Andrei Konchalovsky, begon als scenarioschrijver van Andrei Tarkovsky (Iwan’s jeugd, Andrej Rublev) en maakte later carrière in Amerika met films als ‘Tango & Cash’ en ‘Runaway Train’. Hij keerde terug op Russische bodem en maakte met een beperkt budget en een cast grotendeels bestaande uit amateurs deze met een Zilveren Leeuw onderscheiden filmparel.

Verafgelegen, in de Russische wildernis vaart postbode Lyokha rond en bezorgt met zijn kleine motorboot de post. De inwoners van Kenozero Lake leven op een eiland gescheiden van de buitenwereld. Lyokha is het enige contact tussen het eiland en het vaste land en met zijn boot is hij de brug tussen de twee werelden. Maar wanneer de motor van zijn boot wordt gestolen en de vrouw van wie hij houdt voornemens is samen met haar zoontje Timur het eiland te verlaten, vangt een heel ander leven aan voor de postbode. Wat volgt is een reis over zelfontdekking, liefde en demonen uit het verleden.
In een grappige, gevoelige en subtiel surrealistische mix van enscenering en spontane gebeurtenissen – in beeldschone beelden gevangen – worden kleine en grote dorpsverhalen aaneengesmeed tot een fabelachtig geheel. Onbetaalbaar is de scėne waarin Lyohka met Timur een boottochtje maakt en hem de legende vertelt over de heks Kikimora die in het moeras woont. Weerbarstige groeven in vaal geworden hout, een vervallen schoolgebouw, een mysterieuze kater en prachtige shots van de verspreid liggende huizen in de verder ongerepte natuur creëren schitterende poëtische Cinema.
THE POSTMAN’S WHITE NIGHTS is een prachtig portret van een gemeenschap waarin de geest van het vroegere Sovjet-tijdperk nog rondwaart. De soundtrack versterkt diepe, nostalgische verlangens; Eduard Artemyev – de vaste componist van Tarkovsky – gebruikte o.a. delen uit Verdi’s Requiem.
Konchalovsky regisseerde zowel de acteurs als de lokale bewoners die zichzelf spelen met stevige hand. Het leverde hem een welverdiende Zilveren Leeuw voor Beste Regie op in Venetië.

Vanaf 5 november 2015 is THE POSTMAN’S WHITE NIGHTS te zien in de filmtheaters:
Eye (Amsterdam), Rialto (Amsterdam), Filmhuis Den Haag, 'tHoogt (Utrecht), Lux (Nijmegen), Focus (Arnhem), Lumière (Maastricht), Verkade (Den Bosch), Chassé (Breda)

Vanaf 7 juni 2016 op DVD verkrijgbaar!

filmposter Postmans white nights

Rusland; 2014; kleur; 101 minuten; Dolby 5.1;
Russisch gesproken; Nederlands ondertiteld.

Credits

Regisseur:
Acteurs: Aleksey Tryapitsyn, Irina Ermolova, Timur Bondarenko
Productie: The Andrei Konchalovsky Studio's
Camera: Aleksandr Simonov
Muziek: Eduard Artemyev
Montage: Sergey Taraskin
Awards: Zilveren Leeuw voor Beste Regie, Filmfestival Venetië 2014, Green Drop Award, Filmfestival Venetië 2014
Scenario: Andrei Konchalovsky & Elena Kiselyeva
Sound-Design: Polina Volynkina

Over de regisseur:

