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“Kill the Dragon”: the combination of genius and villainy struck Oleg Yankovsky in the hero

Date: May 31, 2023 Time: 15:32:49

Mark Zakharov on the set of the film “Kill the Dragon”

Photo: TASS Newsreel.

The parable, in terms of meaning, dystopia – in terms of genre, was filmed according to the script by Grigory Gorin, who reconsidered Yevgeny Schwartz’s play “Dragon” with a time setting. It was the era of perestroika. The “edits” were made minor: some dialogues were rewritten, journalistic comments were added, the ending and some details were changed (in the film, Lancelot flies in a balloon, and not on a magic carpet, as in the play). But the characters, the plot, the idea survived.

The play was written by Schwartz in 1942-44. The allegory with Hitler (Dragon) and fascism, which must be defeated (kill the Dragon), only at first glance seemed simple. An astute reader understood that the topic is broader, and in general it is not only about fascism, but also about any dictatorship, including Stalin’s. And also about the inner lack of freedom of a person and the need to kill the “dragon” in oneself. In Soviet times, Schwartz’s play was staged several times. But immediately removed from the repertoire.

In 1962, in the student theater of Moscow State University, the then novice director Mark Zakharov staged the play “Dragon”. The production was enthusiastically received, but was short-lived. The performance was filmed after Nikita Khrushchev had visited an exhibition of avant-garde artists in the Manege. The devastating reaction did not only touch the artists.

And in perestroika, when everything that was previously prohibited began to be taken off the shelves, printed, configured, researched, Zakharov returned to his “Dragon”.

He sent an application for the staging of a film based on the play by Yevgeny Schwartz to Leonid Kravchenko, president of the State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company. And they gave it the go-ahead.

The film crew during the completion of shooting the film directed by MA Zakharov “Slay the Dragon”

Photo: TASS Newsreel.

Mark Zakharov, out of habit, decided to make a film with the participation of the actors of the Lenin Komsomol Theater, which he himself directed. The role of the Dragon was entrusted to Oleg Yankovsky, Lancelot, to Alexander Abdulov, Burgomaster, to Evgeny Leonov, to the scientist Friedrichsen, to Alexander Zbruev. This acting backbone of Lenkom was approved by Zakharov without trial, given his extensive experience in cinema in general, and in Mark Zakharov’s films and performances in particular. The role of Lancelot’s beloved Elsa was played by the daughter of director Alexander Zakharov. The best student of the dragon Heinrich is the current star of Lenkom, Viktor Rakov, then an aspiring artist.

The “alien” was Vyacheslav Tikhonov, who played the archivist Charlemagne, Elsa’s father. By the way, Alexey Petrenko and Oleg Borisov auditioned for this role. Actor Vyacheslav Polunin starred in the film – he played a balloonist who killed the “poetry of flight” in himself.

After the release of the film on the screens, Oleg Yankovsky received the greatest amount of praise. The Dragon of him was at once a cynical villain, a subtle psychologist, and a true sage who, unlike Lancelot, understands that people cannot live without dictatorship and rigid submission. Film critic Kirill Razlogov wrote: “The metamorphoses of his Dragon, strange mixtures of intonations – from sarcasm to flattery, internal self-irony and a non-canonical combination of genius, villainy and helplessness – all this is conveyed by the actor with brilliance”.

Zakharov’s team was supplemented by Yuli Kim, who wrote the lyrics, and composer Gennady Gladkov, who scored almost all of the director’s TV movies.

The role of the Dragon was entrusted to Oleg Yankovsky.

Photo: TASS Newsreel.

Many scenes of the “Dragon” were filmed on the streets of old German cities and in medieval castles. In particular, in the Marienburg Castle (in Malbork on the territory of present-day Poland) – one of the most famous brick castles, which served as the residence of the masters of the Teutonic Order. Filmed in Poland Gdansk and Wroclaw.

The actors themselves often performed complex stunts. For example, Alexander Abdulov tried to perform all the tricks himself. It was he, and not a stand-in, in one of the scenes he was lifted by a crane by his legs to a height of 45 meters.

In early 1988, Kill the Dragon hit the big screen. Surprisingly, time played a cruel joke on the “Dragon”. At the height of perestroika, the language of Aesop was no longer needed to criticize the Soviet regime and the totalitarian state. In fact, there was no longer Soviet power, no totalitarian state, and no Communist Party hegemony. On the television screen and in the press, without hints or allusions, they called things by their names, exposed both totalitarianism and Stalinism, Brezhnev’s stagnation and the forces of order …

Shooting of a feature film based on Yevgeny Schwartz’s play “Kill the Dragon”. Director Mark Zakharov Actor Vyacheslav Tikhonov

Photo: TASS Newsreel.

Maybe that’s why the movie “Slay the Dragon” didn’t sound like it came out five years earlier. He did not receive such recognition and love from the audience as other paintings by Mark Zakharov: “An ordinary miracle”, “Munchausen himself”, “Formula of love” …

“Dragon” was the first work with which Zakharov began his career in theatrical direction and his last film work. After that, a wonderful director focused exclusively on theatrical productions.

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.
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