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Russian filmmaker says his film shown at Venice Festival explores nature of good, evil

The plot of Andrei Konchalovsky's film unfolds in the last months of World War II
Andrei Konchalovsky Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS
Andrei Konchalovsky
© Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS

VENICE, September 8. /TASS/. A new film by the renowned Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky, Paradise (Rai) that premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday as an entry in the main competition program explores the spiritual nature of evil, Konchalovsky told a news conference before the show.

The plot unfolds in the last months of World War II. Its protagonists are a Paris-based Russian emigre woman Olga who ends up in a concentration camp for hiding Jewish children, a French collaborator Jules and an SS officer Helmut.

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 character 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.

Konchalovsky said that the protagonist Olga, who is played by his wife, actress Yuliya Vysotskaya 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.