Igor Talankin: Soviet director known for his Second World War morality films

Igor Talankin was a talented Soviet director and a mentor to others. Many of his films are set during the Second World War and discuss moral issues, but his greatest international success – and an Oscar nomination – came with his biopic of Tchaikovsky in 1969. It is perhaps his least-subtle film; with the composer played by Innokenti Smoktunovsky, the best-known Russian actor of the time, and its safe – not to say leaden – approach to the genre and the subject, it was nominated for Best Foreign Film Oscar. Bizarrely it also qualified for original score, its music being a patchwork of original and pastiche Tchaikovsky by the producer Dmitri Tiomkin who, before becoming a successful Hollywood composer, had been a concert pianist in post-Revolutionary Leningrad.

Industry Vasilevich Talankin was born in Noginsk about 20 miles east of Moscow, at a time when it was common to give children names that reflected the excitement of post-Revolutionary technology. He later chose the more mundane moniker Igor.

After graduating in scriptwriting from the state film school, he co-directed Seryozha (1960) with actor-director Georgi Daneliya. Adapted from Vera Panova's story, it charts a young boy's relationship with his stepfather. Soviet directors' graduation films often feature children, and this is one of the more charming entries. Husband and wife Sergei Bondarchuk and Irina Skobtseva played the adult leads, the first of several occasions on which they worked with Talankin.

Talankin's first solo effort was Vstuplenie ("Introduction", 1962), set in wartime Leningrad and based on another Panova story. In the freedom of Khrushchev's post-Stalin thaw, it was frank about wartime infidelity, and it went on to share the Venice Film Festival's Special Jury Prize with Louis Malle's Le feu follet. It also began another important collaboration, with composer Alfred Schnittke.

Dnevnye Zvyozdy ("The Stars of the Day", 1966) was based on poetess Olga Berggolts's autobiography. She was a difficult figure for the authorities: though she stayed in Leningrad during the siege making inspirational radio broadcasts, her more personal work was suppressed, even after her death. Suspended strangely between interior monologue, poetic recitation, exterior action and memory, it won an award at the Venice Film Festival. It also introduced Talankin to the actress Alla Demidova, who appeared in most of his subsequent films. In 1967 Talankin collaborated with Chingiz Aitmatov on Materinskoe Pole; it was Gennadi Bazarov's directorial debut, and over the next few years Talankin produced several first-time directors' films.

Vybor tseli ("Select a target", 1974) traces the development of the atom bomb in America, Germany and the Soviet Union. Like many Soviet historical films, it attempts a documentary feel, with ook-alikes for Hitler, Roose-velt, Stalin and Oppenheimer et al, but it is marred by clichéd wartime heroics and talk-filled conference scenes.

The stately pace continued in 1978 with his version of Tolstoy's much-adapted Father Sergius, starring Bondarchuk and, as with Tchaikovsky, choreographed by Talankin's wife, Lilia Mikhailovna. Zvezdopad ("Starfall", 1981) was more interesting. Again set during the war, it combines three stories by Viktor Astafyev and its dreamy interweaving of past and present is far more effective than the alternately formulaic and confusing Tchaikovsky.

Vremya otdykha s subboty do ponedelnika ("Time Off From Saturday to Monday", 1984) adapted Yuri Nagibin's story about a woman re-encountering an old friend who was thought lost during the war and is now disabled. After his classic or modernist scores, Talankin re-employed Schnittke but also included music by the rock band Centre, who also took some roles in the film.

Rock also features in 1988's Osen, Chertanovo ("Autumn, Chertonovo"), but the traditional film-making reflects its bleak, cold morality. A woman from that Moscow suburb with a husband and a lover has a series of one-night stands and is raped and killed. This traditional style predominated in Talankin's later career and from hereon he co-directed with his son Dmitri, who also scored their last film.

Though an adaptation of The Master and Margarita came unstuck, Talankin did manage Besy (1992), based on Dostoevsky's The Possessed. Similarly, a film about the poet Marina Tsvetayeva also collapsed but with Dmitri he turned the play into a musical.

His last film Nezrimyi puteshestvennik ("Invisible Traveller", 1999), traced the last days of Tsar Alexander I. After that Talankin retired from the director's chair to concentrate on teaching.

Industry (Igor) Vasilevich Talankin, screenwriter, director, producer: born Noginsk, Moscow 3 October 1927; married Lilia Mikhailovna (one son); died Moscow 24 July 2010.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003