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Russian filmmaker gets Silver Lion at Venice Film Festival

September 11, 2016, 3:33 UTC+3

'Paradise' that was an entry in the competitive section reveals the tangling of human life stories during World War II

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Russian director Andrey Konchalovsky

Russian director Andrey Konchalovsky


ROME, September 10. /TASS/. Russian film director Andrey Konchalovsky has received the Silver Lion (Leone d'Argento) for best direction at the 73rd Venice Film Festival for his film 'Paradise', the international panel led by the British director, Sam Mendes, said on Saturday.

'Paradise' that was an entry in the competitive section reveals the tangling of human life stories during World War II. Konchalovsky's wife, actress Yuliya Vysotskaya, plays the leading part of the Russian emigre Olga who finds herself ending up in a concentration camp after she gave shelter to Jewish children in Paris.

Konchalovsky thanked Yuliya at the awarding ceremony.

This is a second Silver Lion from the Venice festival for him. The previous time he received the award was in 2014 for his film 'The Postman's White Nights'.

He received his first prize at Venice as a beginning director in 1961 for the short film 'A Boy and a Pigeon'. The next award at the Venetian film biennale was given to him in 2002 for 'The House of Fools'.

As Andrey Konchalovsky addressed a news conference hours before the premiere show of his film in Venice on Friday, he said it explored the spiritual nature of evil.

Apart from the emigre woman Olga, two other protagonists of the plot that unfolds in the last months of World War II are a French collaborator Jules and an SS officer Helmut. It turns out that Olga and Helmut knew each other before the outbreak of the war in Italy.

When TASS asked Konchalovsky why he had chosen to set the scene during wartime and in a concentration camp while he himself had described the essence of the film as the unraveling of human relations, he answered that his film was about the nature of evil.

"The Holocaust theme has been trivialized heavily," he said. "Now 200 Jewish people in striped pajamas have become like the opera Nabucco, especially if filmed in color."

"It’s the theme and not the essence that’s trivialized and that’s why my film isn’t about Holocaust — it’s about the origins of evil," Konchalovsky said.

He said he was convinced of the eternal nature of the problem.

"Evil bears its fruit every day, in any epoch, and the main thing is the people who generate it think they’re doing good," Konchalovsky said, mentioning Joan of Arc, World War II, as well as the bombings of Serbia and Iraq in this connection.

"All of this has always been wrapped up in the high-flown ideas of democracy and human liberty," he said. "And that’s why Jesus’s phrase ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ is eternal."

Apart from directing, Konchalovsky also wrote the script of this story, which he calls contrived, although real Russian emigre women who hid Jewish children away from the Nazis lived in Paris during World War II. Many of them were arrested, died and became heroes of the French resistance movement.

He also said that Olga is a generalized character.

"This film is not about physical suffering, it’s about spiritual violence, that is, violence over the soul, which is so difficult to render," he said. "It’s spiritual sufferings, not the physical ones that are the most horrible in Dante’s inferno."

"My main objective was to make the audiences feel the horror, which man doesn’t feel when he or she lives in the assuredness of doing good," Konchalovsky said.

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