Russian Christ and National Saints: Cinematic and TV Adaptations of Dostoevsky’s Idiot

Vladimir Strukov, University of Pittsburgh

In this paper I will analyze and compare the following works: 1) the feature film Idiot (1958, Mosfilm, directed by Ivan Pyr’ev with Yurii Yakovlev, Julia Borisova, et al.); 2) the feature film Down House (2001, Film Studio.Ru, directed by Roman Kachanov with Fedor Bondarchuk, Ivan Okhlobystin, Anna Buklovskaia, et al.); and 3) the TV serialization Idiot (2003, Telekanal Rossiia, Studiia “2-B-2”, directed by Vladimir Bortko with Evgenii Mironov, Vladimir Mashkov, Lidia Velezhova, et al.)

I will use Carl Jung’s and Georges Bataille’s theories of Christ and Christ figure to approach the way the adaptations read Dostoevsky’s novel. In particular, I will consider the following: Christ as a child representing the future, becoming, rebirth, and salvation, child-god versus child-hero; conjunction of outer reality and inner reality of the collective unconscious to recognize belonging and alienation; sex, death, and degradation, as rejection of the traditional discourse and annihilation of the rational individual in a transcendental act of communion.

I will also explore how the choice of media (cinema or TV) influences genre and aesthetics of a literary adaptation in their forms of production, dissemination, consumption and perception. Through analyses of discrete projects I situate them in their historical, aesthetic, and technological contexts. I will also examine how the filmmakers deal with contemporary social and political currency, as M. Heidegger in his 1949 The Question Concerning Technology formulates it: “Technology’s essence is not so much technical as instrumental in producing a (new?) mode of human existence.”


Bataille, Georges (1987) Eroticism. Translated by Mary Dalwood. London, New York: M.Boyars.

Jung, C.G. (1969) Essays on Science of Mythology; The Myth of the Divine Child and the Divine Maiden. Translated by R.F.C. Hull. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.