role of a woman. There is no effort to conceal the artifice here and the implications of this acceptance of the deceiver as actor sets in place a trajectory which results in Hamlet’s becoming.



[40] This trajectory of becoming in Hamlet is developed further as he listens to the players’ leader enact a dramatic scene. Unknown to themselves the players bring the possibility of an opening and a line of flight to Hamlet’s captivity in the prison of Elsinore. Their entrance has transformed him. As Hamlet concentrates on the player’s recitation he begins the second important monologue in Pasternak’s translation, “O what a rogue and peasant slave I am,” again accompanied by what we will call the clarinet Contemplation theme. Hamlet has begun to play upon a small snare drum that was found in the players’ cart. As the scene develops, Hamlet’s drumming, inspired by the words of the actor/deceiver/developer, becomes more emphatic and enthusiastic. The implication here is clear: Hamlet has heard, contemplated, and become. He has opened his circle to an idea, he has contemplated this, and now he has decided that he too must act, but act in the sense of becoming an actor. In what is clearly one of the most dramatic scenes in the film, Hamlet explodes exclaiming, “We’ll hear a play tomorrow” and immediately begins drumming again. He screams like a mad man and the Hamlet theme returns, overriding the ecstatic colour of his wild outburst. The camera cuts to the film’s most dramatic images of the waves crashing upon Elsinore’s rocky shore line. The violence of Hamlet’s sudden outburst suggests that a decision has been made. As the intensity of the orgasmic moment dissipates, the accumulated peace is broken by the beginnings of Hamlet’s internal monologue, “To be or not to be,” again accompanied by the Contemplation theme. Time has past, time is out of joint, and Hamlet now facing the quieted sea has become: he is now an actor, he is a player in the drama, he is.



[41] As Hamlet becomes clearer in his understanding of what happened to his father, the Hamlet theme becomes ever closer to the stylistic world of the Ghost theme. As Hamlet recites his monologue during the scene on the shore, the repeated rhythmic pulse of the Ghost theme is transferred to the Hamlet theme, becoming the first instance of thematic development in the score. It is appropriate that the concept of musical development, which is at the very conceptual core of this section of the film, begins with the Hamlet theme absorbing the character of the Ghost. Shostakovich’s cue privileges this metamorphosis, and he uses it to accompany the monologue that turns the Danish Prince into a heroic fighter (Egorova, 1997: 181). Hamlet may not be particularly concerned with the question “To be or not to be,” but Shostakovich’s music suggests that he is concerned with action: “To become/ act or not to become/ act.”



[42] The internal monologue ends with the return to the clarinet Contemplation theme. As Hamlet ascends the steps of the castle, ready to take on his new persona as a player in Elsinore’s drama, the cue fades and all that remains is the sound of the sea. Hamlet has opened himself to the cosmos and he has set a course, the outcome of which he does not comprehend, but the immanence of which he cannot avoid.



[43] Following the previous scene, Hamlet is prepared to confront Ophelia and to end his relationship with her. This is the first major scene in which music does not play any role, which is appropriate, for the music of each character plays its own role within that character’s narratological trajectory. For example, the Ghost’s theme is the musical embodiment of the disembodied King. The Hamlet theme represents the inner meta-narrative of Hamlet’s character and therefore is the outward manifestation of an internal embodiment. The Court themes associated with Claudius are external, artificial, and undeveloped, representing the illegitimacy of his reign. Last of all, Ophelia’s theme group represents Ophelia’s attempt to maintain control over the external elements of her life, over which she has no control because she is a woman. In fact, it is this very naiveté that makes it possible for Hamlet to destroy Ophelia, and for us not to lose our belief in his cause because he does so.



[44] Hamlet now adopts his role as an actor who plays the “madman,” and by so doing he sets in motion the plot which will undo his uncle. Such a plan entails a need for development and it is here that Shostakovich’s score begins the earnest work of developing the various themes and sub-themes that have been established through individual exposition/statement. As the players prepare for the play they will present for Claudius and the Court, we are drawn to the sound of what first appears to be an orchestra warming up. This of course makes sense as the camera establishes that the scene we are observing is in fact pre-play. However, Shostakovich has done something very clever here and it provides the first instance of true development and varied repetition in the score. The music which he composed for this scene draws on the earlier cue that he composed for the players’ arrival and also on the music that accompanied Hamlet’s scream. What at first appears to be a diegetic cue that is openly audible to those in the narrative turns out to be a non-diegetic cue representing the internal turmoil in Hamlet’s mind. The music returns as Hamlet’s “memory,” but also foreshadows his excitement at what is about to happen. It represents past, present, and future to Hamlet, but the variety of meanings implied and the cumulative experiences represented offer a much richer reading than what at first appears to be simple bit of diegetic stage music.



