Made in Crimea: Nevecherniaia
The next installment in our section ‘Made in Crimea’ is dedicated to legendary Marlen Khutsiev’s uncompleted new film Nevecherniaia.
Legendary Soviet and Russian filmmaker Marlen Khutsiev, who gained recognition during the Thaw period and is most known for his film Mne dvadsat let (I Am Twenty, 1965), is presenting excerpts from his new film this May in several European capitals. Nevecherniaia (Not Yet Evening) is a film about the crossing of paths of two great Russian writers, Lev Tolstoi and Anton Checkhov. It revolves around episodes of them visiting one another in the time of illness.
Loving and knowing Chekhov and Tolstoi, I nevertheless stumbled upon a fact I never knew. I knew that, in 1898, Chekhov became really ill and ended up in a hospital. But what I didn’t know was a fascinating fact: in the hospital Chekhov was visited by Tolstoi. From today’s perspective, I found it astonishing that such a renown writer came to visit a beginner. I can’t imagine this could have happened today. I wanted to make a film about this incident as a reproach to the present day” – says Khutsiev.
Khutsiev shared his idea with his son, who, like the father, graduated from the directing faculty of VGIK. The son developed the father’s idea by suggesting to explore the possible continuation of this story: when Tolstoi, being in poor health in Crimea, is visited by Chekhov. That is how the idea of the film consisting of two chapters came around. The first half is conceived as black and white, the second will be in a ‘very gentle, delicate’ colour; however, the first one will start in colour and in the present day, and then, using a particular technique (that Khutsiev preferred not to disclose), the film will move into the past.
The picture has been in production since 2003 for financial reasons. Khutsiev has spent several years showing fragments from his film to potential investors with no success, and only recently the director got an opportunity to finish his film.
Large parts of Nevecherniaia are shot and are still to be shot in Crimea. In the face of recent events taking place in Ukraine, Khutsiev is often asked to comment the choice of his filming location. He remarks:
I never understood why Crimea should belong to Ukraine. Imagine a situation: two pals are spending time together and get really drunk. Suddenly one of them takes expensive golden watch off his wrist and says to another: “Take! This is my present for you” What should the other one do after they sober up? Give the watch back and say “This watch was given to me under certain circumstances that make me unable to accept it”.
The unexpected funding allowed the film to go into the last stage of production. Khutsiev always talks about his uncompleted film with great passion and cannot wait for it to be seen by audiences. Nevecherniaia is to be completed in March 2015.