Stanislav Rostotsky

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The Independent Online

Stanislav Iosifovich Rostotsky, film director: born Rybinsk, Russia 21 April 1922; married Nina Menshikova (one son); died Vyborg, Russia 10 August 2001.

Stanislav Iosifovich Rostotsky, film director: born Rybinsk, Russia 21 April 1922; married Nina Menshikova (one son); died Vyborg, Russia 10 August 2001.

Stanislav Rostotsky rose to prominence as part of the generation of younger Soviet directors that emerged during the mid-Fifties, whose youth had been dramatically shaped by the Second World War. It provided a theme to which they often returned for material and for inspiration, while striving for a more humanistic treatment of the Great Patriotic War than the triumphalist juggernauts that had characterised the Stalinist era of film-making.

Rostotsky himself had gone straight from school to the front, had been seriously wounded in 1944, and was to make several contributions to the genre of the Soviet war film, starting with Mayove zvezdi ( May Stars, 1959), a well-received Soviet-Czech co-production based on four novellas by the Czech writer L. Ashkenazi inspired by the liberation of his country by the Red Army in May 1945.

Na semi vetrakh ( In the Seven Winds, 1962) paid tribute to the home front, while the two-part A zori zdes tikhiye ( And the Dawns are Quiet Here, 1972) was a lyrical account of a woman's unit at the front, which was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Foreign-Language Film; as was another two-parter he made not long afterwards, Belyj Bim – Chyornoye ukho ( White Bim, the Black Ear, 1976) from a story by G. Troyepolsky.

As a teenager Rostotsky had appeared in Sergei Eisenstein's famously broken-backed production of the Thirties Bezhin lug ( Bezhin Meadow). He and Eisenstein remained friends ("Everything I have succeeded in I owe to Eisenstein," he later declared) and upon his return from the war he was briefly in his class at film school in Moscow before joining Lenfilm as a trainee director in 1946. He returned in 1950 to study under Grigori Kozintsev, graduated in 1952 and made his directing début with Zemlya i Lyudi ( Land and People, 1955), scripted by Troyepolsky, which attempted to deal realistically with the impact on one collective farm of the radical central restructuring then taking place in Soviet agriculture.

After Zapiski Pechyorina ( Pechorin's Notes, 1967), a three-part adaptation of Lermontov's Hero of Our Time, he enjoyed his greatest success to date with a much-discussed drama about adolescence, Dozhivyom do ponedelnika ( Let's Live Until Monday, 1968). The Sixties' thaw in the demeanour of the Soviet authorities that had made possible so socially critical a film was, however, to prove short-lived, and Mira and Antonín Liehm later recorded, in their 1977 overview of East European cinema, The Most Important Art, that the film "represented the end of the period of hesitation, and such cinematic social criticism did not appear again in the years that followed".

Rostotsky's last films were a Soviet-Norwegian co-production, I na kamnyakh rastut derevya ( The Captive of the Vikings, 1985), which he co-directed with Knut Andersen, and Iz zhizni Fyodora Kuzkina ( From the Life of Fyodor Kuzkin, 1989). He died suddenly from heart failure on the eve of the annual "Window on Europe" film festival that he was due to attend near St Petersburg.

Richard Chatten