[45] The start of the actors’ play is announced by a fanfare, a variation on Claudius’s Royal Fanfare, however here presented in a more developed incarnation. Interestingly, Shostakovich has developed this cue and transformed it into something new, something not associated with its first statement. Thus, the return of the Royal Fanfare becomes instead the players’ Fanfare, which interrupts the goings on of the Court in order to reveal its’ artificiality.



[46] Shostakovich accompanies the play, which deals with murder of the Duke of Gonzaga, with a variation of the Hamlet theme. Much as he had done earlier with the players’ Fanfare, the sense of expansion and development here is dramatically profound. However, in this instance, the expansion represents the growing excitement in Hamlet’s mind as he observes Claudius watching the play. Claudius cannot hear the cues that support the tension in the early moments of the play, because these are internal to Hamlet. However, as the play progresses, Claudius begins to recognize the player king who, because he is not a mimetic king, bears an uncanny resemblance to the reappearance of the figure of the Ghost (McDonald, 1978: 44-5). As Claudius recognizes the image of his brother on the stage, Shostakovich introduces the Ghost theme, which overpowers the Hamlet theme, essentially silencing it. The implication is clear: as Claudius becomes aware that the player king represents his brother, the presence of the Ghost overwhelms Claudius and the Ghost’s theme becomes audible to him. What is interesting here is that both Hamlet and Claudius share this cue. The cue has developed and has now become internal to both of them as they acknowledge the presence of the Ghost.



[47] As Claudius runs into the castle halting the play, he screams for light as if to banish the Ghost. Hamlet, now convinced that Claudius is guilty, calls for music in a mock act of compassion. Once again the music of the players’ original cue is heard, however this time in its original form. The comedy of the players’ arrival and the possibility of a play have now been replaced by the reality of the Ghost, and as such, a real play now threatens to undo Claudius. In this light, Hamlet’s call for the recorders to play is at once sarcastic, but also appropriate for the play he is directing.



[48] At this point in the film/score, the opening created in Hamlet’s circle of property has developed past the original intention of the various musical themes. This has happened in three instances: First, in the case of Hamlet, it has resulted in the externalization of the initial internalization of the Hamlet theme. Hamlet no longer needs to carry his anger inside. He has had his fears confirmed and as such, the time has come for external action and not internalization. Second, the manifestation of the Ghost theme to Hamlet has expanded to include Claudius, who is aware that his plan has been discovered, resulting in his being confronted by the presence, at least on the level of memory, of his dead brother. Third and lastly, the narrative need for the various themes to relate and commingle has created a momentary confusion of themes, which as we shall see below, stifles the appearance of all musics but the Ghost’s theme until the end of the first half of the film. Let us examine this last idea in greater detail.



[49] At the end of the play as Claudius rushes into the ballroom, Hamlet calls for music to sooth the King. The subsequent cue, “Flutes,” is terminated abruptly when those in the room realize that Hamlet is acting strangely and that his discourse may in effect condemn or implicate him in the King’s unfortunate state. What is left for Hamlet the musician/actor to do at this point? As suggested above, his dilemma has been resolved internally at least momentarily. Hamlet knows that Claudius is guilty, and by virtue of this, the Hamlet theme no longer represents his internal state, which has been realized externally. As such the Hamlet theme is silenced. The Ghost theme, which has been “heard” not only by Hamlet, but also by Claudius, now represents the presence of the Ghost to both and as such is no longer heard. The ancillary themes of the Court are also silenced because Claudius’s illegitimate claim to the throne has been found out. Finally, the players have fled and with them their music. So what is left to do musically?



[50] There is no space for music here. With the exception of the Ghost’s appearance to Hamlet and his mother as he is scolding her in her chamber, there is no music in the film for the next twenty-two minutes. The music has been silenced by a new line of flight for Hamlet, one that is directed through the opening in his circle of property and one that, until it returns in the recapitulation/restatement, will remain muddled and most often silenced. Instead, the music will be replaced by words about music which Hamlet will speak in his famous instrument monologue “O the recorder,” where he will invite Rosencranz and Guildenstern to play upon the instrument, much as they had attempted to play upon him. Interestingly, Hamlet’s monologue here is external and his instrument becomes his voice, suggesting that Hamlet the actor has undone the plot to find him out, and in turn redressed the illegitimacy of the Court.



[51] In the closing moments of the first half of Shakespeare’s play, Claudius delivers a monologue during which he laments his plight and the fact that his treachery has been discovered. Here, beyond perhaps all other moments in the film/score, the development of the Hamlet and Ghost themes reach their apex, as they influence, perfume, and distort each other as a way of indicating musically that Claudius understands what has happened. The intertwining of the two themes suggests that he has been overwhelmed by the fact that the persistence of Hamlet will undermine him and that his subconscious guilt will eventually destroy him. Shostakovich shows this by constantly placing elements of the Ghost theme and the Hamlet theme on each other. The persistent pulsing and the low brass of the Ghost theme invade the Hamlet theme, while the pizzicato string playing of the Hamlet theme invades elements of the Ghost theme. Claudius is attacked from two sides because he has taken both the Hamlet and Ghost themes into himself, resulting in his own indecision.



