Ferrua, Pietro

Tolstoy

A film by Sergei Gerassimov

Communication. FilmsTOLSTOÏ, Léon (1828-1910)FERRUA, Pietro (Piero) Michele Stefano (1930 - ....)
Gerasimov’s Leo Tolstoy

Gerasimov’s Leo Tolstoy

URSS, 1984

COLOR,168’.

WRITING CREDITS: Sergei Gerassimov

CAST: Sergei Gerassimov, Tamara Makarova.

In Russian with English subtitles.

Tolstoyan anarchists have been – and still are, in some countries – present for at least a century. The first in-depth study on Tolstoyan anarchism was by a non-anarchist German professor, Paul Eltzbacher, who published his fundamental book, Der Anarchismus , in Berlin, in 1900. His was a scholarly work with a rather strong anti-anarchist bias, although, even today, it is still a capital work of reference insofar as it deals scientifically with anarchism from a point of view that is more philosophical than that of other exegetes who prefer a historical if not a criminological approach.

It is known how Tolstoy was impressed by Proudhon’s ideas and wrote the novel War and Peace in homage to the French thinker. In his late years, Tolstoy became more and more critical of institutional religions as well as of the clergy in his country, denouncing also the tyranny of the representatives of authority, whether land owners or the czar himself. The best study of Tolstoyan anarchism is due to the Austrian author, Stefan Zweig, who writes in his 1928 essay that Tolstoy should be credited for the advent of the Russian Revolution as much as the revolutionists themselves, by having laid the groundwork for the revolt.

The film by Gerassimov does not show any of this and only describes the last events of Tolstoy’s life. It is, nonetheless, a touching film with superb acting by the film director himself playing the role of the great Russian writer. He is splendid and convincing and the film is strongly marked by his personality. No one could play this role better and the resemblance between the comedian and the writer is striking. It is poignant to add that Gerassimov died soon after the completion of this film, the masterpiece of his life.

The lack of an anarchist perspective on Tolstoy in the film does not encourage us to include it in our festival of anarchism-inspired films. It is a real pity!

Pietro Ferrua