Andrei Konchalovsky werd in 1937 in Moskou geboren als Andrei Michalkov. Hij nam later de achternaam van zijn grootvader, de kunstschilder Pjotr Konchalovsky als pseudoniem. Hij is de broer van filmregisseur Nikita Michalkov.
Zijn vader was schrijver en schreef o.a. de tekst voor het Russische volkslied. Andrei volgde een pianostudie voordat hij zijn filmcarrière begon. Hij werkte veel samen met Andrei Tarkovsky – waarmee hij op de VGIK filmschool zat – en schreef samen met hem het script van o.a. Iwan’s jeugd en Andrei Rublev, Tarkovsky’s epische filmdrama over de 15e-eeuwse schilder. Begin jaren ’70 begon hij met het regisseren van zijn eigen films, en vertrok uiteindelijk naar Hollywood. Daar maakte hij films als ‘Tango & Cash’ en ‘Runaway Train’. Hij keerde terug op Russische bodem en maakte met een beperkt budget en een cast grotendeels bestaande uit amateurs deze met een Zilveren Leeuw onderscheiden filmparel.
Konchalovsky is zo’n zeldzame regisseur, zoals ook Ingmar Bergman en Patrice Chéreau, die met gemak schakelt tussen film, opera en theater.

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT

In the last years I’ve started thinking that modern cinema is trying to spare the audience from having to engage in contemplation.
Over the last few years I’ve been plagued by the uncertainty of whether I truly understand the essence of cinema.
This film is my attempt at discovering new possibilities offered by moving images accompanied by sound. An attempt to see the world surrounding as through the eyes of a ‘newborn’. An attempt to unhurriedly study life. Contemplation is a state in which a person is very aware of his unity with the Universe.
Perhaps this film is my attempt at sharpening my hearing and trying to listen to the quiet whisper of the Universe.
Andrei Konchalovsky

FILMOGRAFIE:
2015 The Enigma of Benito Cereno (announced)
2014 “The Postman’s White Nights”: director, screenwriter and producer (Venice Film Festival 2014, Competition)
2012 “Battle for Ukraine” (documentary): director, screenwriter and producer.
2011 “The Nutcracker in 3D” (Great Britain, Hungary): director, screenwriter and producer.
2010 “The Last Station”: executive producer.
2008 “The Demons of St. Petersburg”: screenwriter.
2007 “To Each His Own Cinema”: director and screenwriter.
2007 “Gloss”: director, screenwriter and producer (Kinotavr Film Festival, Osaka European Film Festival)
2003 “The Lion in Winter” (USA): director.
2002 “House of Fools”: director, screenwriter and producer (Grand Prix Venice Film Festival, Palm Springs International Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Hong Kong International Film Festival, Jerusalem Film Festival, Cairo International Film Festival)
1997 “The Odyssey” (UK, Germany, Greece, Italy, United States): director and screenwriter.
1995 “Lumière and Company”: director.
1994 “Ryaba, My Chicken”: director, screenwriter and producer (Cannes Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival)
1991 “The Inner Circle” (Italy, USA, USSR): director and screenwriter.
1989 “Tango & Cash” (USA): director
1989 “Homer and Eddie” (USA): Director (Grand Prix San-Sebastian Film Festival)
1987 “Shy People” (USA): director and screenwriter (Cannes Film Festival)
1986 “Duet for One” (USA: United Kingdom): director.
1985 “Runaway Train” (Israel, USA): director. (Two Oscar Nominations)
1984 “Maria’s Lovers” (USA): screenwriter, director (Karlovy Vary International Film Festival)
1978 “Sibiriada”: screenwriter, director (Grand Prix Cannes Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, New York City, New York)
1974 “A Romance for Lovers”: director (Grand Prix Karlovy Vary International Film Festival)
1970 “Uncle Vanya”: screenwriter, director (Silver Shell for Best Director San Sebastian Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, New York City, New York)
1967 “The Story of Asya Klyachina Who Loved But Never Married”: screenwriter (Berlin International Film Festival, New York Film Festival)
1966 “Andrei Rublev” by Andrey Tarkovsky: screenwriter, co-author.
1965 “The First Teacher”: screenwriter, director (Best Actress Venice Film Festival)
1962 “Ivan’s Childhood” by Andrey Tarkovsky: screenwriter.

