Mistrz i Malgorzata - Maciej Wojtyszko
This Polish Television adaptation of Bulgakov's novelis a very faithful reproduction of the storyline of the original novel.
When it was released, this was the strongest screen version of the novel of Mikhail Bulgakov ever made. It was the third screen version of The Master and Margarita in the world and the second - after Andrzej Wajda’s television movie Pilatus und Andere - in Poland.
This series follows faithfully the story of Bulgakov, but does not always breathe the same atmosphere. One of the reasons is that there is always light is in this series. Scenes that are supposed to be in the dark are shown in the light. As a result, the series is sometimes lacking the mysterious atmosphere which is sometimes so oppressive in the novel. The dark atmosphere of the 20th century in Russia ass described by Bulgakov is not always found in this series. The story is there, but the atmosphere is sometimes missing. In an interview, director Wojtyszko once told that the series was made with such a small budget, that there was not enough money to film scenes in the full darkness.
On the positive side, this production comes across as a great theatre piece. Like a really talented drama group got together on Russian-esque locations, using Bulgakov's book as the screenplay. There's a lot of love in this production. It has a very charming old world aspect, and most performances are very good. Anna Dymna as Margarita and Władysław Kowalski as the Master are not bad, but I could really appreciate Gustaw Holoubek as Woland and Zbigniew Zapasiewicz as Pilate. Jan Jankowski as Bezdomny is somewhat overacting in the Patriarch’s Ponds scenes at the beginning, but gets better and grows along with the story. Most of the supporting roles are well performed: Maria Probosz as Hella, Wanda Wróblewska as Natasha, Wiesław Drzewicz as Sokov, Krystyna Feldman as Annushka, and many others… they’re all very convincing, lifting the series to a high level adaptation of the novel without requiring special effects.
Some scenes are among the best I’ve ever seen in adaptations of the novel. Like the Master’s experiences with Lapshennikova, the secretary of the editorial board that has to decide on the possible publication of his novel, or the scene the mass hypnosis of the staff members of the affiliate of the Commission on Spectacles and Entertainment of the Lighter Type in Vagankovsky Lane and Pilate’s interrogation of Yeshua are just great.
Wojtyszko’s adaptation of Woland’s show at the Variety Theatre however is of a lesser level, and so is Margarita’s flight on the broom. And I missed the scene with Koroviev and Behemoth in the Torgsin currency store.
The die-hard Bulgakov fan will find some inconsistencies in this series: Ratslayer is not, like Bulgakov described “a head taller than the tallest soldier of the legion and so broad in the shoulders that he completely blocked out the still-low sun”. No, he’s rather slender, almost lean in this series. And the band at Griboedov’s doesn’t play Halleluja, but another foxtrot.
But, in general, you won’t get bored watching this adaptation which has been, for a long time, only available on Amazon on VHS tapes of poor quality with vague, blurred images, a poor sound quality and lousy English subtitles. Fortunately, in the autumn of 2014, the Polish TV channel TVP got the idea, quite unexpectedly, to release the series on DVD. And, of course, your webmaster had the reflex to immediately provide subtitles in English, French, German, Italian, Dutch and Spanish.
Gustaw Holoubek (Woland), Anna Dymna (Małgorzata), Władysław Kowalski (The master), Janusz Michałowski (Koroviev), Zbigniew Zamachowski (Behemoth), Mariusz Benoit (Azazello), Zbigniew Zapasiewicz (Pontius Pilate), Tadeusz Bradecki (Yeshua Ha-Nozri), Jan Jankowski (Ivan Bezdomny), Maria Probosz (Hella)
English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch