The 20th century as a fascinating movie

Documentary-classicist, professor of the Department of Cinematography VGIK, winner of the Lenin Prize Sergey MEDYNSKI – about how he became the “right hand” of the legendary Roman Carmen, why he still does not like anecdotes “about Chukchi”, with what delicate request Secretary General Brezhnev addressed to the chronicler in the Taj Mahal …

War in reality

How did you come to the movies? How did it all start?

Documentary-classicist, professor of the Department of Cinematography VGIK, winner of the Lenin Prize Sergey MEDYNSKI – about how he became the “right hand” of the legendary Roman Carmen, why he still does not like anecdotes “about Chukchi”, with what delicate request Secretary General Brezhnev addressed to the chronicler in the Taj Mahal …

War in reality

How did you come to the movies? How did it all start?

– Before the war, I studied at the Moscow Teachers’ School, at the Philfak. In the fall of the 41st university evacuated, and I stayed in the capital. I was not taken to the army by sight, given a “white ticket.” In that sense, I was hopelessly free from military duty. Someone advised me to work as a photo lab in the red star newspaper. And there gathered such people – what only the young Konstantin Simonov was worth! All then raved poems of the journalist-poet, knew them by heart. At some point I was attracted to these lines:

I lived a lot in hotels, got off at long-distance stations.
What lies ahead, everything will be left behind.

I thought: well, what a happy Man Simonov – all the time on the road, on the road. But these are new people, spaces, situations – in short, an interesting life. However, then the poet was increasingly wandering on different fronts, it happened, he went on the attack – and not only with “the water and note”…

I was 20 years old, and Konstantin Simonov 25 – we communicated with each other easily. However, Simonov was already a sage, a ruler of the doom, a man who expressed the thoughts and feelings of the entire nation. And who I am compared to him – a sucker immature, amoeba … 1941-42 – a time of severe, tragic, the situation on the front is dire. Our troops retreated, often in disarray, and every now and then fell into the encirclement. Mining material for the newspaper often had to be life-threatening. Simonov said that he had to see panic more than once. Refugees on the roads, retreating soldiers, confusion, endless bombing – such stories were available to almost any journalist. But to get into the division, regiment, battalion or company, which stands to death and fights – it was necessary to get not on the imaginary, and on the real cutting edge. And it was not so easy, and not everyone succeeded, and many of them laid their heads down…

Of course, when I talked to such a person and journalists and writers like him, I could not sit in a room with a red lantern during the war. Once he contrived, persuaded one soldier, and rushed with him to the front. And so began to fight.

– Scary in war – remember your first feelings?

– Yulia Drunina said well:

I’ve only seen hand-to-hand,
once in a dream.
Who says that in war
is not terrible, He knows nothing about the war.

Of course, the first fight was remembered… We crawl forward, and mines are torn around. I feel like I’m like a magnet, I attract them… How do you get that to the movies? There’s no way you’re going to take that off. Everything around howzes, blazes – the death itself aims at you … Scary – the word is wrong. At some point you just don’t believe it’s happening to you… And here is the creep, I see – in front of the nose heel of the shoe. In front of the man lies in some unnatural position, and can not rise. It wasn’t immediately clear I was dead. I crashed into the memory and winding a bloody meter and a half, which was reaching for the man. A shard chirped over it, so it unwound. The fighter was dying, and, not realizing that everything was over, continued to crawl towards the enemy. He did not stay in the place, did not turn back, expecting that the nurse, some sanitary instructor will be picked up, the medical nurse will be taken to the medical center, rescued. No, he crawled forward – his fight lasted until his last breath… This picture is still in front of my eyes.

– Have you met the Germans – so look into the eyes?

– In Bulgaria we have been on the defensive for five months. There are trenches, dugouts, dugouts, all settled – and the Germans, and we, lived like white people. I went once to the familiar scouts, among them one Muscovite was, Volodya Kirilkin, a countryman. “It’s great to eat, do you want to eat?” Scouts always have supplies. “Hans!” they called. The cloak-tent leaned back, looked some small in a German kitele. Nothing special: I myself once had a German coat, a belt with the inscription “Gott mit uns”, two pistols from them: parabellum big combat and small. Scouts especially all the German weapons, trophies. Well, I looked at him, and he was like, “Essen, Trinken!” But no – the guy in the corner spreads a towel, collects food: chicken, milk, moonshine, fresh bread … “Bitte!” – please mean. I ask: have you made me play? Yes, no, they say, it’s a real German! From where? Yes, – they say – during the last offensive the Germans rolled back: there is no one, no shooting, the fog has dissipated, the sun rises. We walked calmly in the combat guard, suddenly, see: the legs are sharpening out of the hayst firing, sleeping boy – quite a sucker. Poked, gets up. “Hende hoh!” the watch was immediately taken off – all had five pieces on their right hand. But quietly, calmly, no one was shot, no one rushed to beat the face. The sergeant says, “Comm,” let’s go. So that bellied Hans with scouts and remained – as a housekeeper. And the porticos washed, and porridge boiled, and the pots washed – accustomed shorter. About a month and a half later, already in Romania, we were, I ask: “Guys, where is your German?” I had to send it to the assembly point. The boy roared when he was led away from the scouts… It’s a terribly touching story.

– Do you like to watch movies about the war?

– Modern – no, does not pull. The same “Star”, remake – no good, only special effects, Hollywood – there is no truth … My favorite picture on the military theme – always with the guys look – “Chronicle of the dive bomber.” It’s an amazing thing! And the song there is wonderful – about “air workers of war” … I still can not indifferently watch the footage of the front chronicle – because every soldier who runs, he is alive, while on the screen … What happened next? It is worth thinking, and – suffocate tears …

Did you shoot anything yourself during the war?

– No, there was not even a camera. The task was simple – to survive and win.

On the unshaven cheek of the galoshes

– Did you enter the VGIK from the first call?

“I’m lucky. I got to the famous institute already in winter – so demobilized. He came to Moscow at the end of November 1945. On the way, the gymnast was replaced by a bag of apples – you can not go home without guests. At seven in the morning I was in Moscow. Called from the machine gun to Kiev, my sister picked up the phone, saying: it’s me.

Moscow has made a painful impression on me: shabby, cold, the wind drives through the streets garbage. Frozen like a zutsik. After an hour I was sitting in the bathhouse next to our house. There he met Fedka Dobronravav, he then shot “The Elusive Avengers”, and then just entered the VGIK. “What are you going to do?” asked Fedka sternly, in the war he rose to lieutenant. “Yeah, I think…” “And what is there to think – come to us, in VGIK.” Immediately I remembered Simonov, and even more… Roman Carmen. The fact is that back in 1936 in the cinema I saw the plot from Spain and read the inscription in the credits: cinematographer Roman Carmen. I thought: what a brave man – the order-bearer, removes the war! And then in the “Red Star” when the battle near Moscow was over, and the Germans were firmly given a hat, correspondents came from the front, brought me tapes, as I always showed, printed. And I see that next to Simonov there is a man in a white coat, in his hands a camera. Made a copy for himself, and in the morning I ask the reporters: what kind of man is next to our Bones? They say it’s Roman Carmen!.. He had a movie camera in his hand. I would have died of happiness if I had found out that in ten years I would shoot myself…


“Of course. In general, a day later I was on my way to the Institute of Cinematography, on a trolleybus. On the back of the platform there were guys talking. I understood that it was the Vgikovskys, listened. Suddenly, one says, “And then I hear a sound like someone on an unshaven cheek being beaten by an old galoshes…” I’m stunned. I think: I will never go to an institute where such unusual people learn – it is necessary, how figuratively can express their impressions of life!.. In my opinion, this was the way Volodka Naumov, now known director, explained it.

“You didn’t know how to do that?