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De pers over THE POSTMAN’S WHITE NIGHTS

Schitterende docufictie over postbode die als de Griekse veerman Charon dagelijks het Kenozeromeer in Noord-Rusland overvaart om de inwoners van een afgelegen eilandje van berichten van de levenden te voorzien.
Het leverde hem vorig jaar in Venetië een Zilveren Leeuw voor Beste Regie op. Want de beste regisseurs regisseren zelfs de werkelijkheid. 4½ *****
lees de recensie in de Filmkrant, van Dana Linssen
interview filmkrant met Konchalovsky, door Kees Driessen

De openingsscène van ‘The Postman’s White Nights’ is verraderlijk kleurrijk. Te zien zijn twee handen, die boven een feeëriek tafelkleed een stapel foto’s vasthouden. Het zijn kiekjes uit het verleden. Bruiloften, dorpsgenoten en vergane woningen. Momentopnames die alleen nog op beeld bestaan. De rest is met liters wodka weggespoeld.
Cinemagazine lees verder

“The Postman’s White Nights is een droom van een film” (…) “Lyriek en fantastiek in Ruslands hoge noorden.”
TROUW 4****

“Onuitroeibare idylle van het eeuwige Rusland.”
HET PAROOL 4****

“Ode aan een teder en tijdloos Rusland” (…) “Een poëtische, soms zelfs magische film.”
NRC/NRC Next 4****

“Majestueus en weids.”
Volkskrant 3***

“Melancholieke vertelling over een verdwijnende manier van leven.”
Happinez

“Prima spel van de charmante hoofdrolspeler en adembenemende beelden.”
Cinema.nl 3***

“Shot through with quiet lyricism, and scored by a mix of choral, orchestral and ambient music that weaves in and out of the crisply-rendered sounds of the natural world, Konchalovsky has gone back to the artisanal roots of cinema and drama to make a film of undeniable charm.”
Screen Daily

“Blending fiction with documentary and exquisite film craft with playful improvisational freedom, Andrei Konchalovsky delivers what might be the most captivating screen work of his post-Hollywood career.”
Hollywood Reporter

“This is a fascinating and magical film in the tradition of great Russian story-telling.”
Hey U Guys

“With The Postman’s White Nights, Konchalovsky offers up an intimate and moving pastoral.”
Cinevue

Andrei Konchalovsky: ‘Forget freedom – wars and plagues make the best art’

How did an auteur who started out working with Tarkovsky end up being fired from Tango & Cash? Andrei Konchalovsky talks about $90m flops, being mentored by Billy Wilder – and killed by Disney
Stephen Moss

Andrei Konchalovsky has only just checked in when I meet him, but he has already commandeered the best seat in the lounge of the Connaught, one of London’s swankiest hotels. The 76-year-old Russian director, who in the 1980s enjoyed a productive but brief spell in the Hollywood spotlight, is evidently used to getting his own way. Konchalovsky is here because two Chekhov productions he directed at Moscow’s Mossovet theatre – Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters – are about to open in the West End as part of the Anglo-Russian year of culture. This may not be the most propitious moment for such a cultural exchange, but he is unfazed. “It’s nothing new for me,” he says. “Just a normal tug of war between west and east.” The year of culture is supposed to be about bringing Russia and the UK together, but Konchalovsky doesn’t buy the line that art can heal political differences. “It can help politics when politics are ready to be changed,” he says. “Not before. Sometimes a film can make a revolution if a revolution is ready to be made.” They are, he says, different worlds that operate on different timescales. “Artists are trying to discover what life is about. Politicians already know.” Or think they know.