[52] The development section of the score will end when Hamlet, now banished for killing Polonius, leaves by ship for England with Rosencranz and Guildenstern, who carry secret orders to have him arrested and executed. As the clarinet Contemplation theme reemerges, Hamlet recalls his father and strikes upon a plan to undo Rosencranz and Guildenstern. It is at this moment far out on the sea, open to the cosmos and to contemplation of a future course, that Hamlet is at his most free. Liberated by the openness of the sea, he sets in place a series of actions that will bring the circle full around.



A Point of Stability: Recapitulation, Restatement, and Return

[53] The third act of Hamlet carries on the silence that was established at the end of second. The tower bells toll rather then playing the Ghost theme, which is no longer needed. Gertrude and Claudius speak, but the words bring no music; Claudius knows that he is in a position of extreme difficulty, and of course Gertrude evokes no music at all because of her naiveté. Indeed, Gertrude is so deaf to the truth that she was unable to hear the presence of her dead husband when his theme became audible to Hamlet during the scene in her chamber. However, such intense silence within Elsinore Castle can only result in insanity if left unresolved, which is of course what happens to Ophelia.



[54] Ophelia’s descent into madness causes her to do something remarkable within the score: the body of Ophelia becomes the maker of the music. It makes sense then that freed from the constraints of a need to belong, that the music within Ophelia would burst out as a physical manifestation of her insanity. This happens in the form of a folk song, which Ophelia sings as a way of surrounding herself with a circle of property, thereby distancing herself from the reality of her father’s death, the loss of Hamlet, and the physical distance from her brother. Following Ophelia’s suicide the orchestra recapitulates the folksong which she sang at the beginning of the section. Ophelia is dead and so the folksong must become instrumental. Her voice is lost, but the remnants of control that oppressed her remain and as such, the harpsichord makes one final return by repeating the eerie chromatic motif associated with it earlier. As the camera pulls away from the running brook, we see Ophelia lying beneath the water. Perhaps she has, like Hamlet, sought freedom in the openness of the sea, but here, as in every aspect of her life at Elsinore, her attempt is too shallow, too naïve. As such, rather than granting her freedom it brings her the peace of death.



[55] Following the insanity which results in Ophelia’s death, the narrative has no choice but to seek a point of stability and it finds this in Hamlet’s return from the sea. As Hamlet stands on the shore of Denmark having the sea to his back, he has ceased acting and has become instead a man of action: one who follows his plan without deviation. This clarity of purpose establishes a point of stability within the madness of Elsinore, and throughout this section the strength of the Hamlet theme serves to represent this point of stability. The recapitulation of Shostakovich’s score evoking the point of stability begins with the duel between Laertes and Hamlet. This results in a recapitulation that is quite short, placing the preceding Ophelia suicide episode in a transitional role. Yet in spite of the recapitulation’s seeming brevity, we must allow the moment when Hamlet’s position as a point of stability is fully realized to dictate the placement of the section’s beginning.



[56] The duel marks the point of collision between Claudius, Hamlet, the Ghost, Ophelia and the idea of the return. Each of the players become part of a giant intersection of individual paths, a sort of concurrent return, yet one that in spite of its manifold linear intersection will not result in a terminal point, but simply a further moment of return and recreation.

[57] As mentioned above, the duel represents the moment when themes collide, and here the Hamlet, Ghost, and Court themes engage in a dance, resulting in each character’s destruction. Shostakovich structures the duel cue in an interesting way. The cue is divided into three sections that mirror the shifting perspective of the various narratives. The cue begins with a tympani roll and is followed by the Royal Fanfare, which is heard following Hamlet’s first strike. This is then followed by a cannon shot and a second instance of the Royal Fanfare. This sequence is then repeated exactly following Hamlet’s second strike. The same sequence was heard in a more relaxed manner at the beginning of the film and the implication there was the same: Claudius believes that his treachery has gone undiscovered and his plan to destroy Hamlet leaves him feeling invulnerable. However, having established the Hamlet theme as a point of stability deterritorializes Claudius and prevents the various elements of the Court’s thematic catalogue from being developed and taking flight. Hamlet’s refrain overwhelms the thematic elements associated with Claudius and they are heard from no more.



