Screen adaptation is one way for literature and cinematography to interface and enrich one another. For this reason, the world has a large number of literary works that have been translated into the language of screen. The power of literature is the main explanation for the phenomenon of screen adaptation (1, p. 9). Literary characters coming alive on the screen help the audience to have a fresh “reading” of a literary work and to see its new interpretation.
Right from the start, cinematography has been the largest “user” of literature. For instance, the evolution of Russian cinematography is associated with screening Russian literary classics – the works of Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy and Alexander Pushkin; the French put on screen the stories of Alexandre Dumas, Guy de Maupassant and Victor Hugo; the British went for Jane Austin, William Shakespeare and John Galsworthy; the Americans – G. Amadou, G. Marquez, T. Williams, and others.
Sometimes different film directors at different times turned to the same literary work, creating their own his vision of its characters and story line on screen.
In the film industry of any country there is a number of outstanding literary works, which were reborn on the screen, thus stimulating the development of national cinematography. For instance, the art of the Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov had a truly innovative influence on the development of a qualitatively new Kyrgyz art of film-making. Almost all of his works were screened, resulting in an “aesthetic bang” produced by the Kyrgyz cinematography in 1960s.
The first sound film screening in Uzbekistan was the picture by Y. Protazanov “Nasreddin in Bukhara” (1943) based on L. Solovyov’s novel “The Troublemaker”. Lifestyle, traditions and the peculiarities of the national character were carefully studied and presented to the audience in a truly authentic manner, although the film-makers and the lead actor (L. Sverdlin) had different cultural background. A few years later, in 1945, the Uzbek filmmaker N. Ganiev created a screen version of the famous folk legend “Tahir and Zuhra”, and a year later he would produce a comedy “The Adventures of Nasreddin” starring R. Khamraev. Writers L. Solovyov and V. Vitkovich participated in creating the script for the film.
In subsequent years the interactions between Uzbek national literature and cinematography intensified, influencing the formation of the distinctive style of the Uzbek film-making art. Cinemas release “The Master and the Farm-hand” photoplay based on Hamza’s piece of the same title (1953), directed and produced by L. Faiziev and A. Ginsburg; “The Housewarming” based on the play of A. Kahhar “Silk Suzane” (1954), directed and produced by A. Bek-Nazarov; and “The Holy Blood” inspired by the novel of Aibek (1956), written and directed by L. Faiziev.
Connections between film-making and the national literature were growing stronger every year. In 1961 film director H. Akhmar made a television film “The Daughter of the Ganges” based on R. Tagore’s novel “Crash” telling about the drama of an Indian woman. In the same year, director L. Faiziev turned to the novel by A. Kahhar “Ptichka-Nevelichka” [The Little Bird” and produced a film of the same title that had a deep insight into people’s life and traditions and personal relationships of the village people, which were wonderfully described in the writer’s work and accurately reproduced on the screen by Faiziev.
Characters in the popular short story by U. Nazarov “Suraya” are young people. The author himself wrote the script and directed the film that was released under the title “The Life Has Passed Overnight” (1964); the film perfectly communicated the spirit of the book and its humanistic vector, developing the theme of the woman’s status in contemporary society. The choice of young talented actors S. Norbaeva and T. Rejametov to play the lead characters contributed to the success of this cinematographic piece.
A significant milestone in the development of the Uzbek cinematography was the film “Tashkent, the City of Bread” based on the same name short story by Russian writer A. Neverov, which was produced by film director Sh. Abbasov in 1967. The film tells about Misha Dodonov, a boy who journeyed to the faraway Tashkent from famine-stricken Volga region to bring bread for his starving family. The script writer A. Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky tried to make his story closely reflect the specificities of traditional lifestyle and the atmosphere of that troubled and perilous time. The authors credibly reproduced the social element of the original literary piece. Through the character of Misha Dodonov they were able to present the issues of the evolution of a new type of man in those years.
In 1970s, the theme of modernity became central in the Uzbek cinematography. There appeared an entire gallery of young people’s characters brought up in the best traditions of the generations. Screen adaptations raised the issues of emotional education, personal development as a human-citizen, and spiritual maturity of the individual.
In 1972 director R. Batyrov screens the novel of S. Volgin “Time of Doubt” under the title “Waiting for You, Boy”. The script by A. Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky tells about the relationship between older and younger generations of working class people. In 1973 director A. Khamraev produced the film “Admirer” based on the story by U. Khashimov “Love”. In the same year, inspired by U. Nazarov’s short story “Daring”, R. Batyrov directed and released the production of “My Good Man” about how blind career advancement transforms the characters’ spiritual world. In 1975, based on Mirmuhsin’s novel “Umid”, film director G. Shermukhamedov produced the same name film about narrow-mindedness and a need to be goal-oriented and uncompromising in science.
