The Very Same Munchhausen

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For other uses, see Munchausen (disambiguation).
Tot samyy Myunkhgauzen
The Very Same Munchhausen.jpg
Written by Grigoriy Gorin
Directed by Mark Zakharov
Starring Oleg Yankovskiy
Inna Churikova
Yelena Koreneva
Igor Kvasha
Aleksandr Abdulov
Leonid Yarmolnik
Leonid Bronevoy
Music by Alexey Rybnikov
Country of origin Soviet Union
Original language(s) Russian
Cinematography Vladimir Nakhabtsev
Editor(s) Irma Tsekavaya
Distributor Mosfilm
Release
Original release 1979

The Very Same Munchhausen (Russian: Тот самый Мюнхгаузен, tr. Tot samyy Myunkhgauzen, alt. translation - That Very Münchhausen) is a 1979 Soviet television movie directed by Mark Zakharov, based on a script by Grigoriy Gorin.

The film relays the story of the baron's life after the adventures portrayed in the Baron Munchausen stories, particularly his struggle to prove himself sane. Münchhausen is portrayed as a multi-dimensional, colourful, non-conformist man living in a grey, plain, dull and conformist society that ultimately tries to destroy his personality.

The film, created during late years of the Leonid Brezhnev rule, has been widely regarded as a tongue-in-cheek satire of the Soviet Stagnation-Era society.[1]

Plot[edit]

The film takes place in 1779, Germany.

First part[edit]

Baron Munchausen is perceived by others as a fabricator living in a world of fantasy. However, his stories have a strange tendency to become reality. Hunters at a camp are laughing at the story which Baron Munchausen is telling about him hunting a deer and shooting it with a cherry pit but suddenly they see a noble animal with a cherry tree in place of horns appear from the woods. The Baron says proudly that he became famous not for his exploits but for the fact that he never lies. He really does not know how to lie even when it would be useful for himself or to his loved ones. He is sickened by the idea to lie for personal benefit or "out of politeness".

Munchausen lives in a castle with a charming girl Martha. They have long thought about getting married, but there is one problem: the Baron already has a wife. When he was young his parents made him marry Jacobine von Dutta for whom he never had feelings of affection for purely practical reasons. She lives alone with her adult son Theophilus. Munchausen is seeking a divorce. Only the Duke can grant the permission but Jacobine and her lover Henry Ramkopf firmly inhibit this.

Relatives are trying to declare Munchausen as insane to gain the right to dispose of his property. He tries all alternatives but all priests he talks to refuse to conduct a marriage ceremony for the couple. One happy day, the Duke, irritable after a quarrel with the Duchess, signs Munchausen's application for divorce with the words "Absolve all of them, absolve them." Martha is happy but she is very afraid that her beau will throw another joke at the court hearing which must approve the divorce.

And so it happens that by signing the divorce papers, Munchausen writes the "date" as May 32 as according to his calculations there is an error in the calendar and that this year should have one additional day. But nobody cares for the ideas and astronomical observations of the Baron, and everyone perceives his actions as just another defiant act against public order. A scandal takes place. The court finding itself insulted refuses to approve the divorce. A renunciation is required from the Baron: he must recognize that all of his stories are empty fantasies, he must write that he gives up everything that he said and wrote in written form, point by point. Friends, servants, Martha, all persuade Baron to comply.

Martha's statement becomes the last straw. She puts an ultimatum to the Baron: he must choose between his stories about encounters with William Shakespeare and Isaac Newton or her. Baron gives up: he signes a renunciation of oneself and the same evening burns all his manuscripts and leaves the room with a gun. A gunshot is heard.

Second part[edit]

Three years pass after the officially established death of Baron Munchausen. From a living troublemaker Baron transforms into a dead celebrity: Jakobina publishes a book called "Adventures of the Baron." This is not just compiled memories of Baron instead they are embellished and supplemented by outright fabrications. People are singing in restaurants and painting pictures of Munchausen. He is proclaimed as a "great man, misunderstood by his contemporaries," and on May 32 (the three year anniversary of his death) on the main square of the city a monument to the Baron is erected.