“Well, where did!.. Of course, I was very late, but for me, as a front-line soldier, made an exception. Thanks to the director Lev Kuleshov, the author of the acclaimed “Great Comforter” before the war. Okay, he says, let’s take a conditional, winter session you, of course, can not pass, but if in April-May do not pull up, then do not be dissed … I struggled to reach out, and soon became a full-fledged student. He learned and came to the distribution to the CSDF – a film studio of documentaries. And it has to happen, right in the hallway, near the stairs I run into Carmen himself. Fortunately, he was not confused, and as a well-mannered person – not that the present-day Vgikov, who are trying to push you forward at the door and just do not push away – respectfully stood up to the wall and said: “Hello, Roman Lazarevich!” “And I wish you well,” responded the living classic, looked at me appreciatively, and suddenly, putting his finger on me, asked, “Your last name, by the case, not Medynsky?” Yes, – I say – Roman Lazarevich, you are not mistaken.” He asks, “What would you say if I offered to work as an assistant?” “Okay,” he says, “but how do you feel about the heat?” “We are going to Turkmenistan for a long time, it will be hot there.” “Wherever you say,” I say, “we will go there.” That’s all I’ve made up.

– But someone probably recommended you to Carmena?

– Two years later I dared and asked: Roman Lazarevich, why did it happen that you chose me? His eyes warmed, and he confessed: yes it’s simple. I needed an assistant, called Volchek (Boris Israelvich Volchek – one of the pillars of Soviet cinema, a well-known cameraman, teacher and director, author of the films “Thirteen”, “Lenin in October”, “White Fang”, “Commander of the “Happy Beetle” and many others. – M.S.). And I say: Bor, here are your four guys coming to the studio: Lagat, Semtsov, Surnin and Medynsky. Who would you recommend? “Take Medynsky,” said Volchek, “you won’t regret it.” Strangely, when I studied with this master, I did not feel that he somehow singled me out.

“Who else taught you?”

“Oh, there were great teachers in VGIK! It is not easy to list all – open the history of domestic cinema, all there. We called them “living classics.” However, the classics were rarely present at the classes – all were busy filming and their own affairs. But we constantly felt their power hand – high demand was always, and not only in exams. And, you know, army discipline played a role here, to which almost all of us were perfectly accustomed. Now the guys are saying something important, and they miss by the ears. trouble. We could not imagine such a thing – we caught every word!

– How many front-line soldiers were there in your course?

– Of the 43 people, four are girls and two schoolchildren, all the other front-line soldiers. Leva Artyushin, Vasya Semtsov, Vadim Muromakin are alive… Stasik Rostotsky – the current outstanding director – studied the course older. He had one foot amputated, he was demobilized, but we considered him our own, we became friends right away. His teacher was Eisenstein himself (Sergei Eisenstein – the founder of Soviet cinema, director, screenwriter, theorist and teacher . – M.S.). Rostotsky told me what a wonderful man this classic was! On May 9, 1945, he invited the frontline students home, took out vodka, said, “Guys, I don’t drink at all, but I’ll have a drink with you with pleasure. And he raised a toast, “For what you have done.”

“Who did you drink with?”

“That’s not the point. But with the guys, of course, happened, and drank. There were unique people!

For example?

– Damir Vyatich-Berezhnaya was such, in the future quite a good director. He studied at the director’s department, and I – on the camera. So, the legendary Burdenko pulled him out of the world. Damir said: “Serega, you will not believe: if it were not for Nikolai Nilovich, to be in my dead – and would fall the death of the brave.” I was surprised: who were you in the war – a marshal, or what? Burdenko – it’s a luminary, a great surgeon, who did not operate … No, he says I served in the regular army – the lieutenant armored-carrier was. They hit me in the stomach, guts out. The stolen somehow brought to the medical hospital, wrapped in a cloak, and thrown in the corridor, on a straw to die. And I’m lying there, in my mind, it sucks on my soul. And then Burdenko from Moscow came to operate some two generals, and they have not yet delivered from the front line. He saw me on the floor and asked: what is lying around? And there’s a surgeon there: yes, they say, there is no hope… “How is it not? – indignant luminary. — well, quickly take him to the operating table!” And from the doctor, who recorded the fighter in hopeless, tore off the uniforms and sent the saninstructor to the front line. I was dumbfounded by this story: yes it is a miracle! “Miracle, Serega,” agreed Damir.

