Mar 212008

I knew I had seen that guy who plays the NKVD chief before. He appeared tonight while I was watching Part 4 of Master i Margarita. The NKVD is finally involved — trying to figure out this Professor Woland character (who is Satan) — Who is he, really, and how did he get to Moscow? The NKVD guy gives orders to arrest anyone on the slightest suspicion.

Finally I remembered. It’s the same person who played Lavrentiy Beria in “Balthazar’s Feasts, or Night with Stalin.” Well, I guess he has found a role. His name is Valentin Gaft.

I have mentioned before how movies from the Soviet era always portray the police as virtuous and almost omniscient. It’s difficult to have much of a plot when one party already knows everything and can do no wrong. How do you make a movie under those conditions? Answer: You do slapstick where an innocent person has to get involved with the crooks as an informer in order to obtain the final unknown detail — as in Brilliantovaya Ruka (Diamond Arm) or Gentlemen of Fortune. There can be some entertainment value in that — I understand that those two movies were very popular in Russia.

Master i Margarita is of course a post-Soviet movie. And in this one, the almost-omniscient characters are Satan and their sidekick, who know how to use their knowledge to destroy people.

Omniscience in the wrong hands is not a good thing.


  • Natan Kumanov

    I don’t know the movie, but in the book Voland is rather a positive character. As to people, they destroy themselves. Most got away relatively well, though, and the Master along with Margarita got away best, but then they did not destroy themselves (almost, maybe). The Master died in the course, right. But he got his peace.