Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky Told in a Beautifully Animated Film by Piotr Dumala

In this darkly poetic animation, the Polish filmmaker Piotr Dumala offers a highly personal interpretation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s classic novel, Crime and Punishment. “My film is like a dream,” Dumala said in 2007. “It is as if someone has read Crime and Punishment and then had a dream about it.”

Dumala’s version takes place only at night. The story is told expressionistically, without dialogue and with an altered flow of time. The complex and multi-layered novel is pared down to a few central characters and events: In the Russian city of Saint Petersburg, a young man named Raskolnikov lies in his dark room brooding over a bloody crime. He murders an old woman with whom he had pawned his watch. When her younger sister comes home unexpectedly, he murders her too. He confesses to a saintly young woman named Sonya. The sinister eavesdropper Svidrigailov knows of Raskolnikov’s love for Sonya, and of his sins. In the end Svidrigailov takes a pistol and “goes to America” by killing himself.

Dumala completed his half-hour film of Crime and Punishment (Zbrodnia i Kara) in 2000, after three years of work. He has a unique method: He takes a white plaster panel and coats the surface with glue. He then paints over it with a dark color and lets it dry. He uses a knife and sandpaper to engrave his image, creating a hatching effect that gives it a feeling of texture. To add darkness to a light area, he adds more paint with a brush.

It’s a form of “destructive animation.” Each image exists only long enough to be photographed and then painted over to create a sense of movement. It’s a process that sometimes makes Dumala sad. “I think sometimes when I do a drawing in my film, I want to keep it,” he told Melissa Chimovitz of Animation World Network in 1997, “but I must destroy it because this is the technique I use. I must destroy every frame to put in its place another one, the next one, to have movement. This way, sometimes I think it is too much suffering, to destroy all the time what I am doing.”

If you appreciate Dumala’s take on Dostoyevsky, you won’t want to miss his 1992 treatment of Franz Kafka.

Dumala’s films are housed in our list of Free Movies Online. Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment appears in our Free Audio Books and Free eBooks collections.

Related content:

Albert Camus Talks About Adapting Dostoyevsky for the Theatre, 1959

Kafka’s Nightmare Tale, ‘A Country Doctor,’ Told in Award-Winning Japanese Animation



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  1. pantelis says . . . | December 17, 2012 / 12:22 pm

    hi there. I’m looking for some contact with mr Dumala. Could you give me some hint? Are these films (both Kafka and Crime and Punishment) free to screen?

  2. iren schio says . . . | May 1, 2013 / 8:19 am

    Compellingly Beautiful , thank you !

  3. Tim Shey says . . . | February 4, 2014 / 12:39 pm

    Very beautiful film.

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