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How the mystical story "Viy" was created: What did the censorship strike out and what disagreements arose during the film adaptation in the USSR
How the mystical story "Viy" was created: What did the censorship strike out and what disagreements arose during the film adaptation in the USSR

Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol is perhaps the most mysterious and mystical writer in Russian literature. During his forty-two years, he managed to write dozens of works that still live in the hearts of readers. This brilliant writer left a large number of mysteries about his creations and life, which they still cannot really understand. He presented evil as an internal phenomenon and condition, and not external, social or political. Nikolai Vasilyevich described the problems of Russia not as a state, but tried to show that evil is within a person, it occurs in the souls of people, and he pointed out this not openly, but veiled, using various metaphors. His world famous story "Viy", which was published in 1835 in his collection "Mirgorod", was no exception. This work still raises a lot of controversy and questions, but it will not leave anyone indifferent.

What inspired Gogol to write Viy?

In his book, Nikolai Vasilyevich left a note that the story is a folk legend, which he tried to convey as he heard with his own ears, without changing anything. He, of course, is slightly exaggerating here, especially since researchers still cannot find a folklore work that would really resemble Viya. However, you can see a similar plot with this mystical tale in the folklore of different countries, and in different interpretations.

Perhaps the closest is the tale where the witch's daughter fell in love with an ordinary guy. Having turned herself into a black cat, she comes to him. The guy, in turn, throws a bridle on her and rides until she dies. The parents of the deceased daughter demand that the murderer read the psalter near her coffin for three nights. And now two nights pass, the guy is in for all sorts of nightmares. To hide from them, he draws a circle of prohibition. And already on the third night, the witch asks for help from the eldest of them. But when she finds the poor frightened guy, he is rescued by the dawn, which is announced by the roosters.

So with the basis of the plot is a little clear. But until now, the main evil in the book remains the main mystery - the evil and terrible Viy. There is a version, and most likely true, that this name has Ukrainian roots. It turned out when the name Niy - the Slavic God of the underworld, was merged, as well as the Ukrainian word "Via", which means "eyelash" or "eyelid with eyelashes". This is why the character has such large eyelids.

Shot from the film "Viy" (1967)

Gogol wrote that Viy was created by the imagination of the people. This was the name given to the chief of the dwarfs, whose eyelids grow straight to the ground. However, among folklore characters there are only some similar abilities and traits, but there is no exact prototype for him. Therefore, most likely the image of Viy is an unusual creation of Gogol.

What are the main features of Gogol introduced into the images of the main characters

In this work, Nikolai Vasilyevich presents the graduates of the theological seminary as sinners, because they swear, fight, drink, and in general violate religious commandments. So from the author's description it is clear that their souls perished, for which they are ultimately punished.Everything in the story is so intertwined that it is difficult to understand where is reality and where is fiction.

Human fear of mysticism, the unknown and death is the main motive of this story. But sometimes temptation overpowers these fears. So it happened with Khoma. He was terribly afraid to read prayers at night in church over the little girl and had a presentiment of something unkind, but he could not refuse an influential person who, moreover, promised a large sum of money.

Gogol showed graduates of theological seminary as sinners who succumb to temptation despite their fears

In Gogol's literary style, a subtle, in places black humor can be traced, which further increases the tension with each approach of the terrible night. By the way, an interesting fact is that the author describes many monsters in sufficient detail, but talks about the main evil, Viy and the little girl, rather superficially. Perhaps this was done on purpose so that the reader in fear could think out these characters himself.

Before writing this mystical masterpiece, Gogol studied folklore, which described all kinds of evil spirits. But, perhaps, the most interesting image of a beautiful lady. Most likely, Gogol endowed her with a beautiful appearance due to the fact that in ancient times in Ukraine women were called witches, who were distinguished by their beauty and unfading youth. The people believed that the witch received all this when she sold her soul to the devil. But in Russia, on the contrary, sorceresses usually looked like old women. Perhaps that is why Gogol's lady appeared before Khoma, first in the guise of a terrible old woman, and then as a young beautiful girl, because Gogol often combined Russian and Ukrainian cultures in his works.

Due to censorship, Gogol had to rewrite some episodes of Viy

At the time of writing Viy, Nikolai Vasilyevich was already one of the most popular writers. But, despite the merits and recognition, his stories were still censored. “Viy” was no exception, which he had to change a little.