Born into a cultured family in 1937 (his father was a writer who penned the Soviet national anthem), Konchalovsky trained as a pianist before embarking on a directing career in the Soviet Union. He collaborated with Russian film giant Andrei Tarkovsky and co-scripted Andrei Rublev – Tarkovsky’s 1966 epic about the 15th-century painter, hailed by some as the best arthouse movie ever – before establishing himself as a director in his own right. He then wowed Hollywood with Runaway Train, Duet for One and Shy People, before hitting the buffers at the end of the 1980s with Tango & Cash and Homer and Eddie. He is one of those rare directors, like Ingmar Bergman and Patrice Chéreau, who moves easily between film, theatre and opera. What does he think the big differences are? “Theatre you can enjoy if you are blind,” he says. “Cinema you can enjoy if you are deaf. That’s why there were great silent movies. The more I work in theatre and opera, the more I understand how different they are from cinema. That’s why I’m doing it. I’m trying to explore something that is completely foreign for film-makers. Critics often write, ‘We see Konchalovsky’s cinematic vision in theatre.’ It’s ridiculous, it’s rubbish. You express yourself completely differently.” In opera, at least, you can express yourself more cinematically, I suggest. “No,” he says emphatically. “Opera is much closer to circus than to cinema.”
The cosmopolitan, much-married Konchalovsky (his fifth wife, actor and TV presenter Julia Vysotskaya, stars in his two Russian-language Chekhov productions) has a talent for aphorisms, even in what must be his third language after Russian and French. He stresses his European-ness, unlike his younger brother and fellow director Nikita Mikhalkov, whose 1994 film Burnt By the Sun, about a Red Army officer caught up in Stalin’s Great Purge, won the foreign language Oscar. Mikhalkov is overtly political, a Russian nationalist and a strong supporter of Putin, while Konchalovsky is a natural rebel, a believer in art for art’s sake. “The basis for all my activities is curiosity,” he says, adding that he has just shot a film “for myself without money” and found he was still learning. “Only now do I start to understand a little more about film-making. Only when you start to work for yourself, and in solitude, do you learn certain secrets. Otherwise you have to fulfill expectations.” He is dismissive of commercial movie-making. “The market moves towards entertainment, but art is closer to contemplation.” This may be a way of rationalizing recent failures: his last major film, The Nutcracker in 3D, made with Hungarian backing in 2009 for $90m, was a commercial and critical turkey. The US critic Roger Ebert called it “one of those rare holiday movies that may send children screaming under their seats”.

Konchalovsky stands by the film. “I am very happy with it. It wasn’t a disaster, except in distribution. It was independent, very expensive, there was a rival Christmas film from Disney, and I tend to think I was killed by Disney. That is very soothing.” But people didn’t like it, critics didn’t like it, I insist. “Critics, not people,” he says. “They’re two different races.” Does the pain of failure linger? “You’re nervous for a while, and then you forget about it. The best way is to smile and forget. Otherwise, you become wounded for all your life.” Surely the failure of the film means he won’t be getting another $90m any time soon. “I don’t want to do anything for $90m any more,” he says. “More money, less freedom. I prefer to make films on my lap, and to try to understand what film really is. Maybe no one will like my film, but if I’m not spending money, no one will care.” This taste for freedom was at the heart of his falling-out with Hollywood in the 80s: he got fired from the 1989 Sylvester Stallone cop comedy Tango & Cash when he and the producers disagreed over the ending. “I was very happy to be fired,” he says. “I got my money and went to France. Apart from Tango & Cash, which I made for a major company, I was relatively free, and the films I made after Russia were quite personal. I failed to work for majors because I was jaded enough to be an auteur. Tango & Cash, like every real Hollywood film, is a film for people who cannot read.” Was it easier to work with Soviet censors or American producers? “In the Soviet Union, you could complain,” he says. “In Hollywood, you can’t. People just say: ‘That’s life. It doesn’t work. Finish.'”

