Malevich promenades Vitebsk

Russian director, Alexander Mitta, finishes work on his film about two great and outstanding Belarusian artists: Marc Chagall and Kazimir Malevich
By Tatiana Khoroshilova

What is the film’s title? 
It’s called ‘Chagall — Malevich’. I’ve focused on a short period of these two great personalities’ life — the year of 1919. It was then when Chagall established his arts school in after-Revolution Vitebsk and later invited Malevich to join (whom he helped to beat poverty and disease). Malevich then headed the school but, in 1935, sadly died at a young age. Chagall, in turn, lived much longer — almost 100 years.

...and died in a lift while travelling to the second floor.
In 1973, Chagall visited Russia, but failed to visit Vitebsk — saying that he could not bear meeting his native city. The artist visited Moscow and Leningrad where his two sisters lived.

Did you have to agree the script with relatives?
Yes. The script was approved by them.

Why is this story close to your heart?
I wished to shoot a film about two prominent artists. Chagall is a fantasist and a dreamer, while Malevich is a reformer and founder of the abstract art theory. I’ve been interested in Chagall for a long time; I shot my first film about him over four decades ago.

Is he the key character of your film?
Yes, he is in the beginning, but then Malevich takes the lead.

Where did you find actors?
Leonid Bichevin (Chagall) is a rising star of Vakhtangov’s Theatre and Anatoly Bely (Malevich) is a brilliant actor from the Moscow Art Theatre. Around 80 percent of all the actors are making their debut in the film.

Are Belarusian actors participating?
Of course.

Where did shooting take place?
The process was quick. We shot indoor scenes in St. Petersburg and outdoor in Vitebsk. The city helped us by allocating two main streets. Cafes and restaurants were closed for several days there, but we were freed from paying money. We changed the city drastically during two months of our work. Some citizens even failed to ‘recognise’ their own streets. However, we were asked to leave our decorations. Vitebsk residents plan to show them to tourists.

What was the initial title of the film?
Originally, it was ‘Chagall’s Miracle’ but we later changed it to ‘Chagall — Malevich’, as the film discloses the collision of these two strong characters. 

The film was recently screened at Moscow’s Art Mainstream Festival. Do you plan to screen it in Vitebsk?
Definitely. However, no ‘true’ premiere has yet been organised.
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