Nationality: Russian. Born: Nikita Sergeyevich Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky in Moscow, 21 October 1945. Education: Studied acting at the Stanislavsky Theater Children's Studio and the Chuksin School of the Vakhtangov Theater; studied directing under Mikhail Romm at VGIK, the State Film Institute in Moscow. Family: Married 1) Anastasya Vertinskaya (divorced), 2) Tatyana Mikhalkova; two sons, two daughters; Mikhalkov's great-grandfather is the painter Sourikov; his grandfather is the painter Konchalovski; his father is Sergei Mikhalkov, a writer and former chairman of the USSR Writers Union; his mother is poet Natalia Konchalovskaia; his brother is director Andrei Konchalovski. Career: Began performing on stage and screen, making his movie debut in 1964; directed first short film, I'm Coming Home, 1968; submitted his VGIK diploma film, A Quiet Day at the End of the War, 1970; secured his international reputation with A Slave of Love, 1976. Awards: Grand Prix, San Sebastian Festival, for An Unfinished Piece for Mechanical Piano, 1977; Oscar nomination, Best Foreign Film, and Prize at Venice Festival, for Urga, 1990; Oscar, Best Foreign Language Film, and Jury Prize, Cannes Festival, for Burnt by the Sun, 1994. Address: Malaya Gruzinskaya 28, Apt. 10, 123557 Moscow, Russia.
Films as Director and Screenwriter:
I'm Coming Home (short)
A Quiet Day at the End of the War (diploma film)
Svoi sriedi chougikh (At Home among Strangers; A Strangeramong His Own People) (+ role)
Raba lubvi (A Slave of Love) (+ role)
Neokontchennaya piesa dlia mekhanitcheskogo pianino (AnUnfinished Piece for Mechanical Piano) (+ role)
Pyat vecheroc (Five Evenings) (d only)
Oblomov (Several Days in the Life of I. I. Oblomov)
Rodnya (Family Relations; Family Ties; Kinfolk) (d only) (+ role)
Bes svideteley (Without Witness; A Private Conversation)
Oci ciornie (Dark Eyes)
Urga (Close to Eden)
Anna: 6–18 (+ co-pr, appearance)
Outomlionnye solntsem (Burnt by the Sun) (+ co-pr, role)
Nikita Mikhalkov: Sentimentalnoye puteshestviye na rodinu.Muzyka russkoj zhivopisi (Nikita Mikhalkov: A SentimentalTrip Home. Music of Russian Painting)
Sibirskij tsiryulnik (The Barber of Siberia) (+ role as Czar Alexander II, co-sc, co-pr)
Other Films (incomplete listing):
Ya shagayu po Moskve (Meet Me in Moscow; I'm Wanderingthrough Moscow) (Danelia) (role as Kolka)
Csillagosok, katonak (The Red and the White) (Jancso) (role as White Officer)
Dvorianckoe gnezdo (A Nest of Gentry; A Nest of Noblemen) (Konchalovski) (role as Prince Nelidov)
Krasnaya palatka (The Red Tent) (Kalatozov) (role as Chuknovsky, Icebreaker Pilot); Sport Sport Sport (Klimov) (appearance); Pesnya Manshuk (Song of Manchuk) (Begalin)
Siberiade (Konchalovski) (role as Alexei); Nenavist (Hatred) (Gasparov) (co-sc)
Polioty vo sne naiavou (Flights of Fancy; Dream Flight) (Balayan) (role as Director); Vokzal dla dvoish (Station forTwo) (Ryazanov) (role as Vera's Boyfriend)
Jestoki romans (Cruel Romance; RuthlessRomance) (Ryazanov) (role as Sergei Paratov)
Pod severnym siyaniyem (Aurora) (role)
Unizhennye I oskorblyonnye (The InsultedandtheInjured) (role)
Revizor (role as Inspector)
Vera, nadezhda, krov' (Dubrovina) (role)
By MIKHALKOV: books—
Griffiths, Trevor, Aleksandr Artemovich Adabashian, and Nikita Mikhalkov, Piano: A New Play for Theatre Based on the Film Unfinished Piece for Mechanical Piano, London, 1990.
By MIKHALKOV: articles—
"Nikita Mikhalkov: Directing Means Taking a Stand," interview with E. Barteneva in Soviet Film (Moscow), no. 231, 1976.
Interview with A. Lipkow in Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), vol. 5, no. 7, 1977.
Interview with L. Bajer and J. Plazewski in Kino (Warsaw), February 1977.
Interview with P. Hoff in Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), vol. 8, nos. 2/3, 1980.
"A Soviet Director Confronts Oblomov," interview with R.W. Apple in New York Times, 8 March 1981.
Interview with H. Willemse and O. Surkova in Skoop (Amsterdam), December 1984/January 1985.
Interview with Z. Kiraly in Filmvilag (Hungary), vol. 28, no. 9, 1985.
