No borders, no customs offices — and it is great…
Belarus’ People’s Artist — Vladimir Gostyukhin — has recently celebrated his 70th birthday. We met him to discuss his best roles, his participation in soap operas and his love of modern films
Relationships are the key
Mr. Gostyukhin, you are often critical of Russian cinematography. Why do you dislike it?
Modern cinema has transformed into entertainment and attraction only: while possessing a great amount of clever technology, it has lost the dynamics of the actors, deep psychological feelings and complicated human interrelations.
The passionate cinematograph — natural in the Soviet times — is in the past. The films shot by great directors can be watched over and over again. It’s hardly possible to turn off a screen if Gerasimov’s ‘Quiet Don’ or Bondarchuk’s ‘War and Peace’ are shown.
You recently directed the ‘Eye for an Eye’ film where you played a key character. What does this mean to you?
This is the latest masterpiece by an outstanding master: Gennady Poloka. The film was based on Boris Lavrenev’s ‘Seventh Companion’ novel; it’s the story of a white general from a noble family and an entrenched Bolshevik who is a victim and an assassin. In the times of the red-and-white terror — after an attempt upon Lenin’s life, former Tsar officers were killed throughout Russia. My character led their execution in Mogilev. A connection emerges between this ordinary Bolshevik and the tsar general: they realise intuitively that both represent a single nation and feel an affinity with each other.
The idea of unity is close to the director: his grandfathers fought in opposite camps during the Civil War. “These all are superficial; human relations are the key,” Mr. Poloka used to tell me during our work. “It’s madness to kill each other.”
We showed our ‘Eye for an Eye’ several times at city festivals, screening it twice in Moscow. I saw audiences with red eyes after they had seen the film. There was no advertising of our work; we shot the film in Belarus on a very low budget. The shooting was stopped for a while and I had to ask Alexander Lukashenko for help. “Continue your work,” he told us after watching scenes from the film.
At shooting of film ‘Fir Trees 1914’
Personal driver for Father Frost
Which of your previous works do you admire most of all?
I loved shooting Sergey Ovcharov’s ‘Left-Hander’. He directs parables in the form of crazy grotesque. Some audiences couldn’t understand his style but if they were lucky, they got a real shock. I’m happy to have the chance to participate in films of this kind.
I also love my soap opera roles. They take a lot of time as I like to work out all the psychological nuances in the character. I recall my work in Alexander Zamyatin’s ‘In Forests and Mountains’ series based upon Melnikov-Pechersky’s text. I played a Volga merchant. The director coped with the material superbly and it was a pleasure to work with him. While working, we were able to observe how he was moulding the characters, despite a strict soap opera format.
In series ‘Long-Haul Truckers’
I enjoyed shooting in the four-episode ‘Doctor Death’; I played a bad guy — a former criminal from the 1990s — who’s become a confident businessman. The character was interesting to me. The writers decided to simplify the story by the end of the film — finishing it with a shooting.
It was also interesting to play the role of an investigator at the general prosecutor’s office, in the ‘Comrade Head’ series. Corruption among top officials is actively discussed now but Gennady Kayumov shot a film on the problem in 2005. It was viewed with suspicion but I love it: the film is brave as it reveals officials’ corruption.
In the role of uncle Frol in film ‘Vlastimir’
What can you say about your participation in Ascension?
This film is the epitome of my cinema work. This was thanks to a great director in times when I struggled for parts. An actor fell ill and Boris Morozov — who is now the theatre’s chief director — invited me to the performance. Additionally, Larisa Shepitko suggested me for ‘Ascension’ — based on Vasil Bykov’s ‘Sotnikov’ play. Vysotsky and Gubenko attempted to receive the role of Rybak but Larisa took a risk with unfamiliar artistes — choosing me and Boris Plotnikov, from Sverdlov’s Young Spectator Theatre.
Our film was awarded a ‘Golden Bear’ in Berlin, the festivals were attended by Larisa and Boris. After ‘Ascension’, I began working on the ‘Walking along Troubles’ series.
At shooting of film ‘To Cure the Fear’
What are you working on now?
I play Father Frost in a children’s fairy-tale; it’s a fantasy. The head of Father Frosts’ Corporation is performed by Fiodor Bondarchuk. We travel by Volga car which is transformed into a sleigh and vice versa. I have virtually no lines!
In the role of uncle Frol in film ‘Vlastimir’
Homeland: Feeling at home in Moscow and Minsk
You love to recite Sergey Yesenin’s poems at your artistic parties. How did you come to enjoy his poetry?
A teacher at an amateur theatre introduced me to the poet’s work. I began reading Yesenin and read all of his works that were published at that time. The poet seemed so close to me and touched my soul so greatly, that he became a part of me for the rest of my life.
I understand him while I’m reciting his poems on stage. I see people’s emotions. I do not actually recite Yesenin but tell stories of his poems: on behalf of a miller and his wife, or on behalf of Pron Oglobin. Our Studio also stages a musical-poetic composition based on his ‘Anna Snegina’; which has enjoyed great success. We staged it in Moscow’s Taganka Theatre and the local audience welcomed us warmly.
In film ‘The First after God’
Do you often visit your native Yekaterinburg?
I hosted the solemn ‘Heroes of Russia’ party for three years in a row there — jointly with Valery Zolotukhin and Boris Galkin. The city has changed since I left it. However, some places have remained the same. I once visited it to celebrate my father’s anniversary, and visited all of them.
Russia and Belarus have recently celebrated the Day of Unity…
I’m happy that we are building the Union State and I see many advantages in this. I especially appreciate the fact that I can come to my homeland as to my home — facing no problems: no borders and no customs which is great. I’d personally love to live as in the past — sharing a single state.
How did you celebrate your recent jubilee?
Don’t ask me: I’ve already forgotten.
At shooting of film ‘Second Lieutenant Romashov’
At shooting of film ‘Junkers’
By Nina Kataeva