In the original of this fantastic story, Khoma, when he looked at the deceased little girl, he felt somehow strange and mixed, his soul began to weep painfully. He had the feeling that in the midst of some kind of fun, someone sang a song about an oppressed people. It was precisely the phrase “oppressed people” that confused me, the censorship did not let it pass, so I had to replace this song in the text with a funeral song. Thanks to the same censorship, the story acquired a new episode. In the original version, "Viy" ends with the death of Khoma. But it was decided to add the final scene of the conversation between the friends of the deceased philosopher - Tiberius Gorobets and Freebie.

Perhaps Gogol's plays will never lose their relevance. A still from the film “Gogol. Wii "(2018)

The episode where Homa kills the witch has also been redone. Initially, he simply left her dead body and ran wherever he could. Accordingly, when Khoma came to the funeral service for the body of the lady, he did not know that this was the very witch. Readers had to understand for themselves that this is the same character. In a modified version, Khoma, having killed the witch, waits for her to turn into a young lady and realizes immediately, seeing her in the coffin, that it is she.

Censorship did not bypass Viy when filming in the USSR

As it turned out later, there was censorship during the adaptation of Viy in the USSR. A lot of things were not allowed to shoot: originals of sketches of evil spirits, as well as various liberties, for example, a hint of intimacy with mermaids and intercourse in the air with a lady. Naturally, the Soviet censorship did not allow this. Also, various creative differences on the set did not give way to some ideas.

Initially, this picture was supposed to be shot by the famous Soviet film director, People's Artist and laureate of numerous Stalin Prizes - Ivan Alexandrovich Pyriev. But at that time he was busy with other projects, so he handed over this honorable mission to two novice directors Georgy Kropachev and Konstantin Ershov.

These young people with passion and, one might even say, bravely approached their new project. In Gogol's story, they noticed hints of eroticism, deciding to put a little emphasis on this.Among the sketches of the young directors was a scene where a witch flies on a philosopher, and they were both naked. By the way, the guys even managed to shoot a little of this material, but their mentor Ivan Alexandrovich was unhappy with all this. So I had to reshoot this scene, although some hints of nudity are still preserved in this tape.

As conceived by the young directors, in this episode the heroes were supposed to be naked

Now director Alexander Lukich Ptushko, known mainly for fairy tales such as "Ilya Muromets" and "Sadko", helped to cope with the filming. His vision was more to the liking of the conservative Pyriev than the young directors. Spectacularity was the main quality of the picture for the new director, and not eroticism and symbolism, as for the previous masters. By the way, it was Ptushko who took the charming Natalia Varley instead of the already approved actress Alexandra Zavyalova for the role of the lady. He made a replacement for the approved actress in order to get the spectacular stunts that he wanted to get during the filming of this tape. Varley, like no one else, was suitable for the role with tricks, because she is a former circus performer.

Thanks to her circus past, Natalya Varley was approved for the role of the lady instead of Alexandra Zavyalova

The new director made his own adjustments to the visual part of the finale. Previous creators tried to pay maximum attention to folklore and paganism. In the original version, Kropachev and Ershov wanted to surround the philosopher in the church with people with animal heads, but Ptushko saw everything in his own way, so he replaced them with cats and skeletons.

Ptushko also changed the concept of Viy himself. The previous director's duo wanted to portray the main monster of this story as the pannochka's grief-stricken father. He was supposed to appear suddenly in the church, punching the floor there. But Ptushko did not like this idea, so in the film the viewer sees a different version of what is happening.

And the very appearance of Viy on the screen differs from the first sketches. Therefore, in the film, viewers saw Viy as presented by the conservative Ptushko and Pyryev: an absurd heavy plaster suit that weighed about one hundred kilograms. By the way, Viya played a weightlifter, and even he was given every step with difficulty under this weighty suit. An ordinary unprepared person would obviously not be able to cope with this suit.

In the USSR, Viy seemed a terrible monster even for adults, now it is difficult for them to scare children too

Having learned over time about the initial version of Viy, many viewers were upset that the young directors did not shoot this masterpiece as they had originally intended. They believe that the version of this director's duo would be more modern, dynamic, rich and interesting. Perhaps the current generation would now revisit this tape more often. But there are, of course, those who are delighted with the final version, and would not like to change anything. However, it will no longer be possible to find out whose version would be better.

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