OBITUARY : Joseph Heifits

Joseph Heifits belongs to the generation of Russian film- makers of the late 1920s and 1930s, but the film which brought him international acclaim is The Lady with the Little Dog, which received a prize at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. Adapted from a Chekhov short story, it is the tale of a middle-class married woman (played by Iya Savina) who has an affair - in the 1890s, when the story is set, unthinkable for someone from her background. She and her lover (Alexei Batalov) meet in a Moscow hotel; but, despite their passion for each other, she refuses to leave her husband. The film was shown all over the world, and is regularly screened at the National Film Theatre during Russian seasons.

Heifits was born in 1905 and studied at the Technicum (College) of Cinema Art in 1923 in Petrograd (renamed Leningrad in 1924, a year after Lenin's death), and at the Institute for the History of Arts. After graduation he joined Sovkino (later Lenfilm Studio), the second largest film studio in the Soviet Union after Mosfilm. At Sovkino he met Alexander Zarkhi, his junior by three years, and there began a productive partnership.

First they organised the first Komsomol (Young Communists) production group, which released films similar to the plays staged at the Theatre of Working Youth (TRAM). For TRAM they scripted, filmed and released two feature films, Luna Sleva ("The Moon on Your Left", 1929), and Transport Ognya ("The Transport of Time", 1930). They then scripted and directed Veter v Litso ("Against the Wind", 1931) and Polden ("Midday", also 1931).

In the early 1930s Soviet cinema was under strict censorship. Stalin's Ministry of Culture demanded either comedies or propaganda films. A film could be stopped in mid-production with no concern for the thousands of roubles spent. So, the pair made a delightful comedy, Goryachie Denechki ("Hectic Days", 1935). Their propaganda film Deputat Baltiki ("The Baltic Deputy") received the first prize at the Paris International Exhibition in 1937 (the Soviet Pavilion was immediately opposite the German Pavilion, promoting its own Nazi propaganda films). In 1941 Stalin personally awarded the film the Stalin Prize.

Deputat Baltiki and a second government-backed film, Chlen Pravitelstva ("A Member of the Government", 1940), established Heifits and Zarkhi as public figures. During the Second World War they made two more propaganda films, Ego Zovut Sukhe-Bator ("They Call Him Sukhe-Bator", 1942) and Malakhov Kurgan ("Malakhov Mound", 1944). In 1945 they made The Defeat of Japan, a film presenting the Soviet view of the war with Japan, for which Stalin gave them another Stalin Prize.This was their last major film together.

After Stalin's death in 1953 Heifits made his first independent film, The Big Family, an adaptation of a novel by Vsevolod Kochetov. Following a long period of greyness and propaganda Heifits showed for the first time a story of real life and the suffering of ordinary Russian people. His next film, The Rumyantsev Case (1956), was a success both with the critics and the public. My Dear Man, adapting a novel by Yuri German, followed in 1958. In each of these three films the lead was played by the then young Alexei Batalov, a character actor discovered in the theatre by Heifits.

Encouraged by his success with The Lady with the Little Dog (1959), Heifits turned again to Russian classical literature: he based At the Town of S. (1967) on Chekhov's short story "Ionych", and Bad Good Man (1973) on Chekhov's "Duel". He adapted Turgenev for Asya (1978), and Alexander Keprin, whose "Duel" he made into Shurochka (1983).

Much has been written about Heifits's work in Russia. From 1970 to 1985 he was the first secretary of the Union of Soviet Film-makers in Leningrad and from 1971 to 1987 the secretary of the Board of the Union of Soviet Film-makers in Moscow. He also received two Lenin prizes. He was happy to see the end of Communism and was an adviser to many young film-makers.

Joseph Yefimovich Heifits, film director: born Minsk 17 December 1905; died St Petersburg 25 April 1995.

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 People

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

HR Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home