Master i Margarita - Yuri Kara

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A difficult birth

In 1994 director Yuri Kara adapted The Master and Margarita for screen. His film was in that time the most expensive post-Soviet production. High inflation and an unstable rouble made the costs go sky-high for the production company TAMP - up to 15 million dollar. When the movie was ready producers Arsen Adamyan, Irena Mineeva, Aleksander Mishin and Vladimir Skory decided not to release it. Vladimir Skory said that Yuri Kara's director's cut was unacceptable. The soundtrack recorded by Alfred Schnittke was released on CD in 2005 though.

The cast was impressive: it consisted of very famous Russian actors like Anastasia Vertinskaya (Margarita), Valentin Gaft (Woland), Leo Durov (Matthew Levi), Mikhail Ulyanov (Pontius Pilate) and Nikolai Burlyaev (Yeshua). In 2005 a limited number of Moscovites could see the movie on a private session at the Moscow International Film Festival (MIFF). One of the happy few was journalist Valeriy Kitshin of the Rossyskaya Gazeta. He was so impressed that he wanted to make efforts to have it released, and he contacted the producers.

In November 2006 Valery Kitshin published an interview with all people concerned in the production. Conclusion: the producers and Kara were coming closer to each other, but a new troublemaker showed up in the person of Sergey Shilovsky. This grandson of Bulgakov's third wife Elena Sergeevna Shilovskaya now claimed, as self-assigned heir, the rights on Bulgakov's literary inheritance. He said that TAMP had the time until mid-2007 to show a lot of money. If they didn't, he would sell the rights to another interested party which he kept in reserve.

On November 15, 2010, Luxor Company announced that they had bought the right to release the film. It would be shown on big screen for the first time on March 3, 2011. To the wide audience would be shown a two-hour version of the film, whereas the director's full three-hour version would be available on DVDs to be distributed by Luxor Company as well.

And yes, on January 17, 2011, the film was finally shown to the press in Saint Petersburg. The premiere was attended by director Yuri Kara and the actors Igor Vernik (Yehuda), Sergey Garmash (Ivan Bezdomny), Aleksandr Filippenko (Koroviev) and Valentin Gaft (Woland). The press was, to say the least, not very enthusiastic, despite the big names of the actors who populate the film.

As from April 7, 2011, the film was finally distributed nationwide in the Russian cinemas.

Before that, some illegal dvd's of the film circultated among the Muscovite Bulgakov die-hards, and I'm very happy that I belonged to the inner circle - probably as one of the very few non-Russians - who have seen the movie before its release.

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