[58] The final moments of the duel represent a remarkable instance of an immanent trajectory for the score’s two principal themes. Earlier we mentioned that in conventional sonata-allegro form, the recapitulation reestablishes the movement’s two principal themes in the same order in which they were originally presented. However, Shostakovich chose to invert the recapitulation of the principal themes, presenting the Ghost theme first and then following it with the Hamlet theme. What is more interesting is the way in which the two themes “become” and take on characteristics of the other theme. The Hamlet theme’s orchestration moves closer to the low brass scoring of the Ghost theme, and is heard in an augmented form which seems to move in the same temporal world as the Ghost theme. This is appropriate to the Ghost’s theme because of its position in the afterworld. However, here Shostakovich uses it to suggest the single mindedness of Hamlet as he seeks to avenge his father’s death. As the duel progresses, the two themes become part of the same spiritual world, as Hamlet’s immanent trajectory takes him towards not only the successful “prevention” of Claudius’s plan, but his own death.



[59] After receiving his fatal wound and subsequently killing Claudius, Hamlet’s death takes place outside of Elsinore on the rocky cliffs overlooking the sea. Fortinbras’ soldiers raise Hamlet, as one might a heroic fallen comrade, on a bier constructed from swords and spears. Kozintsev closes the film with a crane shot that allows us to see Hamlet and the procession from above. The shot suggests that we are watching this from the point-of-view of the Ghost, who now avenged, awaits a reunion with his heroic son. The music we hear is the same music that accompanied the opening scene in which Hamlet raced across the country side as he returned to Elsinore. Here the music suggests another return, this time the return of the King, but here the return is not a mere repetition but something new: a new king, Fortinbras. As the Hamlet theme returns at the recapitulation’s close, the camera opens to a wider shot encompassing the vastness of the sea, Hamlet’s visual refrain of internal contemplation and becoming. We are reminded that the concept of the eternal return does not need a terminus. Nothing is resolved; instead, the return has created something new. As the Ghost’s theme served as the aural embodiment of the Ghost, the Hamlet theme now serves to do the same. The physical Hamlet is no longer, but his act of “becoming” has caused stability to return to Elsinore.




[60] The complexity of layering in Kozintsev’s Hamlet creates a work that is rich on many levels. Externally, the original play by Shakespeare returns in two very different and creatively distinct works: first as Pasternak’s translation and secondly as Kozintsev’s screenplay. In each instance, the translation becomes something different and avoids becoming a copy of the original work. As we have seen, Deleuze’s concept of the return comes into play here, for not only is the initial model creatively adapted into something new, but the subsequent meaning is changed and reappropriated in a manner that is specific to circumstance. In both Kozintsev’s film and Shostakovich’s score, the return and its incarnation as repetition has revealed something and opened the original to us in a new way.



[61] Internally, the concept of the return inhabits the deepest reaches of the Kozintsev’s camera work and Shostakovich’s score. The recurring visual leitmotifs of the open sea and the closed castle walls form visual refrains that provide cinematic depth to a Shakespearean world that exists all too often on the plane of language. Shostakovich’s score, which exists first as film score, subsequently becoming a concert work carries the concept of the return to a further level and by extension, provides a fourth layer of abstraction that leaves us with a new artistic vision far removed from, but still layered onto Shakespeare’s original conception of the play. Shostakovich’s score/suite becomes a Hamlet without words, much as Kozintsev’s screenplay became a film without a stage, and Pasternak’s translation becomes a Soviet play removed from its English roots. The score also adds a further level of meta-textual layering by the introduction of the structural device of sonata-allegro form, which in itself reveals aspects of Hamlet’s internal dialogue which would have remained hidden if they had not been revealed musically.



[62] Thus, Kozintsev’s Hamlet is a study of the concept of the eternal return as a creative action: one in which repetition is not relegated to a mere repeating of what was, but rather is the creative act of envisioning a new becoming. By virtue of this, Shostakovich’s use of the sonata-allegro form in the score allows what at first appeared to be a rigid structural device to become instead a creative force that, in spite of its prescribed form, opens itself to express the eternal.





Birenbaum, Harvey (1981) ‘To Be and Not to Be: The Archetypal Form of Hamlet’, Pacific Coast Philogy, Vol. 16, No. 1: 19-28.

Bogue, Ronald (2003) Deleuze on Music, Painting and the Arts, New York: Routledge.

Buchanan, Ian (2004) ‘Deleuze and Music’, In: Buchanan, Ian & Swiboda, Marcel (eds) Deleuze and Music, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press: 1-19.

Deleuze, Gilles (1994) Difference and Repetition, Patton, Paul (tr), New York: Columbia University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles (2006) Nietzsche & Philosophy, Tomlinson, Hugh (tr), New York: Columbia University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles & Guattari, Felix (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Massumi, Brian (tr), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Egorova, Tatiana (1997) Soviet Film Music, Amsterdam: Harwood.