Amazing people still worked with us in the institute! The same Dovzhenko Alexander Petrovich… (A.P. Dovzhenko – outstanding Soviet film director, folk artist RSFSR. – M.S.). We went to lecture him, he read to the directors, but he did not call us – please listen. Maybe he didn’t even know all his students because he was flying too high, but it didn’t bother anyone. I remember telling me how he visited the frontline hospital during the war. He was accompanied by a general. We went into the room, and no one meets, does not report. There’s a young sister in the hallway, that’s all. The general in anger: “Where is the chief- shouts – you have the same military unit?!.” Finally came out the surgeon, he has such hands – Dovzhenko tried to show us – from them blood drips. The doctor says to the general, “You demand that I report to you as it should be, and I do not leave the operating room for the third day.” Then the general changed his anger to mercy and said, “Why did I call you? The writer next to me – from Moscow, he needs to write in the newspaper about the heroism of our fighters, with the wounded to talk … And here, in the corridor, – remembers Dovzhenko – lies a fighter, moans and cries, and suddenly a mat as shouts!.. Not shy even young nurses … The general pounced on him: “How can you not be ashamed to swear so much, you are a heroic warrior, defended the homeland, what?!.. will our engineer of human souls write about you, the writer, the order-bearer Comrade Dovzhenko?” why? So authentically Dovzhenko outlined the situation familiar to the front-line soldiers – the hospital, suffering, and a kind of humor, of course … It was clear that he himself had seen and experienced it. He was an amazing man! Who’s going to talk about him today? Who listened to him? There are no more people, except Medynsky, who is 87 years old and who himself has to be taken to the cemetery, so as not to suffer …

Caspian Oil Workers

– Roman Carmen also studied at VGIK, didn’t he?

– Yes, of course – in the thirties. He was a creative man and versatile. After all, he not only filmed the chronicle, but was also a correspondent of the newspaper during the war, and wrote books. I kept saying, “Seryozha, write, write…” It is with his easy hand I have several books came out in Detgiz, and there are special things. He was an amazing man, and I don’t know anyone who appreciates time as much as he does. For example, in Baku we shot “A Tale of the Caspian Oil Workers.” Carmen was scheduled to take the shoot for seven in the morning. Without a quarter of a quarter of a seven I jump out of bed, look out the window and see: the chief walks along the front of the hotel in a white elegant suit – gray, beautiful. I don’t have a car yet, but I’ve got 15 minutes left. I shave fast, wash and pop up without two minutes seven. Hello, Roman Lazarevich, I say. Hello, he answers me sternly and passes by. Then he comes back and is already angry: but earlier you could not appear? I quite legitimately resent: Roman Lazarevich, because he came out at exactly seven! Why did I show up here half an hour early? Carmen asks. And there seems to be no logic – well, why did he come out, how do I know? And because Carmen could not sleep, he kept spinning thoughts, problems, worries. And he could not imagine that his assistant was slumbering quietly, instead of doing creative work.

– So, if you came out at six in the morning and thought about creativity, Carmen would just kiss you?

“It’s possible. However, he was rarely angry. Two times all turned to me by the name of my fatherhood, and I realized that he was very dissatisfied with me. And so I’ve been for him all my life “Seryozha” and we communicated only on “you.” He never once told me “you.” And one day he said, “Seryozha, well, call me Rome, that’s my name.” “Yes, you,” I erupted, “but never in my life!” captured the signing of the act of unconditional surrender of fascist Germany, and before that – chronicler of the legendary Spanish war, a participant of the famous polar rescue expeditions, the Moscow-Kara-Kuma-Moscow car race, personal friend of Mao Tse-tung, Jawaharlal Nehru, Fidel Castro – about our figures is silent, many of the highest leaders of the state with pleasure pressed him at the occasion?

Roman Lazarevich and only so – holy, unshakable!..

– However, it was the work in the 50s on the Caspian Sea that brought Carmena, and with it to you the exorbitant star title at that time – the winners of the Lenin Prize …

– Yes, it was not easy for a creative person to receive such a prize. Suffice it to say that we were the first in the history of documentary film to be awarded to it. For two films – “The Tale of the Oil Workers of the Caspian” and “The Conquerors of the Sea.” These films, as they were written then, “became an anthem to selfless work.”

– Apparently, and you have worked hard for glory?

