The Steamroller and the Violin
In 1959, a Polish journalist, Zdzislaw Ornatowski paid a visit to the Russian film studio Mosfilms. He wanted to meet the next generation of film-makers and hear their plans for the forthcoming decade. Amongst those Ornatowski met was a young and ambitious man, who discussed his forthcoming graduate film The Steamtoller and the Violin. Ornatowski was so impressed by this youngster that he made him the focus of his article, “Films of the Young”. In it he interviewed the young film-maker about his intentions for making his diploma film, The Steamroller and the Violin:
“It will be a short-feature film. My original idea was not to use this screenplay for a full-length feature - that would ruin the entire composition. The story in the film is very simple. The action takes place within one day, the dramaturgy is without sharp conflicts, it is non-traditional. Its main characters are a young worker driving a steamroller at a road construction and a young sensitive boy who is learning to play the violin. They become friends. Those two people, so different in every respect, complement and need one another.
“Although it’s dangerous to admit - because one doesn’t know whether the film will be successful - the intent is to make a poetic film. We are basing practically everything on mood, on atmosphere. In my film there has to be the dramaturgy of image, not of literature. I offered the role of the worker to Vladimir Zamyansky, an actor from the youngest and perhaps most interesting theater “Sovremennik.” The little Sasha is played by a seven-year old music school student, Igor Fomchenko. I am very happy with them.”
The young film-maker was Andrei Tarkovsky, and The Steamroller and the Violin was his first film.
Ingmar Bergman once said of Tarkovsky:
“Tarkovsky for me is the greatest [director], the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.”
The Steamroller and the Violin is the first annunciation of Tarkovsky’s “new language”, from its poetic use of mood and atmosphere, to its dreamlike imagery and ending. Co-written with Andrei Konchalovsky, the pair spent 6 months on the script before committing a frame of film. It is a beautiful and memorable film, which tells the story of the unlikely friendship between Sasha, a little boy, and Sergey, the operator of a steamroller.
final part of ‘The Steamroller and the Violin, after the jump…
With thanks to Svetlana Volkova