Kozintsev, Grigori (1966) Shakespeare: Time and Conscience, Vining, J (tr) NewYork: Hill & Wang.

McDonald, David J. (1978) ‘Hamlet and the Mimesis of Absence’, Educational Theatre Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1: 36-53.

Parr, Adrian (2005) ‘Repetition’, In: Parr, Adrian (ed) The Deleuze Dictionary, New York: Columbia University Press: 223-25.

Spinks, Lee (2005) ‘Eternal Return’, In: Parr, Adrian (ed) The Deleuze Dictionary, New York: Columbia University Press: 82-84.

Verevis, Constantine (2005) ‘Repetition and Cinema’, In: Parr, Adrian (ed) The Deleuze Dictionary, New York: Columbia University Press: 225-27.

Wilson, Elizabeth (1994) Shostakovich: A life remembered, Princeton: Princeton University Press.


Un grupo de creadores, nació después de Octubre, consiguiendo representar un papel importante de la cinematografía de la gran época del cine soviético. El 9 de julio de 1922 se fundó la FEKS por un grupo de gente joven conocida bajo el nombre de la “Fábrica de Actor Excéntrico”. Su principal teoría estaba basada en crear un arte revolucionario pues estos eran los principios de dicho grupo. En efecto, si sus obras obtuvieron un éxito relativo, y si sus teorías fueron poco fructíferas de un modo directo, lo cierto es que algunos de sus films influyeron de modo tan decisivo en el primitivo cine soviético y en sus creadores que. Aún hoy, sus resultados se hacen sentir grandemente en la producción del país. Examinemos, para empezar, la personalidad de sus creadores. Como principal motor del grupo destaca Grigori Mijailovich Kozintsev natural de Kico (Ucranaia). Sus primeros estudios se maravillan por una verdadera explosión de posibilidades artísticas, desde la literatura al ballet y desde la pintura al circo. En esta época, Grigori mezcla sus estudios y manifiesta su interés por el teatro. Sus carpetas contenían más proyectos que decorados y de vestuarios. Años más tarde, un pintor mayor a él, Isaac Rabinovich le toma como ayudante. Ello le ofrece la posibilidad de conocer un prestigioso director escénico, como es el georgiano Konstantin Madrjanov, quien a su vez interesado por los borradores de Kosintev, le presenta a otro muchacho pintor y aficionado al teatro, de su misma edad y de gustos parecidos como es Sergei Iukevich, otro de los fundadores de la futura FEKS.


Primero le encargaran los decorados de una opereta y después la pareja, tras una larga insistencia en querer un propio teatro en el que representar con un nuevo estilo, le proporciona un local. Poco después Iukevich abandona Kico, como Kozinntsev quien es enviado a Leningrado por la Unión de Trabajadores Artísticos a fin de que prosiga sus estudios en la Academia de Bellas Artes. En Leningrado, encuentra la protección de Mardjanov quien le introdice en el mundo teatral de la ciudad. Leonid Trauberg y Kozintsev se conocen y tras una fuerte amistad aumentada por interminables conversaciones llegan a la organización de la FEKS. A ellos se unen Inkevich y el actor Kapler y el único adulto del grupo Georgio Kijitzki. Einstein, amigo personal de Inkevich se une al grupo de la FEKS quienes descubrieron al gran renovador teatral Foregger. Cuando Kozintsev abandonó Leningrado , Eisenstein e Inkevich le siguieron a Moscú quienes cambiaron su nombre por el de Montaje de Atracciones.
Tres mundos, el de la plástica más actual, el de las diversiones populares ya fuese cabaret o circo y el del cine, en especial Chaplin, las series francesas y el comienzo del expresionismo alemán se unian a las síntesis teóricas que englobaba, con cierta lógica las teorías de Mayerhold, de Maiakovski y de Foregger.


Kozinstev y Trauberg, a los que se había unido un joven actor, Sergei Guerasimov, optaron definitivamente por el cine. Éste era el medio expresivo que mejor podía permitir la realización de la síntesis soñada. La vida cinematográfica de la FEKS había comenzado.


Leonid Trauberg aportó a la agrupación el deseo de una formulación rítmica y coherente. Con una amplia formación literaria, realizó su carrera teatral al lado de Kozintsev. Cuando a partir de 1947, se apartara de éste, se converitría en uno de los más brillantes guionistas de cine de la segunda posguerra.


Sergei Iossifovich Yurevich, el tercer elemento fundacional venía a ser como un elemento intelectual dentro del grupo. Aficionado al teatro desde la adolescencia, trabajó con Mardjanov, pero una vez trasladado a Moscú se presenta a los exámenes de admisión en los Talleres de Dirección Escénica del Estado. Allí encontrará a dos personajes decisivos para su futuro: Meyerhold, su profesor, y Eisenstein, un joven que se convierte en su amigo inseparable. En 1924 Iukevich se convierte en camarógrado después de un corto de aprendizaje titulado La “Sezvapkino”.


