Marc Chagall vs Kazimir Malevich not only in creative life

Alexander Mitta to shoot film about two great painters
By Sergey Gomanov

Mr. Mitta admits that he has loved Chagall since childhood and wanted to become an artist himself. Of course, Chagall’s life was conflict-free, while a film needs the tension of such a situation… so some has been invented. Mr. Mitta, a People’s Artist of Russia, visited Vitebsk for inspiration for his script. Here, he tells us more.

Our plot shows the Vitebsk period of Marc Chagall’s life, and that of Kazimir Malevich. Chagall did much for his native city in setting up a school and museum boasting the best collection of avant-garde paintings, while Malevich was a teacher and produced artworks completely different to those of Chagall. He created the theoretical basis for abstract art — suprematism. I invented a relationship for them — of friendship and hostility. Malevich tries to take over Chagall’s school by underhand means, turning it into an institute of suprematism, seeking Vitebsk as a ‘centre of conversation between the Earth and space’.

Isn’t this too complex a plot?
I understand that a plot based on the hostility and friendship of two painters may be of little interest to most, so I’ve added an invented ‘romantic’ element: someone Robespierre falls in love with Chagall’s Bella. Using Lenin’s ‘sword and blood’ ethos, he blackmails Bella into becoming his mistress by threatening to have Chagall executed for heresy.

Did Vitebsk provide adequate sets for your film?
I knew that the city had been greatly damaged during the war, so I wasn’t expecting much. However, I was pleasantly surprised, as it’s such a vibrant city; it’s really grown on me. With time, my feelings of love and tenderness strengthened, as I hope will come across in the film. We plan to shoot the film within two months and will use several streets in Vitebsk. Of course, we’ll use Chagall’s house in Pokrovskaya Street but will ‘construct’ a district for the Jewish poor in the suburbs. We also plan a big scene at St. Petersburg station.

Who will play the major roles?
Actors haven’t yet been chosen.

Will the artists’ pictures appear in the film?
This is a separate story. Chagall’s descendants ask over 2,500 Euros for the appearance of each picture on film but we’ve persuaded them to give us a 50 percent discount (or maybe more). The Chagall Foundation, without whose permission we can’t use the name of the painter, has approved the script and the title: ‘Miracle of Chagall’ (miracle meaning ‘wonder’ — from Latin).

Will there be crowd shots involving Vitebsk residents?
Of course. The premiere of the film will also take place in Vitebsk.
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