“Oh, really, everybody got it. Before that, I worked with Carmen in Turkmenistan, Georgia for six months, but there was something in the Caspian Sea… I’ll tell you just one episode. One day Carmen woke me up at five in the morning: at sea the storm played out terrible. And he’s happy, “That’s what we need. We’re going to shoot the sending of the watch to the Oil. We took the equipment, got on some boat. At the pier this vessel as a vanku-rise threw, but as departed – in general guard. I was confused at once, but there was nothing to do: I had to shoot. The camera “Aimo” is silent to myself, fills with salty sprays. But we have to endure: and me and the camera – it is painfully heroic shots according to the plan of Carmen should turn out … “No storm-hurricane will prevent the Soviet people from fulfilling the tasks set before them by the party, the government, personally Comrade Stalin and the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan Comrade Bagirov!” – so I heard already a cheerful voice for those cadres … I take off the first tape, shout to the chief that it is necessary to recharge, and dive into the spirit of a close cube. It becomes even more minkno, but I manage to wipe the camera, and pressed frame to take out and put away, so as not to fall on it drops of salt water from the face and clothes. I recharge and feel, now I can not stand – throws. The terrible suffocation only contributes to that. Finally, I did everything right, and as a cork from a bottle of champagne fly up. It was getting better in the wind, and I could say that I had already happily filmed the second cassette. Satisfied with what I’ve been in, I’ll report to the chief. Carmen nods and commands the captain: home. Turned around, go, soon the shore is coveted … I climb down: I have to put the camera in the coffer, collect accessories. And suddenly I see on the sofa quietly myself “resting” my downforce frame. Turns out I forgot to put it in the camera. As a result, the film was not pressed to the personnel eye, and everything turned out in a non-sharpness. horror!

Dilemma: to confess to the chief immediately or the execution to delay? But at once my spirit was not enough, weaving with a sour snout on the pier, something to moo. And Carmen is having fun: the wrong youth went – too quickly pumped.

When the film was shown, printed positive, my shame was revealed to the whole screen. Well still the material of the first video turned out to be in order. Well, the second image is murky – marriage. Carmen, of course, immediately guessed what was wrong, but during the working group did not shame me. On the contrary, to my considerable surprise began to justify: they say, there was a terrible storm, and the lens flooded with water – what kind of sharpness can be here …

However, when we were alone, he asked strictly what was wrong. I, of course, confessed to the fatal misstep. “It’s great to get sick of you,” Roman Lazarevich sighed. “And a documentary filmmaker… Remember, Seryozha: you can rock and even puke like a swan – I did not even know that this bird is subject to such a misfortune … Drink to health! But only when you’re without a camera. But when you make a documentary, it’s unprofessional to do that. Is that clear to you?”

– Movie about oil workers – was it someone’s spontaneous idea or a clear state order?

– There was such a journalist named Osipov, he wrote a book “Island of Seven Ships.” It caught Carmen’s eye, and it caught fire. Together with the author quickly wrote the script and began to approve. In the end, the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, Mir Jafar Bagirov, approved the whole case. Then he was shot, but, of course, not for the movie … And for being the “man of Beria,” he staged mass repressions. In his last words, the defeated “master of the republic” bitterly repented of what he had done, said that it was not enough to shoot him, but still he would like to live … By any work for the benefit of the Motherland offered to redeem himself. It didn’t help. This was told to me by one of the heroes of our film, who was repressed by the whole family, and he was given the opportunity to attend the trial when the verdict was read.

– It turns out that not everyone lived to see your triumph. But for you, such a laureate, apparently, came as a shock?

” Late in the evening, Carmen calls: “Be kind, call the winner of the Lenin Prize Medynsky to the phone.” I say, “There are none.” “No, Serezhenka,” Roman Lazarevich bursts with unexpected laughter, “is! The decree has been signed, soon it will be published in all newspapers. And if you don’t kill anyone today and rape someone tonight, consider yourself a laureate.” And then I opened the newspaper and was about – next to my name such big names: Sholokhov, Oystrakh …

I remember when we were presented with the Lenin Prize, I say: thank you, but now, when we are here, in warmth, comfort and glory, work is burning in the stormy sea. And how so: we are given a prize for what we have told about these people, and among the Caspian oil workers there is not a single person worthy of the same award… I think that this is an advance to us and an injustice to our heroes. Maybe it influenced, but the next year was awarded and oil workers … Carmen then said to me, “Serge, we will definitely make the third series. I came up with – it will be large-format!”

