Morphia/Морфий BFI LFF 18 October


OK, so this was due to start at 9.15.  At 9.15 there was an announcement that the doors would open at 9.30, so I went and browsed in the book and music shops.  The film finally began at 9.45.  Then, a quarter of an hour in, three Russian girls were ushered in bearing voluminous glasses of wine and after lengthy consultations sat in front of us.  Two went to sleep and one conducted urgent (and, to be fair, silent) business on her mobile.  So this неразбериха definitely put me in the mood…

And the film?  Oh that…well, I had many problems with it.  In the stories by Mikhail Bulgakov, the hero first of all comes to terms with his new surroundings and responsibilities in a small (one-doctor) establishment and then after transfer to a large town succumbs to morphine addiction.  Here he was taking morphine from the beginning and also having an affair with Ingeborga Dapkunaite and some other woman from a totally extraneous storyline about a local nest of the gentry.  So that was irritating.

OK, so what of the film itself?  I still didn’t like it.  I enjoyed the historical pornography [Nabokov has a better term for it somewhere] of the detailed depiction of a bygone Russia.  But I didn’t believe the pornographic pornography and Leonid Bichevin’s portrayal of the hero as a typical Soviet bloke succumbing to sex and drugs.  Bulgakov was trying to make the point in Собачье сердце that educated people pre-Revolution behaved differently.  And the sentimental songs that were stuck in everywhere in the true Soviet fashion annoyed me too.

So we had the clever ending where the hero goes into a cinema and shoots himself and Конец appears on the screen of the cinema in the film.  It was half-past eleven and they weren’t turning the lights on, so I gathered my coat and bag from beneath my seat and headed for the bus.  Then I thought that I’d left my scarf behind, but it was too late and I wanted to go home.

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