Chagall-Malevich: “Art means everything”

A film by Alexander Mitta
Opens in NYC – June 12
Opens in LA – June 19

ShiM-Film, LLC is proud to present the US Theatrical release of CHAGALL-MALEVICH, a film by Alexander Mitta. After having screened at numerous international film festivals including Palm Springs, Montreal, Haifa, Moscow and Busan, the film will open at Cinema Village in New York on June 12 and at Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills and at Town Center 5 in Encino, CA on June 19.
The artistic and political revolution of early 20th century Russia is mythologized in CHAGALL-MALEVICH, a magical period drama about the uneasy relationship between two artistic geniuses.
Inspired by the memoirs of Marc Chagall and those of his contemporaries, the film blends fact and folklore to evoke the return of the iconic Jewish artist (portrayed by Leonid Bichevin “Cargo 200″) to his childhood home of Vitebsk. Having left behind immense success in Paris, Chagall returns to the Russian empire in 1917 in hope to marry the love of his life Bella Rosenfeld (Kristina Schneidermann); he produces copious paintings and establishes the Academy of Modern Art. A rivalry develops with abstract painter Kazimir Malevich (Anatoliy Belyy), invited to teach at the art school. As Bella rekindles a childhood friendship with military Red Commissar Naum (Semeon Shkalikov), Chagall competes for the affections of his muse and future wife. As the October Revolution sweeps across Russia, historical events intrude on personal struggles and upend the quiet provincial life in Vitebsk.

The movie was produced under the guidance of Meret Meyer Graber, granddaughter of the painter Marc Chagall. She invited the crew to come over to her place in Paris and gave her permission to shoot the film. That was very important for the director and the cast because without Meret’s blessing the movie could never have happened.
The meeting of Meret Meyer Graber and Kristina Schneidermann who played Bella Chagall in the film was a very special and touching moment. It was a real revelation to Kristina. Meret started calling Kristina «grandma Bella».
“I was amazed that she has been treating me like her grandmother, she talked to me a lot despite the fact that she is a strict and not very talkative person. And when I sang to my «granddaughter» a lullaby on the roof, it was the most touching moment of the meeting. It was the same lullaby Meret’s grandmother was singing to her when she was a child. At that moment something happened to me, I felt like I was part of the family, like Meret really was my granddaughter and I am her grandmother — Bella. I think Meret felt the same…‟ — says Kristina.

There are those beautiful coincidences and similarities between Kristina and Bella that everyone has noticed. They have a lot in common, even their appearance. “I feel a connection with my character and with this family, the Chagall’s. I share the same interests as Bella had. We both know five languages, we are passionate about art, we are religious and value family. I love theater as much as Bella did. Bella Rosenfeld is an example of true love that can overcome any difficulties to support the man she loves. Despite the difficult historic context of the film — life of artistic intellectuals at the turn of XXth century, art persecution during the October Revolution and Civil war — in the first place it’s a story of great love. “To prepare myself for the role I had to learn a lot about Chagall, I fell in love with his art and that has helped me to understand the tenderness of his and Bella’s love, sacrificial love, that is very rare‟ — says Kristina.
Director’s statement
“I’m very fond of Chagall. I admire Malevich for his radical thinking. He opened new horizons in art. I wanted to make a movie about them for a very long time.
All characters of the film convey different ideas. Chagall symbolizes one idea. Malevich — another one. My film represents the struggle of these ideas in a tangle of emotions and desires at the moment when life is worth nothing and Art means everything.‟
All on location shootings for Chagall-Malevich have been filmed in Vitebsk, where Chagall’s house and established by him Academy still remain. The Jewish quarter was built for the purpose of movie filming. Production designer Eduard GALKIN made actual size painting reproductions. The local designer Alexander VYSHKA made around 3000 singboards, shields and banners for the film. They are very accurate and copy those that existed in the city at the beginning of XX-th century.
It was planned to burn down the whole quarter during the filming, but upon local representatives request it has been done only partly and now there is a museum dedicated to Marc Chagall.
Costume designer Lyudmila GAYNTSEVA was challenged with outfitting a huge cast, many costumes were created just for the production. Moreover, she found a lot of authentic vintage clothes of those times. Aleksey AYGI is a composer and violinist, his project Ensemble 4’33” is a popular fixture on Moscow’s contemporary music scene. His exciting and melodic scores created a special atmosphere for the movie. Cinematographer Sergey MACHILSKY managed to make visually engaging scenes, using creative camera angles and his own unique technique of coloring. The colors chosen for the film are of the same gamma Chagall used in his paintings.
Citizens of Vitebsk and actors of local theatres Koleso, Yakub Kolas Drama Theatre and Lyal’ka Theater took part in filming of crowd scenes. After the filming the crew headed to Saint-Petersburg, where at the Lenfilm studio continued to work on the film. The thing is that a plenty of old houses and streets still remain. However, the interiors had been completely changed. So for the purpose of filming the interiors were recreated.
The working title for Chagall-Malevich is Miracle of Chagall.
Historical perspective
The film based on actual events and real people.
The story begins when a young painter Marc Chagall comes to his hometown, Vitebsk. He comes from Paris and plans to stay only for a few months, but the October Revolution and Civil war force him to change his plans.
Chagall marries his beloved Bella Rosenfeld and establishes Free Academy of Art in Vitebsk. He invites the inventor of Suprematism, Kazimir Malevich, to teach there.
Because of the conflict between two of them Chagall leaves established by him art school.
These events occurred from 1917-1920.
After leaving the Academy, Chagall together with his wife and daughter moved to Moscow and taught drawing classes at the colony for war orphans. Then he left to Berlin. He has been living in France and the US. For a long time he remained completely misunderstood by people back home.
Bella Chagall died in September 1944. Painter so overwhelmed with his grief stopped painting. Only after long nine months, he was able to come back to work and create two paintings in memory of his beloved: «The Wedding Candles» and «Around Her».
Though he remarried, Bella never went away and remained his muse forever. «Over the Town», the painting where he and Bella are flying over Vitebsk, is one of his most famous works.
Marc Chagall died on March 28, 1985 in France at the age of 97. Painter’s heart stopped when he was in the elevator, going up to the second floor in the studio in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.

Chagall Commitee

The film received approval from the Marc Chagall Committee and personal approval of the painter’s granddaughter Meret Meyer Graber. She is a Vice President of the Marc Chagall Committee in Paris, she also arranges his exhibitions and publishes books about the painter and catalogues of his works. Ms. Meyer Graber met the crew of Chagall-Malevich. And producers consulted the script, assembly cut and the final cut with her.
Meret Meyer Graber noticed Kristina Schneidermann’s striking likeness to her grandmother Bella.
“I love Marc Chagall very much, — says Kristina Schneidermann. — It was very important for me to meet the Chagall’s before the filming, to get to know them better. His granddaughter Meret warm-heartedly accepted me, she said that she was happy with her «grandmother».‟

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