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Heller L. Universal russianness, or Gorky’s the lower depths interpreted by Zamyatin interpreted by Renoir. Studia Litterarum, 2018, vol. 3, no 1, pp. 196–211. (In French) DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2018-3-1-196-211

Author: Leonid Heller
Information about the author:

Leonid Heller, honorary professor, Lausanne University, СН-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.

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Received: January 14, 2018
Published: March 25, 2018
Issue: 2018 Vol. 3, №1
Department: Russian Literature
Pages: 196-211

UDK: 821.161.1.0
BBK: 83.3(2Рос=Рус)6
Keywords: Jean Renoir, Evgeni Zamyatin, Maxim Gorky, The Lower Depths, French cinema, Russian émigré culture, cultural transfer, screenplay writing, screen adaptation, scenario authorship. Information a


This paper discusses a 1936 French film The Lower Depths based on the famous Maxim Gorky’s play and directed by Jean Renoir. The script was initially written by Evgeny Zamyatin and Jacques Companeez and then rewritten by Charles Spaak and Renoir. The first part of the paper is dedicated to the problematic reception of this film that was due to its blurred Russian-French outlook and to its seeming infidelity to Gorky’s work. Further, the essay sheds light on the intricacy of the 1936 circumstances surrounding the film production. It also discusses the role that the Albatros production society whose technical crew was composed mostly of the Russian émigré specialists played in the making of the film. Such a crew, together with the fact that the original play and its screen adaptation were written by two émigré writers, endowed the film with “universal Russianness” of a sort. The last part of the paper attempts to clarify the complicated issue of the scenario by comparing its several script versions with the final version. The paper raises new questions concerning respective roles played by different authors of the adaptation in the production of The Lower Depths.


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