Ramkopf leads excursions to Baron's castle and outputs a scientific substantiation of the possibility of lifting oneself by hair. Theophilus unsuccessfully tries to repeat his exploits: lift oneself up into the air by hair and beat ducks through a chimney. A former servant of Baron Munchausen, Thomas (one of the few who supported the Baron through thick and thin) goes to Müller's flower shop and recognizes his former master in the florist. It turns out that the suicide and the subsequent funeral was staged; after the funeral the Baron left everything to the official heirs and became a florist with the name Müller and because of that was able to marry Martha and live with her.

But everyday life greatly changed the Baron: out of the jovial dreamer he turned into a sullen and thrifty cynic ( "My funeral brought me more money than all my previous life."). Eventually, it gets to the point that Martha leaves him because she cannot cope with the metamorphosis of her lover. Munchausen decides to get Martha back and understands that, "to get her back, you need to bring yourself back" and becomes himself again. But for the city's people the dead Munchausen has transformed into a legend and in living form is not needed to anyone but to Martha and Thomas.

Once Baron tells the people who are knowledgeable of his secret about his decision "to resurrect", the mayor who once was a close friend of the Baron "for the sake of public safety" declares him an impostor and sends him to prison "to determine his true identity." The court called to establish the identity of the Baron goes on in the tone of a well-organized play: one after the other former acquaintances, relatives and friends of the Baron refuse to accept him. Only Martha at the last moment refuses to play the part prescribed to her and because of that the meeting ends up getting interrupted.

The last important trial is looming: The Baron is offered to accept that he is Müller or to repeat his flight to the moon on a cannonball. "The investigative experiment" takes place on 32 May 1783 in a festive atmosphere again according to plan. Martha full of doubts first reads out her request to the Duke to pardon her "abnormal husband Müller," but then is not able to bear it any longer and admits this to her beloved: the cannon was filled with wet gunpowder so that the cannonball would fly for several meters and then during the sweeping laughter would fall to the grass so that Baron's swindle would be considered proven.

A general commotion arises when the cannon is reloaded with the dry gunpowder brought by Thomas for public just wanted to laugh at the Baron, not to kill him. There are attempts to convince the Duke to make a decision that the Baron's identity has been verified and that his trip to the moon has been a success. The Baron is offered to "return from the trip" in a blaze of glory. The previously scheduled "general merriment" begins almost unchanged, just in a different context, it becomes a celebration of his return.

As if nothing had happened Jakobina says that she has traveled to the moon with the Baron, and is preparing to publish a memoir about it. A suggestion is whispered to the Baron: "Quickly join us." Munchausen while rushing from one company to another, seeing everywhere the same cheerful, overly-friendly faces and glasses raised for his journey, hearing appeals: "Join us, Baron", returns to the ramparts to the cannon and delivers the final monologue:

I understand what your trouble is: you're too serious! An intelligent face is not a sign of intelligence, gentlemen. All asinity on earth is made by people wearing this expression. Smile, gentlemen! Smile!

Baron gives orders for the day of his return and then begins to climb the rope ladder to the cannons vent. The angle changes and it turns out that the ladder has become very long, and no cannon is visible anymore - the Baron simply climbs the stairs up to the sky. The closing theme song plays.

Cast[edit]

Pre-production and casting[edit]

According to the director Zakharov, Oleg Yankovsky just after his role as the The Wizard in the movie An Ordinary Miracle (also directed by Zakharov) was perfectly suited for the role of Baron Munchausen. However, Mark Zakharov had to convince the Goskino. Even the writer Grigori Gorin remained unconvinced, he wanted Andrei Mironov to play the part.[2] Yankovsky was identified with more heroic characters. In addition, the book and the play portrays the Baron as a middle-aged man who has an adult son. When the shooting started Yankovski just turned 35 years old. The outcome was that the director was able to defend his position.