Is it too late now? Or weak?

– A few years ago I was in Baku, where the anniversary of our films was celebrated. They have the Minister of Culture, by the way, the nephew of Kara Abulfaz oglu Karaev, a composer who participated in the work on our films. And so he, learning from me that Carmen dreamed of the third series, immediately one of his subordinates offered to think about it: to announce a competition for the script, and to make a movie, as a continuation of what we did.

Are you ready to participate?

“Always ready.

Five hundred roubles for Stalin’s death

– Are you a native Muscovite?

– No, he was born and baptized in 1922 in Yekaterinburg. My father is a nobleman and served as a professor at a local university. Mother – daughter of Cossack officer Ilya Baranov, centur of the Siberian troops – housewife. It would seem that quiet peaceful people. But the youth of both was very turbulent – they were esers. And so in 1937, I remember, every night of the clock to two or three hours no one in the house slept, waited: will come to arrest or again carry …

Were you afraid of prison?

“Who’s not afraid of her?” Although, I must admit, some experience of life behind bars in our family has already been had. My mother was still in the tsar, twenty years was not – a student …

– And, of course, a revolutionary?

“What a one! After all, who are the esers – it’s terrorists. Explosives and illegal literature are always with them. My mother said: one morning she went out to get bread, came back, and the owner of the apartment in the yard meets and quietly says: “You would not go home, Ilyinichna. There’s a search.” And my mother and her friend lived, Tatiana. She was arrested. My mother-to-be was frightened at first and rushed away, and then I thought: what am I doing – I betray my comrade? She came back and gave up voluntarily to the authorities. So when I read in “Short Course” that all the esers are scoundrels and scum, I could not believe it. There were very different examples before me… By the way, from the Riga central my mother corresponded with a variety of people, and not only comrades in the struggle. There was such a very talented art historian and writer – Pavel Muratov, one of the brightest representatives of Russian culture at that time. “Images of Italy” – his famous book about the unique gift of seeing and appreciating the beautiful, subtly feel and enjoy images of art … So to my mother, he sent his book with a gift inscription straight to prison. It was then stored for a long time, and I remember the oval ink on the cover, with the inscription: “Riga convict transfer central. There are no unauthorized investments.” And other books he sent, but, unfortunately, in the war all the nephew burned in the stove – from the cold so saved. He was stupid, young, did not understand… I was fighting, so I didn’t see it.

– It turns out, rightly written in the same “Short course of history of the MAC (b)” – you studied the history of the country on this book – that “Tsar’s Russia was the prison of nations”?

– I can’t say that I am a special person for the historical flair… But in the 37th year he said to his mother, “Mom, when Stalin dies, will you give me five hundred roubles?” I had a friend – Mark, got to the Germans in captivity, and when released, directly moved to our camp. And the situation there is even worse. He says, “Seryozha, when Stalin died, I cried!” How much have you suffered from this power, from the same Stalin…” Mark says to me, “So, Serega, you were smarter than me.” I wasn’t smarter, I just had other information than other peers.

– Did everything, of course, come from the parents?

“Of course. They were cautious, but I began to understand a lot about the true “prison of nations” as a boy. My uncle Shura was the staff captain of the tsarist army, Uncle Volodya was also a captain, St. George’s cavalier. I had to destroy their photos myself: what if they came to arrest them- what would I say? By the way, this very uncle – a combat officer with a St. George’s cross – for the rest of his life had to glue envelopes. why? Yes, because in Soviet times was recognized as a bereft – the current guys and the term something do not know. That is, a normal person was deprived of all rights, the opportunity to live and earn money in his native country, and that’s somehow interrupted … At the same time, I do not condemn people who have been subjected to communist propaganda and these ideas. Ideas are beautiful…

What’s going on?

– You know, I was surprised to read Engels’ mother’s letter to my son recently. She writes – I don’t remember verbatim – that, yes, indeed, your ideas are certainly holy, but you will not succeed because you will deal with people who are mired in sins. What a wise woman! I immediately realized that the ideas of universal equality, brotherhood and many other remarkable elementary in our life circumstances are impossible. It’s the same chess: you know how a horse walks, how a pawn walks, how a rook walks. What if every horse wants to walk in its own way? And every pawn wants to be king? How to play then? It’s the same in life… Fortunately, our family was not under much pressure and no one was even put in jail. But I never became a pioneer, and so did the Komsomol. Which, of course, was not quite convenient. I will say more: in my life I have never passed through Red Square in a column of demonstrators. Not once! Not in school years, not in Vgikovskiy, nor in any. Sometimes, dragged, threatened, persuaded, but I under different pretexts avoided such “joy.” It’s been a while.

