Through Black Glass
original title: Skvoz chernoe steklo
2018, shooting, 105 min., color, Russian
Maxim Sukhanov, Vasilisa Denisova, Nadezhda Markina
Cinematographer : Dmitry Mass
Producers : Andrei Sigle
“Through a Glass Darkly” is a genre film — but which genre? It might be considered: 1) a tragic melodrama; 2) a contemporary reworking of the classic story of Cinderella; or 3) a religious drama distantly reminiscent of the conceptual conflicts in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short story, “A Gentle Spirit,” which centers around the collision of two world views — religious and atheist — in the post-Soviet Russian world. (The events in the film take place during the year 2000, a period with its own particular characteristics).
The last possibility seems the most interesting to me and suits my predilections as a director. But this does not preclude detailed explications of the other two genres, especially the melodrama, since without them the film won’t have the emotional tone needed for viewers to empathize. This strikes me as essential with this film, since it will appeal to a particular demographic, mostly young people. Ultimately, it is a love story. So the choice of music, the rhythm of the edit and structure of the film — and, of course, the casting — are of crucial importance.
I should like to emphasize several points. For the female lead, the actress must have a good sense and understanding of the special world of the church and monastic life, its characteristics and habits that must be unconscious and be revealed by the actress in small gestures, movements, the nature of her reactions and in the embodiment of the character. For Ostrovsky it’s very important not to make him an out-and-out scoundrel. It’s important to sense the scale of his personality — clearly exceptional but possessed by powerful passions; extremely contradictory, but tragic in his own way. This man is certainly intelligent — in fact, very intelligent — but it is the intelligence of Mephisto: everything he touches inevitably leads him to commit crimes and to descend into spiritual ruin.
There is a great temptation for the director of photography. For the first quarter of the film, the main character is blind, which suggests the creation of a visual analog for the world that she sees with her inner eye. Here there is a danger of straight-forward illustration, which would be inappropriate, of course. I think it would be enough to use this device at the very beginning of the film as a kind of visual statement, and then repeat it in episodes where the transformation is part of the plot, for example, in the scene when she regains her sight in the clinic. Clearly these episodes will require sophisticated CG.
Filming will take place in Russia, mostly in St. Petersburg and environs. Three episodes need to be shot in a Western European city (as yet to be determined).
Film production period: fall-early winter or late winter-early spring.
Finally, I’d like to especially emphasize the overall emotional pitch of the film. The temperature of emotional expression must be close to boiling, as it were. This is, in my view, the key to the successful direction of the film.
GAIN SIGHT WITH MONEY, GO BLIND WITH LOVE
It is a genre film, but which genre? Maybe a modern interpretation of the classic story of Cinderella? But it might be considered as a tragic melodrama or a religious drama, too. It’s vaguely reminiscent of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short story “A Gentle Spirit” with its conflict of concepts: it centers on the collision of two world views — religious and atheist. Finally, it is a love story, with the emotional temperature close to boiling, even though we all know that a romantic story is one thing, while life is always something different. Alas, in today’s Russia, the story of Cinderella can’t have a happy ending.