In those years, filmmakers repeatedly turned to classical literature. In 1976, they screened Gafur Ghulam’s short story “Mischief-maker” about the bitter destiny of a teenage boy who faces the injustice and cruelty of the world. Director D. Salimov had accurately sensed the tragicomic air of the literary work. The role of the Mischief-maker was beautifully played by a novice actor A. Abduvahabov who subsequently became a great comic performer. He masterfully presented on the screen the trickery and resourcefulness of his character who gets the upper hand in any situation.
Unfortunately, despite an abundance of screenings in 1980s, true successes were few. Among the unmistakably good films is “The Unruly” directed by A. Kabulov (1981) and inspired by the novel of a Karakalpak writer T. Kaipbergenov “The Daughter of Karakalpakia”. The lead female character, brilliantly played by actress T. Shakirova, shaking off the chains of servility, dedicates her life to fighting for the freedom of her people. Quite interesting is the comedy “Daughters-in-Law Rebel” (1984) directed by M. Abzalov and based on the same name play of S. Ahmad. The story is about relationships in an extended large Uzbek family and the specificity of traditional customs and lifestyle, presented on the background of complex relationships of the characters. The film was a huge success, as was “The Woman of Iron” (1990) by the young Uzbek film director I. Ergashev, inspired by the same name play of Sh. Bashbekov.
In the years of Independence, great opportunities for making quality and interesting films opened before filmmakers of Uzbekistan. Their ranks were joined by young film directors, such as Y. Razzykov, Z. Musakov, Y. Tuychiev and A. Shahobiddinov, whose films excited much discussion. In search for some decent material to work with, they extensively used literature. Some films were based on the works by writers A. Mukhtar, H. Sultanov, T. Murad, E. Agzamov, and A. Yuldashev. Films by director S. Nazarmuhamedov, inspired by short stories of H. Sultanov, such as “I Cry Bitter Tears in My Sleep” (1991) and “The Only Memory Left of the Summer” (1998) came as a significant phenomenon.
In 1998 S. Abbasov directs “The Valley of My Fathers” based on the same name novel by T. Murad about four generations of one Uzbek family and its history of more than a hundred years. That same year, a young director R. Malikov screens a short story by E. Agzamov “On Foot” about the destiny of two brothers, very different in character and way of living. In 1999, A. Mukhtar’s novel “The Women’s Realm” inspired a film director Y. Razzykov to make his “Petticoat Rule” where he, as does the writer, reflects on the role and value of women in society.
It is encouraging that young directors turn to classical literature. One example is H. Nasimov’s “Yodgor” (2003) based on Ghulam’s novel; the lead male character was played by young talented actor Alisher Khamraev who passed away so untimely. In the same year the graduates of the National Institute of Arts of Uzbekistan A. Shahobiddinov and Y. Tuychiev produced their first film “Tulip on the Snow” inspired by the novel of Chulpan. The film won the Grand Prix at the First International Youth Festival “The Flight of Creativity” in Tashkent, and as their award, the directors were given an opportunity to project their film at out-of-competition screening in the young artists section at the International Film Festival in Cannes.
In 2007, H. Faiziev independently makes his first picture as director and producer. “The Little People” is based on the stories of A. Yuldashev.
Speaking about the contribution of Uzbek literature to the development of the national film-making art, one should specifically mention the screening of Abdulla Kadyri’s novels. His “Bygone Days” and “Scorpion from the Altar” were turned into movies twice. In the middle of the last century Y. Agzamov produced the “Bygone Days” and “Escaping the Darkness”; later on, M. Abzalov also screened the “Bygone Days”, and M. Mahamedov created a television version of the “Scorpion…”. Cinematographers are attracted by deep historical and psychological insight of Kadyri’s novels, their artful and capacious characters with rich inner world, as well as unique national flavour.
In 1998 they created a TV version of the Kadyri’s “Scorpion from the Altar”, consisting of 15 episodes. Director M. Mahamedov and script writer H. Sultanov sought to carefully follow the storyline, the dialogues, the character interpretation and the description of historical scene of the novel. The authors cleverly employed television-specific means of expression and the uniqueness of compositional mode of the television film. The flowing turn of events, the old photos of pre-war Turkestan, the author’s narrations read by S. Sagdullaev, as well as keeping the scenes that were described in detail in the novel – all that helped create a fairly complete picture of the past.
Screen adaptation of novels created by Uzbekistan’s writers has played a major role in the development of national cinematography, presenting a model of caring attitude of cinematographers to Uzbek literature – the source of inexhaustible opportunities to improve screenplay quality, and one of the sure ways to further the development of national cinematography.
1. Михальченко С.А. Экранизация-интерпретация. М., 2001.