” You’re an anti-adviser – how did Carmen not see it?

“I think he was the same in some ways… However, this did not prevent us from honestly doing our work on the same Red Square. And we shot parades with demonstrations several times. I remember standing in front of the mausoleum, I’m his assistant, he’s taking pictures. We had two cameras while he was filming, I’m charging the second one while he’s taking this one off, passing the other one. And suddenly the whole area explodes with applause. I understand that the Master appeared – so then the close friends called Comrade Stalin. I raise my eyes, I see him opposite, right in front of me, on the podium. And I thought with a sudden thlight of hatred: how can you live in the world, when hundreds of thousands of people suffer, suffer in camps? I even thought I said it out loud. But around the crowd of people, screams joyful, music – of course, no one would have heard me. And suddenly there is a clap on the shoulder behind me – I turn around, a man in a black cloak says: “Don’t look like that, do your job better!”
That was my meeting with Stalin. And with Vasily Stalin we had a similar way – at a distance, of course – once talked. There are international volleyball competitions at the Dynamo stadium. A small site was built, there was no special place. And when a team wins, the anthem is played, this is the year of the 50th, I think. And, here I see how in the front row appears and sits some general, and next to him a woman in a gandard cloak and a white shawl, and next to the colonel, apparently, an adjutant. Well, they came and came, sat down close to us, the operators. Bulgarians win. The Bulgarian hymn sounds. The whole stadium gets up, and this general alone is left to sit. And I was an assistant to Yura Leongard – a wonderful was the sports operator. I shout, “Yurka, what’s an idiot sitting there?” – “Are you?” he looks back in fear. “It’s Vasya Stalin!”

– Is Medynsky’s surname something Polish?

– Our surname was once Medzinski, that is, our great-grandfather was pure Pole. But in pre-revolutionary Russia, the Attitude towards the Poles was as people of Jewish origin, as if “second class”. My grandfather did not want to put up with it, wanted to become more Russian, and changed his surname to Medynsky. My father, Yevgeny Nikolaevich, was a scientist all his life, “grown up” to an academic, a member of the Presidium of the Academy of Educational Sciences. He has a lot of textbooks on pedagogy. And where only I have not met them. I remember we were shooting in the Kremlin, in Lenin’s office. Next to us, like a bayonet, a KGB officer. He’s sternly passing through his teeth: “So. Move the devices, they shine brightly at you. Turn off the lights, you’re all overheated. Why do you have a tripod here, well, aside! You can’t make any noise. And let’s hurry…” He’s in charge. I see that there are books in the Swedish locker. I read roots: E.N. Medzinsky “Children’s Education in Russia,” E.N. Medzinsky “Problems of Education Assistance” … “These are father’s books!” – could not stand, cried out with surprise. “What father?” the Chekist misunderstood. “Yes my father,” I say, “my father. It was first published in 1912 as a specialist in national education.” “Yes?” the man looks suspiciously at the spine, at me. I’ve been thinking about something. And then it came to him that Lenin himself had read my father’s books!.. And now the guard is quite different, sharply so warmed voice says: “Guys, will you be here for a long time?” “No, probably an hour, not more.” “Well, then I’ll wait in the hallway.” And he left, giving us complete freedom of action. We were happy, and we took a slow shot. I came home, my mother, and I tell you, “I don’t know what trust you deserve – for your father’s work!”

– After that incident, apparently, you were allowed to take pictures in the mausoleum?

– To be honest, I haven’t been there yet. We once filmed in the Kremlin, and the guys from our group were invited to look at the leader of the world proletariat in a coffin, but I politely refused. Out of pure principle. Foolish, probably, principle, but what is.

Are you afraid of the dead?

