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Дмитрий Шостакович. Альтовая соната 1981
Description: Banned by Soviet authorities when it was first completed, this requiem for Russian composer and pianist Dmitri Shostakovich pays homage to the remarkable works and hard path of the influential artist. Through private documents, performances and archival footage, this emotional study charts Shostakovich's turbulent life, from his early success to his disgrace under Stalin and his eventual embrace as one of his country's most gifted talents.
Released: N/A Director: Semyon Aranovich, Aleksandr Sokurov Writers: Boris Dobrodeyev Actors: N/A Genres: Documentary
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Дмитрий Шостакович. Альтовая соната Reviews:

This is a very unique documentary on Shostakovich. Firstly Sokhurov is a movie director and it shows - he has place together some pretty photos within an unusual structure. The movie uses the last summer of Shostakovich's life and particularly some features of the composition of the Viola Sonata as a reference mission to which the movie returns few times. Thus he mixes the chronology of the composer's life. The movie reveals some unbelievable examples which illustrate Shostakovich's nature. The movie had a turbulent history - made in 1980, just 5 years after the composer's death, the movie was "arrested" by the KGB and Sokhurov hid a ver of the movie which was released in the 1990s. It gotta be stressed the movie is not an A-Z of the composer's life - it does not mention "Lady Macbeth" nor the 13th Symphony (2 extremely necessary happenings in the composer's career). Perhaps these happenings should not be discussed in 1980 USSR. However it is a unbelievable movie and it's narrative reminded of Tarkovky's "The Mirror". I suggest this over the "Shostakovich vs Stalin" documentary - Sokhurov has given us a masterpiece of filmaking on the topics of a nice composer. I want everyone should see this film.


This is a strong and moving documentary about the life and death of Dimitri Shostakovich. It uses documentary footage, archive materials and contemporary footage of territories where Shostakovich lived and worked. As befits a documentary about a major composer the melody is integral to the movie and is illuminated by the visuals. Extracts from his symphonic works are used and also from his chamber melody including the last work he wrote but never heard in performance. Although it was distressing to see Shostakovich towards the end of his life looking ill and haunted the documentary is life affirming in the sense that the melody lives on and continues to enrich our lives.


This is not a straightforward biography--little attempt is made to be finished or say the tale in a linear fashion. In fact some of the latter parts of Shostakovich's life are covered at the beginning. The movie is pieced together from archival movie footage, narrative, photos, and original imagery forming a collage that makes a lasting impression.Many scenes discussing Shostakovich at a particular age are presented vs a backdrop of footage from the era being considered, not necessarily directly applicable to Shostakovich himself. For example, there is early footage panning across a road stage in Leningrad when Shostakovich's young life is being considered. There is footage from an amusement park where one ride is particularly amusing--on this ride few folks initially form at the center of a huge rotating disk and, as the disk speeds up, some hang on, others are thrown to the side, while a several manage to stay upright by trotting in place. Pick your favourite metaphor to apply to that scene.There are many tiny jewels to be had. There is footage of Yevgeny Mravinsky conducting the final several mins of the 5th Symphony as well as a young Leonard Bernstein (from a performance by the Fresh York Philharmonic in Moscow in 1959, with Shostakovich in the audience) conducting the same. Played back-to-back these segments offer a nice comparison of Mravinsky's cool accuracy vs. Berstein's hyper emotionalism. There is a still photo of Shostakovich at Prokofiev's casket and at his grave. There is footage of Shostakovich testing the last part of his 1st piano concerto, showing that he was a virtuosic pianist as well as a nice composer. Also a quintet is shown testing the lovely ending of Shostakovich's piano quintet, Of course we receive a sampling of much of Shostakovich's melody throughout which makes for a compelling score, even if the sound quality is not the best. Interesting that Shostakovich expressed disdain for composing melody for movie since his melody has actually been used in over one hundred detail films. After the film I felt the need to revisit some old Shostakovich favorites and discover some compositions that I had never heard, like the violin sonata of the title. Not all of Shostakovich's work is easy digested, for example I think that an appreciation for Shostakovich's opera "The Nose" may be reserved for but a few.The artistic flourishes of the directors are sometimes enigmatic, such as the opening stage that has a fuzzy world swinging in an out of focus. This photo is also used toward the end. Many of the filming techniques used, like zooming in or panning across still photos to create them seem alive, preceded the same techniques used so effectively by Ken Burns in his documentaries.



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