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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