He sounds almost nostalgic for the 60s and 70s, when he established his reputation with a series of Soviet films: in particular Asya’s Happiness, a bleakly beautiful portrait, shot in black and white, of a rural community in the Soviet Union in the mid-1960s; and Siberiade, a hugely ambitious four-and-a-half-hour saga that follows the lives of two warring families in the Siberian village of Yelan from just before the revolution through to the 1960s. The latter, which won the grand prix at Cannes in 1979, was what attracted Hollywood. Making films in the Soviet Union was, he says, “very easy if you knew what not to touch. You had to find a way to speak in a language that everyone except the censors understood. It was like working during the Inquisition. It was easy because money was pouring in. Once you’d got past the censorship, you didn’t have to think about money, and you didn’t have to think about success, either. You were condemned to success because there were so few films, especially decent films.” The collapse of the Soviet Union, he points out, has produced no cinematic masterpieces. “Freedom is not a guarantee of good art. The best art comes in the war or the plague.” He refuses to say whether he prefers his Soviet or American films, or even which is his favourite film overall, falling back on the “films are like children” line. “Frankly speaking, I don’t care,” he says. “I don’t even want to think about it. I have to be represented by my last film all the time. I am my last film – and if I’m senile, that’s me.” Runaway Train, made in 1985 and the best known from his American period, is still highly regarded. Even Ebert admired it. Why did it work so well? “It was a great script by [Akira] Kurosawa and basically followed Dostoevsky’s formula: philosophical questions wrapped in a criminal story.” He tells me the great director Billy Wilder loved it, and became his mentor in Hollywood. Wilder was, however, less taken with his next film, Duet for One, about a concert violinist stricken with multiple sclerosis (with echoes of the cellist Jacqueline du Pré). “He said: ‘You have to cut this, you have to cut this, and you have to cut this.’ I said: ‘Billy, is it not going to be too short?’ And he said: ‘My dear friend, the only things that are too short in the world are your life and your penis.'” Konchalovsky tells the story with a flourish – but he never made the cuts. An auteur to the end.

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Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovsky talks ‘realpolitik’
By Nigel Andrew

“Everything is real,” Andrei Konchalovsky exclaims. “The people are real. The postman is real. The funeral is real. I didn’t know the old lady was going to die! It was to be our first scene with her and someone comes to me to say: ‘She’s dead’. So we film the funeral. We put in that scene.” And it’s a strange, spooky, touching scene, colourful with bucolic heraldry, big with the unspoken feelings of a community.
You never know what to expect next from world cinema. You certainly don’t know what to expect next from a 77-year-old Russian filmmaker whose previous collaborators have included Andrei Tarkovsky and Sylvester Stallone. Add to that: his grandfather was a distinguished painter, his father wrote the Russian national anthem and his filmmaker brother, Nikita Mikhalkov, won the Venice Golden Lion in 1991 (Urga, or Close to Eden). Konchalovsky claimed his own first Venice gong last weekend with a Best Director prize.
The Postman’s White Nights, his victorious film, is a marvel: a low-budget digital video “docudrama” about real folk on Lake Kenozero, in northern Russia. Konchalovsky chose this log-house fishing community, scenically separated from the mainland by an expanse of blue water, because it was home to his non-professional lead actor, Alexei Tryapitsin. The ruddy-faced, blond-thatched, born-to-it star had been picked from 60 shortlisted nationwide postmen. “I had a ‘script’ only to get money, then I shot whatever I wanted. Out of the 50 people Alexei delivered to, we chose the five most interesting. It’s not a drama, it’s not a documentary; it’s a film and today a film is anything. You can shoot a movie with an iPhone. You don’t need cameras, lights, clapperboards, shouts of ‘action!’ and ‘cut!’. Fifteen years ago, a surgeon had to open you in half to operate, now it’s endoscopic. So with cinema today. You can have an endoscopic entrance into life and find extraordinary things.”