Mikhalkov, Nikita, "Oblomov vagy Stolz," in Filmvilag (Hungary), vol. 30, no. 7, 1987.
Interview with K. Jaehne in Cineaste (New York), vol. 16, nos. 1/2, 1987/1988.
Interview with P. Taggi in Segnocinema (Vicenza, Italy), May 1987.
Interview in Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), vol. 17, no. 5, 1989.
Interview with J. Houdek and K. Rihova in Film A Doba (Prague), August 1990.
Interview with U. Koch in Film Bulletin (Winterhur, Switzerland), vol. 33, nos. 5/6, 1991.
Interview with J. Gazda in Kino (Warsaw), March 1991.
"Un Russe au pays de Soviets," interview with T. Bourguignon and O. Kohn in Positif (Paris), October 1991.
Mikhalkov, Nikita, "Jak narodzila sie Urga," in Kino (Warsaw), February 1992.
Interview with P. Murat in Kino (Warsaw), February 1992.
"Into a New World," interview with E. Tsymbal in Sight and Sound (London), November 1992.
Interview with L. Joris, in Film en Televisie + Video (Brussels), October 1994.
"Volt egyszer egy Oblomov?," an interview with P. Vail', in Filmvilag (Budapest), no. 6, 1996.
On MIKHALKOV: books—
Borelli, Sauro, Nikita Mikhalkov, Florence, 1981.
Sandler, A. M., and Annette Mikhailovna, Nikita Mikhalkov: Sbornik, Moscow, 1989.
On MIKHALKOV: articles—
Jaehne, K., "Rehabilitating the Superfluous Man: The Films in the Life of Nikita Mikhalkov," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley, California), Summer 1981.
Kopanevova, G., article in Film a Doba (Prague), July 1981.
Grenier, Richard, "A Soviet New Wave," in Commentary (New York), July 1981.
Forgacs, I., article in Filmkultura (Budapest), vol. 22, no. 11, 1986.
Lipkov, A., article in Filmkultura (Budapest), vol. 22, no. 11, 1986.
Stuart, J., "Mikhalkov to Lens First Non-Soviet Pic on Russian Locale," in Variety (New York), 16 July 1986.
Bilkova, M., article in Film a Doba (Prague), October 1986.
"Italo-Soviet Pic Mostly a Breeze," in Variety (New York), 22 October 1986.
Canby, Vincent, "Film View: The Brothers Konchalovsky-Mikhalkov," in New York Times, 24 May 1987.
Amiel, V., article in Positif (Paris), September 1987.
Kral, P., article in Positif (Paris), September 1987.
Bennetts, Leslie, "An Unlikely Match for a Movie," in New YorkTimes, 29 September 1987.
Jaehne, K., "The Brothers M-K," in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1987.
Harvey, Andrew, "Infidelity: Italian (and Russian) Style," in Vogue (New York), October 1987.
Biography-filmography in L'Avant Scene Cinéma (Paris), November 1987.
Gold, R., "Dubbed Version of Dark Eyes Aimed at Widened U.S. Audience," in Variety (New York), 2 March 1988.
Goodwin, D., "Honor among Poets," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), August 1988.
Brashinsky, M., "The Anthill in the Year of the Dragon," in NewOrleans Review, vol. 17, no. 1, 1990.
Biography-filmography in Film Dope (London), January 1990.
"Feature Hits Going to the Dogs," in Variety (New York), 2 May 1990.
Gazda, J., article in Kino (Warsaw), March 1991.
Haviarova, M., article in Kino (Warsaw), March 1991.
Kopanevova, G., article in Kino (Warsaw), March 1991.
"Pair Who Split a Name Share the Honors," in Variety (New York), 24 June 1991.
Sorenson, E., article in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 34, no. 1, 1992.
Young, Deborah, and Michael Williams, "Iron Curtain Alums Test West's Mettle," in Variety (New York), 29 June 1992.
Hoberman, J., "Out and Inner Mongolia," in Premiere (New York), October 1992.
Jacobson, H., "Life on the Steppes: Isn't It Romantic?," in New YorkTimes, 25 October 1992.
Ball, E., "Through a Glasnost Darkly," in Village Voice (New York), 3 November 1992.
Carr, Jay, "Preserving Paradise," in Boston Globe, 14 February 1993.
Murray, Steve, "Improvisation Pays for Oscar-nominated Eden," in Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 15 March 1993.
Maslin, Janet, "A Dark Comedy Wins at Cannes," in New YorkTimes, 24 May 1994.
Stanley, Alessandra, "Surviving and Disturbing in Moscow," in NewYork Times, 21 March 1995.
Lipman, Masha, "Russians Beam over Sun's Oscar," in WashingtonPost, 29 March 1995.
Filipov, David, "Post-Soviet Screen Struggle," in Boston Globe, 12 April 1995.
Thomas, Kevin, "Welcome Rays from Sun," in Los Angeles Times, 22 April 1995.
Leydon, Joe, "From Stalin to Oscar," in Boston Globe, 14 May 1995.
