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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Class 2 Drivers

£31700 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist wholesaler owned and man...

Recruitment Genius: Laser and Router Operative

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Laser and Router Operative is...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician - 1st Line

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They have been providing local ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive / Trainee Managers

£6000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for smart, orga...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones