Skip to main content

WHITE NIGHTS

USSR, 1959 (MIFF 1961, Programme 15)

Director: Ivan Pyryev

Dostoevsky's famous bitter sweet story - of the girlwho wails 'or the return of her lover from abroad, wandering through the night streets of St Petersburg, and finding temporary consolation in the friendship of a dreamer who falls in love with her - has inspired several film versions, the most recent being Visconti's with Maria Schell.

Dostoevsky called "White Nights" a "sentimental novel". It is the confession of a pure heart untouched by the ugliness of life. The leading character passes his youth in poverty and loneliness, but does not forfeit the best aspects of his humanity or ability to see the better side of things. Two kinds of beauty seem to combine in his view of the world: real, earthly beauty, and the view of an imaginary world that does not exist, but might. Both are good and both are in their way ephemeral. Pyryev brings the haunting love story to life with great delicacy and charm, he seems at home in this world of misty romantic entanglements. Beginning in a light, almost detached manner, the director draws us slowly and tactfully into the lives of these strangely tormented characters. Indeed the film is distinguished by a lyrical quality throughout and it is a film of many moods - its early dream sequences include a riotous parody on Douglas Fairbanks and, surprisingly, Russian ballet. The photography is excellent, and captures with enchanting melancholy the leisurely atmosphere of Nineteen Century St Petersburg, particularly the mists at twilight over the river where the two young people meet.

See also...

THE HOUSE I LIVE IN

For many years, in the name of social realism. a sterile view imposed itself upon Soviet cinema. Now, by contrast, certain directors have returned to the stylistic elements of the great silent Soviet ... More »

Moonbird

A colour cartoon on the fantasy of childhood. Two small boys, armed with rope, cage and bait, embark upon a nighttime expedition to capture the nocturnal bird. A bird does finally appear. Making ... More »

Rivals

This puppet film tells the story of a smith and a tailor who live in a small town. They have a row and are forced to change jobs for a year. ... More »

STARS

Set in a small Bulgarian town in 1943, Stars is the story of a strange, unhappy love affair. This is what happened in the foothills of the mountains . . . A sergeant of the German Wehrmacht, a ... More »

No Reason to Stay

Developed from a script written by a boy of the same age as the central figure of the story, this film takes a deliberately biased look at the history of one school drop-out, and the system he ... More »

The Rise of Parnassus Needy

To illustrate the wide range of functions a bank plays in the economy, this cartoon tells the story of a poet who, setting up business to sell words for all occasions, meets with phenomenal success. ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director