Glaessner, V., "Blind Faith," in Sight and Sound (London), January 1996.
Moskvina, T., "Velikaia illiuziia," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), no. 6, 1997.
* * *
Although he did not come to prominence as a director until the mid-1970s, Nikita Mikhalkov ranks among the most gifted Russian filmmakers of the entire post-World War II era. His films are highly emotional examinations of what it means to be Russian amid the swirl of politics and turmoil that has characterized his homeland during the twentieth century. In fact, he presently finds himself one of the few Russian directors whose career has flourished since the disintegration of the USSR. While Mikhalkov's equally celebrated brother, director Andrei Konchalovsky, decided to leave their homeland in the early 1980s and work in the West, Mikhalkov chose to remain in Russia. From that vantage point he watched his international reputation expand while steadfastly continuing to make films that are uniquely Russian in subject matter and flavor.
Burnt by the Sun serves as a high point of Mikhalkov's career in that it earned him a Cannes Film Festival prize and an Academy Award. It also is the work of an artist completely freed from censorial restriction; the film is dedicated to all those who were "burnt by the betraying sun of the revolution." The year is 1936, and the filmmaker himself (who began his career as an actor) stars as Sergei Kotov, aging hero of the Bolshevik Revolution. Sergei and his family enjoy an idyllic existence at their country house. The fact of Joseph Stalin's tyranny seems a fantasy. But all of this is certain to change upon the arrival of Dimitri, the ex-lover of Sergei's young wife, Maroussia. He begins enticing Sergei and Maroussia's daughter, Nadia (played by Nadia Mikhalkov, the director's real-life offspring). The fact that Dimitri is employed by Stalin's governmental police does not bode well for Sergei. Ultimately, Burnt by the Sun is the statement of an artist attempting to explore and understand the unpleasantries in the not-too-distant political past of his cherished homeland.
A number of Mikhalkov's other films deal directly with the political history of post-revolutionary Russia. At Home among Strangers, his very first effort out of film school, is set in the 1920s, during a civil war which occurred directly after the revolution. It is a "Russian Western" about some brigands who steal gold that is meant to be used for the purchase of wheat to feed the hungry. The hero is a revolutionary who is thought to be disloyal to the cause, and who infiltrates the gang.
Mikhalkov firmed up his international reputation with his third feature, A Slave of Love. It is set in Southern Russia in the late teens of the twentieth century, during the filming of an inconsequential movie melodrama. The story involves the transformation of Olga, a spoiled, class-conscious actress, as she falls in love with a Bolshevik cameraman. This funny and poignant film is effective as a reflection of both the early years of movie-making and the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
At Home among Strangers and A Slave of Love make for a fascinating contrast to Burnt by the Sun. The first two—made when the Soviets were still in power—depict the heroics of the revolution, and characters who become inspired by the revolutionary spirit; the latter spotlights the cruel reality of life under Stalin, and the plight and fate of one once-heroic but now-deluded revolutionary. Meanwhile, other Mikhalkov films are set in pre-Revolutionary times. Oblomov (A Few Days in the Life of I. I. Oblomov)—arguably his most deeply layered and emotionally complex film—is a lyrical adaptation of the famous Russian novel written by Ivan Goncharov in 1858. The title character is a thirtyish civil servant and absentee landlord who decides to retire to a listless existence in bed. The flashback sequences of Oblomov as a boy in his mother's arms are nothing short of wonderful. Mikhalkov has adapted other works from literary sources, most especially Chekhov; in fact, A Slave of Love was praised by critics for its Chekhovian cleverness. An Unfinished Piece for Player Piano is an affecting account of the various goings-on one lazy summer afternoon at the country estate of a general's widow. The many guests include husbands, wives, and former lovers, and the film—an adaptation of Platonov, Chekhov's first play—is noteworthy for its gallery of finely realized characterizations.
Despite his loyalty to Russia, Mikhalkov has not worked exclusively in his homeland. He went to Italy to film Dark Eyes, featuring Marcello Mastroianni in a role he was born to play: Romano, a likably charming but lazy lothario whose soul is sadly hollow, and who cannot comprehend that he has allowed life to pass him by. The scenario is loosely based on several Chekhov short stories. And Close to Eden is a bright comedy set in a contemporary China where ancient customs conflict with modern values. The story concerns a peasant couple who reside in a small village amid the expansive steppes of Inner Mongolia. They are the parents of three children. Chinese law forbids them to have a fourth, so the husband—a shepherd who reveres Genghis Khan—sets out to procure birth control.
Regarding his affinity for Chekhov's works, Mikhalkov once observed that the writer "feels very close to me because he offers no answers to the questions he poses. Chekhov's characters seek an answer which they never find. I too don't know the answer. I'm not even sure that knowing it would make me any happier. What is important is the search for the truth; that is happiness." This statement relates not just to Chekhov but to the manner in which Mikhalkov has attempted to depict and, ultimately, understand the changing face of Russia.