He himself is a powerful presence: a bronzed, shaven-pated, voluble, rasping-voiced man whom I first interviewed nearly 30 years ago in a Los Angeles hotel. Back then, after starting in Russia as a director (Siberiade, 1979) and scenarist to the great (Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood (1962) and Andrei Rublev (1966)), he was launching his Hollywood career with a Jon Voight-starring action thriller about an express train.
“I wanted to find my international feet. For three years I couldn’t get a job in America. Then came this script by Akira Kurosawa: Runaway Train, which Francis Coppola was to direct. He couldn’t, so he rang me and I thought” – he enacts an excited intake of breath – “‘Oh! This is my survival!’ Menahem Golan [founder of Cannon Films] gave me carte blanche. I could write my cheque, though for limited money. When I started working with the majors, it became different.” And it didn’t last long. The irresistible force of the Russian eagle met the immovable object of the Californian ego. “Sylvester Stallone is a very clever man,” says Konchalovsky. “He knew how he wanted to be shot. On the first day’s filming” – of the 1989 Columbia cop thriller Tango and Cash – “he came to the set and said, ‘Where’s the camera?’ I said, ‘Here.’ He said, ‘Put it down low and over there.’ I said, ‘Why, Sly?’ He said, because I’m not tall and the camera should always be lower than me. Plus, my face is paralysed on one side, I need to be filmed from the other.’ “Very clever man! Once, though, he lost his head, you know. He wanted to play Puccini. He wrote a script. He looks a little like Puccini. But thank God, Hollywood stopped him.”

Hollywood also stopped Konchalovsky. He was withdrawn from Tango and Cash before the end of production. He didn’t direct in America again. From the ridiculous if pop-mythical we turn to the sublime if titanically flawed. Andrei Tarkovsky. What can it have been like for Konchalovsky to be a young bellows-minder to the flame of 1960s Soviet cinema? “Tarkovsky was not easy, but who is? Well, I am,” he says in an aside. “But he wasn’t. He started to shoot Andrei Rublev at three times the length it was scripted for. He calls me up. ‘What shall we do?’ I say, ‘You’re crazy. It’ll be a 12-hour film.’ So we went at it with scissors. He got carried away. It was his flaw. But later the flaw became a quality. He started to crystallise his style.” The glory days of Tarkovsky were followed by the glory days of glasnost and the New Russia. Now we have – what exactly? The old Russia back again? The bear in the geopolitical garden? Konchalovsky’s last film (unseen by me) was called Battle for Ukraine (2012), a prescient-sounding documentary on a region/nation’s conflicted history. So. Which side is he now on? Putin or Nato? I get what may be the most mandarin answer in the history of film-festival interviewing.

“First of all, I don’t mix in politics.” (The internet is choc-a-bloc with essays and interviews in which he mixes in politics.) “Secondly, I don’t think what’s happening in Ukraine is unpredictable or a surprise. It’s a very old confrontation. It’s that between Byzantium and the Vatican. Between the Greek Dionysian and the Latin Apollonian … ” I sense the scrim of ancient myth and history being drawn across the nakedness of modern conflict “ … between orthodox mentality and Latin expansionism … ”
He invokes a couple of political philosophers I have never heard of. Then: “‘Democracy leads to prosperity’ is the biggest illusion. Democratic elections in some countries lead to chaos and dictatorship. In rich countries, democracy brings prosperity. But because of the illusion of universal values it’s very uncomfortable to accept that not everything is equal. “Marxism is a wonderful thought if you are sitting by the pipe with a fire. But Marxist ideals in Cambodia give you ten million chopped heads.”
Marxist ideals in interbellum Russia, I resist saying, didn’t give people a picnic either. I let it go and return to The Postman’s White Nights, which I love. It has a wonderfully sly, funny shot near the end, involving a rocket launch, that might be interpreted as a rude aside about expansionism – territorial or cosmic – in Konchalovsky’s own nation.
“I won’t tell you what the scene means,” he says. “Metaphor is important when it has multiple dimensions. Interpretation is not my role, it’s that of the perceiver. I’m just the postman bringing the post.” He gives a smile. I am starting to like Konchalovsky. His evasiveness is baroque, bordering on outrageous. But he comes from a long, experienced line of survivors. His father wrote the lyrics to the Russian national anthem in 1943, only to be ordered to incorporate Stalin’s own changes. When friends later said to him, “What are you doing? You’re just being a prostitute,” Konchalovsky’s father said, “Maybe. But you should learn it by heart anyway.” The touché of realpolitik. That commodity is alive and well, it’s clear, and can even dwell in the minds and strategies of modern Russian film directors. Meanwhile in their art, they can post us, first-class and if necessary under plain cover, the truth.

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