La aportación al cine ruso llegó desde los EE.UU., por Donachevski quien había trabajado al lado de Griffith. Una experiencia y una metodología que se aplicó en los films mudos, reflejo una nueva concepción en la inlfuencia ideológica y estética representando algo importante para la FEKS y para las dos producciones personales que Iujevich realizaría en la etapa siguiente a paritr de 1932, en plena instauración del sonoro.
Las obras de la FEKS.


Según queda dicho, la labor visible de la FEKS se inicia con “Las aventuras de Octubrina”. Un tiburón del capitalismo llemado Coolidge Curzonovich ppega a Petrogrado para exigir de obreros y campesionos el pago de las deudas zaristas; le acompaña un hombre de la NEP, pero todas sus maniobras fracasan gracias a la joven Konsomol Octubrina, que logra desbaratar sus planes.


La cinta realizada con medios de fortuna, presentaba un caudal de ideas y una yuxtaposición de técnicas impresionantes. Los actores provenían del “music-hall” o de la danza. Trajes y decorados eran inventados a medida de las necesidades y tendían a la tipificación de los personajes.
La siguiente cinta de la FEKS para la misma productora, fue una obra de tipo infantil, interpretada por un muchacho , un oso y dos espías. Según parece, el Consejo de la productora juzgó severamente los resultados de Octubrina y redujo al grupo la producción infantil para quitárselo de encima: esta cinta, competamente desconocida, se apoyaba argumentalmente en un cuento infantil de carácter simbólico y moralizante. Pero la realización resultó tan explosiva e incomprensible para la época, que, al parecer, fue exhibida sólo una vez y retirada luego de la circulación. El semifracaso de Octubrina y el rotundo traspiés dado con este segundo film no arredraron a los intrépidos excéntricos. En Moscú, Iukevich realizaba sus primeras armas con ¡A nosotros, la radio!, y al año siguiente, el grupo de Leningrado lograba realizar dos films. El primero de ellos: LA RUEDA DEL DIABLO. Una banda de malhechores aprovecha la guerra civil para realizar frecuentes saqueos en Petrogrado. La intervención de la marinería cambia las cosas y hace renacer la confianza.


La película siguiente es EL ABRIGO, producida un año después. El joven funcionario de Petersburgo, Ajaki Ajakievich Bachmachkin, encuentra en la perspectiva Nevskii a una bella dama. La sigue, pero la desconocida desaparece por la entrada de una casa. A partir de este día no piensa más que en la “celeste criatura”. Su esperanza se derrumba cuando comprueba que el objeto de su amor es una mujer perdida. Años de trabajo aburrido e inútil se succeden. Enormes montañas de papel son emborronadas por el eterno consejero titular Bachmachkin. Su vida privada es igualmente monótona. Los años pasados han dejado un tono plateado en sus cabellos y después de difíciles disputas entre bandidos nocturnos creandole auténticas pesadillas muere a la mañana siguiente.


Ambas cintas están emparentadas, si bien pertenecen a géneros distintos. En efecto, mientras la primera es una película de aventuras, la segunda es drama grotesco. Pero ambas están llenas de rastoros muy concretos del expresionismo alemán, en pleno auge en las pantallas rusas. Otro punto de unión consistía en la elección de fotógrafo. En efecto, la incorporación de Andrei Moskvin, uno de los mejores fotógrafos del cine soviético, dio a estas dos producciones de la FEKS una calidad suficiente para que fueran reconocidos los méritos de los demás elementos. Pero ello no sin discusión. Más tarde se realizará El hermanito, de la que bien poco se sabe.


La primera cinta de la FEKS que obtuvo una acogida calurosa fue: La liga de los grandes negocios o Nieves sangrientas. En ella se cuenta la historia del acenturero Medox quien se entera de que se prepara un golpe dirigido por un grupo de oposición, los Decembristas, y decide denunciarlos a los agentes del gobierno. Para enterarse de todo el asunto, usa de un anillo en que lque están grabadas las letras S.V.D., signos de los revolucionarios. Pero Medox verá fallidos sus planes cuando la revuelta fracasa sin su intervención. Uno de los supervivientes del golpe, el teniente Shujanov, llega no sin dificultades, al albergue donde se aloja Medox, que había sido compañero suyo de estudios, donde se entera ded que el estafador y un general se proponen mascarar a los dembristas. Shujanov logra penetrar en la cárcel y liberar a los detenidos de una muerte segura. Encontes, el Çeneral, habiendo fracasado su plan, denuncia a Medox como revolucionario, siendo arrastrado a su vez.


