The Animated Dostoevsky: Two Finely Crafted Short Films Bring the Russian Novelist’s Work to Life

You can experience Dostoevsky in the original. You can experience Dostoevsky in translation. Or how about an experience of Dostoevsky in animation? Today we’ve rounded up two particularly notable examples of that last, both of which take up their unconventional project of adaptation with suitably unconventional animation techniques. At the top of the post, we have the first part (and just below we have the second) of Dostoevsky’s story “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man,” re-imagined by Russian animator Alexander Petrov.

The animation, as Josh Jones wrote here in 2014, “uses painstakingly hand-painted cells to bring to life the alternate world the narrator finds himself navigating in his dream. From the flickering lamps against the dreary, darkened cityscape of the ridiculous man’s waking life to the shifting, sunlit sands of the dreamworld, each detail of the story is finely rendered with meticulous care.” A haunting visual style for this haunting piece of late Dostoevsky in full-on existentialist mode.

Just below, you can see a longer and more ambitious adaptation of one of Dostoevsky’s much longer, much more ambitious works: Crime and Punishment. This half-hour animated version by Polish filmmaker Piotr Dumala, Mike Springer wrote here in 2012, gets “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,” all of them portrayed with a form of labor-intensive “destructive animation” in which Dumala engraved, painted over, and then re-engraved each frame on plaster, a method where “each image exists only long enough to be photographed and then painted over to create a sense of movement.”

If you’d now like to plunge into Dostoevsky’s literary world and find out if it compels you, too, to create strikingly unconventional animations — or any other sort of project inspired by the writer’s epic grappling with life’s greatest, most troubling themes — you can do it for free with our collection of Dostoevsky eBooks and audiobooks.

Related Content:

The Digital Dostoevsky: Download Free eBooks & Audio Books of the Russian Novelist’s Major Works

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

Watch a Hand-Painted Animation of Dostoevsky’s “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man”

Fyodor Dostoevsky Draws Elaborate Doodles In His Manuscripts

Dostoevsky Draws a Picture of Shakespeare: A New Discovery in an Old Manuscript

Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in CinemaFollow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Comments (4)
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  • Peter Harrer says:

    Thank you for your terrific film. The animation combined with the music captures the mood of “Crime & Punishment” far better than any other adaptation I’ve seen. The whole feel of this piece is truly Dostoyevskian. A question: When Raskolnikov is sitting at the table and is approached by the blonde Sonya, there is a cut to a close-up of another young woman with dark hair who is also quite beautiful. Is that his sister Dunya? Does Sonya make him think of Dunya? It seems so. There are many such touches to this film that I admire, but time does not permit me to list them. The use of Svidrigailov’s gaze throughout is wonderfully creepy and strange! The light of St. Petersburg in summer is also very effective. A quote from FM Dostoyevsky: “Few places have so many gloomy, strong and queer influences on the soul of man as Petersburg!” Thanks & Much Aloha, PH

  • Tim Shey says:

    The film “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man” was very interesting. It reminded me of John-Paul Sartre’s “The Wall” and John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”.

  • RobertoF88 says:

    Despite not having already read “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man”, I have found the animation movie very persuasive. It represents “clearly” Dostoevsky’s point of view, concentrating on human feeling and describing its inner behaviour. I praise the authors.

  • 100PrayingWomen says:

    Your content is excellent.

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