Dmitri Shostakovich: Viola Sonata, 1986

Co-directed by Aleksandr Sokurov and Semen Aranovich, Dmitri Shostakovich: Viola Sonata is an emotionally lucid, understated, textural, and reverent biography of the highly influential, Soviet-era composer and pianist, Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich. Using allusive, recurring imagery of a photograph of a young, physically fragile Shostakovich resting on his mother’s lap and a delirious shot of an amusement park turntable-like merry-go-round spinning ever increasingly faster as people struggle to hold on, the film traces the life of a proud national and complex artist through personal documents, recorded appearances, and public performances of his work juxtaposed against historical footage of everyday existence in the Soviet Union. Embodying a life experience that evolved from early critical acclaim to political and public disfavor under Stalinist Russia to re-evaluated celebration of his body of work in contemporary Soviet Union (culminating in his acceptance of the second Order of Lenin ever awarded after Shostakovich graciously removed his name from consideration a year earlier in order to enable the first Order of Lenin to be posthumously awarded to Igor Stravinsky), Sokurov and Aranovich capture the venerated composer’s passion and uncompromising creative integrity as he sought to cultivate art appreciation for the masses and consequently, elevated the cultural heritage and legacy of the Russian people.

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