Lo más curioso es que la buena acogida dispensada a S.V.D. se basaba en lo que, en años anteriores, había servido para atacar a las primeras obras del grupo. Cabe entender que el cambio de acogida se debió en gran parte a tres razones:


Los principios de la FEKS, eran menos exhibidos, al mismo tiempo que más sazonados. en la dirección de la FEKS, habían dado la viabilidad a las coordenadas básicas del “tandem” y por último, las lecciones del expresionismo alemán habían sido bien asimilidas y eran utilizadas como elemento de choque, de contraste con el naciente realismo que se iba a manifestar a través de la obra futura.


El momento de las locuras juveniles había pasado. Ahora, el entusiasmo susbsistía, pero calaba más hondo.


Iukevich, que había seguido su propio camino, realizó su propio largometraje desde Moscú titulado Puntillas. El burocratismo autoritario del pintor local hace que la célula comunista de la fábrica de puntillas pueda trabajar muy poco. Todo resulta gris: desde el mural del club, y desde la actividad de los miembros inscritos a la de los jóvenes del Konsomol. Con un jefe indolente, no es de extrañar que la juventud local prefiera irse a la taberna local. Pero una joven, Marussia, sigue en la brecha y logra convencer a uno de los más conspicuos juerguistas, Petita Benusjin, para que le ayude. Entre ambos publican un diario mural explosivo que provoca reacciones sensacionales. Se conovocan nuevas elecciones en la fábrica. Los elementos progresivos las ganan. La taberna se convierte en un logar de sano esparcimiento y Marussia y Petita se convierten en activos jefes de una juventud que se redime a sí misma.


Iukevich, que había seguido su propio camino, demuestra en este film, una tipificación de los personajes, en las actitudes y en el vestuario de los actores, que de las primeras experiencias para-circenses de la FEKS podía sacarse un resultado ideologicamente acorde con los principios de un arte proletario. En efecto, su cinta está llena de comparaciones asombrosas, y no faltan los “chocs” visuales. Pero, en el argumento, los obreros tiene el papel de protagonistas de una acción que les es propia. Las “excéntricas” gorras a cuadros adquieren es este film una significación real.
La vela negra producida en 1929 fue su segundo film y que desconocemos totalmente, pero que obtuvo una buena acogida. Entretanto, en el mismo año, Trauberg y Kozintsev reemprenden el trabajo, después de una larga interrupción. Para preparar su próximo film habían realizado un viaje a París. Querían que su guión estuviera plenamente documentado. De ahí que naciese La nueva Babilonia. La nueva burguesía y el pueblo inconsciente de París despide frívolamente en 1870 a sus soldados que parten hacia el frente. Pero, al poco tiempo, los alemanes están a las puertas de París, y mientras los burgueses claman por una paz vergonzosa, el pueblo se organiza y nace la Comuna. La lucha proletaria, representada por Luisa, la obrera, no llega a comprender y ganar para sí a los agricultores y parte de los obreros, siendo anegada en un mar de sangre. Juan, el buen agricultor incapaz de hacer mal a nadie, conducirá a Luisa hasta el pelotón de ejecución y cavará la fosa de aquella a quien amaba, aquella que combatió por su pueblo.


En esta ocasión los elementos primitivos del “excentrismo”, a su ironía y afán de descubrimiento se ligaban, no sólo los avances ya adquiridos gracias al expresionismo germánico, sino también los resultados de un viaje que les había sido plenamente fructífero en el terreno cultural. Consiguiendo una crítica histórica y sociológica ejemplar, compacta y llena. Su cine es técnicamente maduro y consigue contrastar de modo evidente las distintas posiciones de las clases ante un único cataclismo histórico. Las influencias plásticas literarias del realismo francés, se atemperan con otras formas de diversia procedencia, pero, sobre todo, son llevados en lo fundamental hasta sus límites posibles por la natural esclavización del tratamiento, de un lado y por las necesidades de un cine revolucionario. A pesar de lo dicho, la crítica encontró defectos a su obra, mientras, la perfección estética convenía a la representación de la burguesía, er aun obstáculo. Con esta cinta, la FEKS alcanzaba sus objetivos y el punto más alto de la producción de Trauberg y Kozintsev en la etapa muda. Acompañada la cina por música orquestal de Dimitri Shostakovich y una fotografía de Moskvin.


La última gran obra muda realizada treinta años depsués por los fundadores miembros de la FEKS fue Sola. Una joven graduada en la Escuela de Magisterio de Leningrado es enviada a una región casi ignorada de los desiertos de Altai. Allí se encuentra con una sociedad montada sobre las bases feudales, y, en sus esfuerzos por remediar en algo la situación, se ve precisada a luchar contra el kulak casi omnipotente y el representante del Soviet, un hombre incapaz. La incomprensión y la soledad, la dureza de las condiciones de vida y las dificultades encontradas en la lucha casi acaban con ella, si bie, “in extremis”, es salvada de la muerte y ve los resultados positivos de su obra.


Terminada en la primavera de 1930, la cinta fue sonorizada y le fueron agregados algunos diálogos. La partitura y las palabras fueron grabadas por Leo Arnstam, quien iniciaba así su trabajo en el cine. Terminada en mayo de 1930, la versión no fue estrenada hasta principios de 1931. La presentación de las dificultades que la juventud encontraba en su esfuerzo por hacer llegar las ventajas adquiridas por la Revolución a los más apartados rincones de la U.R.S.S. resultaba importante en tal momento y, por ello, la cinta obtuvo una buena acogida en el país.


Es bien evidente que las obras de la FEKS mereció continuas críticas. Pero eran necesarias para que el futuro sazonara el tiempo.


FEKS – La fábrica del actor excéntrico.

Con la Revolución soviética de 1917 el cine ruso sufrió un nuevo impulso. Eisenstein, Kulechov, Pudovkin o Vertov propugnaron desde Moscú una nueva estética basada en el trabajo de la cámara y en la función dialéctica del montaje. Entretanto, en San Petersburgo –entonces Petrogrado-, Grigori Kozintsev, Leonid Trauberg y Sergei Yutkevich proponen una nueva aproximación global al mundo del espectáculo que se concreta en el Manifiesto del Excentrismo.



Lanzado con ocasión de una representación en el Teatro Volnia Komedia de Petrogrado, el 5 de diciembre de 1921, con alarde tipográfico e inspiración futurista, el manifiesto reclama un arte “hiperbólicamente rudimentario, asombroso, que crispe los nervios, abiertamente utilitario, mecánicamente exacto, instantáneo, rápido”. El nuevo arte se reclama heredero del exabrupto y el pregón en lo literario; en pintura, de las portadas de novelas populares y de los reclamos circenses; y, en el teatro, del music-hall, el cine, el boxeo y, por supuesto, el circo. En éste campo, se consideran hermanos de Nikolai Evreinov, cuyo aprendizaje dramático había comprendido actuaciones como clown con el sobrenombre de Boklaro.
El grupo, que se denomina a sí mismo la Fábrica del Actor Excéntrico (FEKS), llega al cine con Pokhozhdeniya Oktyabriny (Las aventuras de Octobrina, 1924), la primera de las doce colaboraciones entre Kozintsev y Trauberg. En el núcleo inicial estaban además el director de fotografía Andrei Moskvin y el compositor Shostakovich.


Su adaptación de “El abrigo” de Gogol, Shinel (1926), no fue bien vista por la Censura estatal que la acusó de decadencia expresionista, algo que también se puede decir de Chyortovo koleso, del mismo año. Interesa sobre todo, S.V.D. Soyuz velikogo dela (1927) parte de cuya acción se ambienta en un circo.


Su título más popular, no obstante, es Novyy Vavilon (La Nueva Babilonia, 1929), adaptación libre de una novela de Zola que ese mismo año estaba rodando Julien Duvivier en las Galerías Lafayette bajo el título de Au Bonheur des dames (El paraíso de las damas, 1929). Novyy Vavilon subraya el paralelismo entre los grandes almacenes parisinos y la formación y represión de la Comuna en 1871, primer intento revolucionario en Europa Occidental. Las escenas de los cabarets son deudoras de la iconografía de Toulouse-Lautrec.



Con el asentamiento del cine sonoro Kozintsev y Trauberg realizaron algunas películas más del gusto de los gobernantes, entre las que destaca la Trilogía de Máximo (1935-1941). Los trabajos más conocidos de Kozintsev tras su separación de Trauberg son dos adaptaciones shakespearianas Gamlet (Hamlet, 1963) y Korol Lir (El rey Lear, 1969), pero es sobre todo su versión del Quijote, Don Kikhot (1957), que pasa por ser una de las mejores, por la que se le cita con más frecuencia en España.



Estas versiones literarias quedan lejos aquellas proclamas de 1921, cuando gritaban: “¡Nosotros también tenemos antepasados! Son estos: Los geniales artífices de los carteles de cine, de circo, de variedades, los autores anónimos de cubiertas dedicadas a las aventuras de los grandes investigadores y aventureros; ¡nosotros saltamos de Vuestro Arte, magnífico como la facha de un clown, como lo haríamos desde un trampolín elástico para llevar a cabo nuestro intrépido salto mortal del Excentrismo!”

Pueden encontrar ustedes éste y otros manifiestos del cine en:

Joaquín Romaguera y Homero Alsina:
Textos y Manifiestos del cine
Madrid, Ediciones Cátedra, 1989.