The Master and Margareth - Aleksandar Petrovic

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How can you compress a variegated novel like The Master and Margarita in a movie picture of 98 minutes? Director Aleksandar Petrović dealt with this question in a very pragmatic way. He filmed a rather univocate story about a Soviet writer and playwright who's play about Pontius Pilate is banned while it is being rehearsed. But his girlfriend Margarita and the devil Woland support him in his fight against the censors. As a result the play is been given a billing... and it's preceded by professor Woland's black magic show. Many famouse scenes or characters from the novel do not appear in this movie. And some scenes, characters or ideas playing an important role in the book, are represented in a remote way or changed. In Petrovic's movie we can't find a trace of Ivan Bezdomny and Annushka is the driver of the tramway which decapitates Berlioz. It's not barman Sokov to whom is been told that he will die in five months from liver cancer, but the critic Lavrovitch. Woland's show is not presented by George Bengalsky, but by theatre director Rimsky, and in loge number 2 we don't see Sempleyarov with his wife, but the critic Ariman. And further: no Satan's ball, no apartment number 50, no flight of Margarita, no biblical intrigues, no scene on Sparrow Hills, etc.

In itself, all this should not be too much of a problem for those who did not read the book. An uninformed viewer can watch, at least until the seventieth minute, a rather well constructed story with, however, a rather abrupt dénouement and an unsactisfavorily elaborated end.

Those who did read the book, however, will have real bad moments. The master on this movie is an appreciated, succesful, and quite assertive author. So his work on Pontius Pilate is not his first work. It's no novel, by the way, but a theatre play, and it is on the bill together with famous plays by William Shakespeare, Gorky and Sophokles. Pilate's story as such is not part of this movie, so no trace of Aphranius, Ratslayer, Kaifa, Matthew Levi or Judas of Kiriath.

The characters in the movie are, in general, poorly explored, especially the blonde Margarita, played by the American actress Mimsy Farmer. She's not really playing badly, but yet... the rebellious Margarita with her delightful self-willing personality from the novel became, in this movie, a sweet and obedient beauty with no profundity, bringing colour but no life. The master is interpreted by the Italian actor Ugo Tognazi (La Cage Aux Folles, La Grande Bouffe) as a mature, good looking fashionable Italian, whoes hair isn't even tousled when they try to put him into a straitjacket by force. It's true, he isn't playing badly neither, but identification with the master from the novel is just impossible. The soundtrack written and conducted by Ennio Morricone is professional, of course, but it doesn't always create the atmosphere you may expect when having the novel in mind. Some positive notes: Alain Cuny (Emanuelle, Camille Claudel) is convincing as Woland, and the Serbian actor Velimir 'Bata' Zivoyinovic is a funny and entertaining Koroviev.

After all, the main curse for the true fan is probably not the peroxide-blonde Margarita or the missing scenes from the book, but the fact that in this movie, believe it or not, the master has got a name! In the novel he says: «У меня нет больше фамилии. я отказался от нее. Забудем о ней» or «I no longer have a name. I renounced it . Let's forget it». And indeed, we never get to know it. But in this movie his name is... hm... no, reader, I'm a fan of the book, I just can't put it on your screen. If you really want to know, look at it yourself. I just want to say that his patronymic - or father's name - is Afanasievich, just like Bulgakov's, and his surname is the same as the name of the main character of Bulgakov's Theatral Novel.

Serbian version

In 1972, director Aleksandar Petrović was a Yugoslav, and he has made this film originally in Serbian. The difference with the more famous Italian version is not only the language, but also the fact that in the Serbian version you can't hear the music composed by Ennio Morricone. You can hear Russian songs, which also can be heard in the Italian version, but only sporadicly and fragmentarily, as they are often pushed away by the Morricone's soundtrack. In the Serbian version, they come into full play.

Click here to listen to the music from the Serbian version

Technical details


Aleksandar Petrovic

Alain Cuny, Mimsy Farmer, Ugo Tognazzi

Release date

98 minuten




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