The starting material for the literary script was the play by Grigori Gorin "The most Truthful", which was a success in the Russian Army Theatre (Munchausen - Vladimir Zeldin). Mark Zakharov liked the show and decided to transpose it to the television screen. During the work on the script the play was seriously revised and greatly changed compared to the theatrical version. The music by Alexey Rybnikov was originally written for the play.

I am grateful to Mark Zakharov for believing in me, he saw in me the atypical comedic talents, the ability to convey the sad irony of the character which I myself frankly did not suspect. Zakharov preferred to take a well-known actor and cast him against type. And for me it was really a godsend

— Oleg Yankovsky[3]

The core of the ensemble was created out of actors from the Lenkom Theatre. Leonid Bronevoy adopted his role without issues. Yuri Vasilyev from the Moscow Satire Theatre initially auditioned for the role of Theophilus but Leonid Yarmolnik ended up getting the part. Some difficulties arose when casting the role of Martha. For the role many actresses auditioned including Tatyana Dogileva, Irina Mazurkiewicz. After a long search Yelena Koreneva was chosen by the State Committee for Cinematography.[2]

Production[edit]

The film was shot in the socialist East Germany (the real Munchausen lived near Hanover in the city Bodenwerder, located on the territory of the capitalist West Germany). It was much easier to arrange the film shooting in the GDR so the location became the streets of Wernigerode which had an "authentic" look and the city was hardly affected during World War II.[2]

German actors and citizens took part in the crowd scenes and episodic roles. For instance, in the very first scene everyone except for Yankovski and Katin-Yartsev are Germans. This is visible in part because the German articulation does not match the Russian dubbing. Zakharov was not used to filming on location; he had trouble coordinating the German actors and shooting in stormy weather.[4]

Unlike other works by Zakharov the film relatively easily passed the censorship barriers. Just one scene was cut, the one where hunters are studying the works of Baron Munchausen. The scene was considered too bold because the whole country at that time was studying the works of Leonid Brezhnev.[4]

Later in the 1990s a dialogue between Munchausen and the pastor was shortened. These particular lines were cut: "I read ... your book ... What kind of nonsense are you making up!". Baron replied: "I read yours - and it isn't any better." Pastor: "What?" The Baron, "the Bible".[5]

Reception[edit]

The fable takes the characteristic themes of romanticism; the conflict between the free creative imagination and the purely rational comprehension of the world, the tearing down of boundaries between dream and reality, the rejection of social conventions and the forcing the romantic hero into the harsh reality. The last point is reflected outwardly in the smugness and hypocrisy of the nobility and the bourgeoisie. Allusions in the language and in the actions (for example the finely coordinated show trial) show a brilliant satirical representation of Soviet society.[1]

The film is one of the most popular comedies of the former USSR.[1][6] and has become a source of many quotes for the Russians.

Mark Zakharov won the award for Best Director and the Jury Prize at the International Television Festival Golden Prague (MTF Zlatá Praha) (1979).

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Kevin Moss: A Russian Munchausen, Aesopian Translation. In: Andrew Horton (Hrsg.): Inside Soviet Film Satire: Laughter with a Lash. Cambridge 1993, ISBN 0-521-02107-3, S. 20–35. (pdf)
  2. ^ a b c ""Тот самый Мюнхгаузен": кто кричал "Ахтунг"?" (in Russian). TV Center. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  3. ^ "Тот самый Мюнхгаузен. Х/ф" (in Russian). Russia-1. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  4. ^ a b "Самый честный Мюнхгаузен – Больше всего Олег Янковский любил свою роль в великом фильме Марка Захарова" (in Russian). Versia. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  5. ^ Grigoriy Gorin "The Very Same Munchhausen", scripts of television films, year 1990. Moscow, publishing house "Isskustvo", p. 18
  6. ^ "Тот самый Мюнхгаузен". Vokrug TV. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 

External links[edit]