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.”
Looking for free, professionally-read audio books from Audible.com? Here’s a great, no-strings-attached deal. If you start a 30 day free trial with Audible.com, you can download two free audio books of your choice. Get more details on the offer here.
And if you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks for your support!