“No, I’m a front-line soldier… But here’s 1952, we’re shooting in Yakutia. There are a lot of prisoners, we filmed a group of civilians – at some factory, the metal is melted in some artisanal way. And the lighter, Yashka Revikin, suddenly runs up, bulging his eyes: “Listen, here the officer asked the gay man, showing you: they say, his last name is not Medynsky? I said I don’t know, I’ve been working recently.” Scared like that! I look at the officer and I recognize the man who used to be a pioneer leader at our school. So he went to the KGB. It’s been so many years, but I’ve recognized me. And I remember so well, apparently, for a reason. I had my first love, Yulechka Khomenkova. We go with her once on Chernyshevsky Street, she says: “Vaughn, Seryozha, carefully look – I was called there.” And there is no sign, nothing, but windows with bars. I ask: “What is the matter?” – “And I was told: Yulechka, you Komsomolskaya Pravda, friends with Medynsky, what he says, what he does – about everything, please tell us. Through the PioneerIng Connection…” Such meanness and vileness flourished in the country. And who would thank me for all this? First of all, Lenin…

” It is strange that your parents were not imprisoned… Why do you think?

” Well, not everyone was imprisoned. I guess I didn’t have enough hands at all… My parents tried to lead a closed life. Even from the cottage, when offered to take on Nikolina Grief, refused. Too many friends lived there, could knock. Honestly, I have no idea how our parents lived. Here I am watching now this terrible film – “Lenin’s will”, because the remnants of hair stand on end. After watching even tore up a photo of one of my favorite women, I had an affair with her, however, in 47 years. She was two years older than me. One day she said, “Serge, remember: Stalin is a genius.” Wait, I answered, and Hitler then – also a genius? “How can you compare!” Right and left hand – yes, they do not look like, but still it is one organism … And I had a German acquaintance, Friedrich, an anti-fascist – sat with the Germans and ours. I asked him once: what is the difference? Nothing, he says. But in the Gestapo I was beaten and demanded that I confess and tell the truth, and in Russia I was beaten and demanded that I tell a lie. That’s the nuance.

– From the leaders of the state, who else but Stalin, you have ever looked into the peephole of the camera?

– Yes, all those who follow him – and Khrushchev, and Brezhnev … I had a close conversation with Brezhnev.

How close?

“At arm’s length… In India, in the Taj Mahal, we filmed our government delegation culturally spending their free time. And I remembered the artist Vereshchagin, calculated the point from which he wrote his famous canvas, and went to make his frame from there. Calmly removed everything, I go back, and suddenly I see – Leonid Brezhnev is separated from the group. I can’t figure out where he’s going, there’s no one close to me. I’m going to meet. And he doesn’t swerve, suddenly throws a guilty look at me, comes quite close, reaches out to me, passes the cigarette butt and says, “Please throw, I don’t know what to do with it.” Clean around is perfect and not a single urn. I say: “Leonid Ilyich, do not worry – everything will be done as it should!”

“What is he?”

” Nods, turns, and slowly back. To their own. I’m looking for an urn.

“Why a fool?

“But how could it be done with Leonid Ilyich’s cigarette butt? Unforgivable! Now he would have been lying in a crystal vessel in me like a relic… But the most interesting thing is that when I saw Comrade Brezhnev near, it may not be immediately, but in general I realized – such as he, us, the Soviet people, are not suitable for comrades. He had a Swiss watch on his hand, a tie, a shirt, a suit, shoes – all abroad. Even the glasses in dark glasses – Ceys… But then trumpeted that the Soviet – the best. The inconsistency is clear…

– How did you see everything?

“It’s such a profession.

I don’t like jokes about Chukchi

” You’ve traveled half the world, if not more. Determined with the most attractive place on earth?

“Perhaps it’s Chukotka. The first trip there in 1954 lasted for six months – there will be no less there … Since then, there are a lot of friends and acquaintances. Here we go, for example, in the sea. Water is like a smooth table, and you can’t see where it fits in with the sky. And we swim, the motor tuk-tuk-tuk, whales sometimes come out, kayers fly, seagulls. I’m sitting there thinking, is this all happening to me? And the Chukchi are sitting, talking in their own way. They ask, “Sergei, are we going to make tea?” Primus was put on a bench, pumped, lit, tea boiled. “Do you have a mug?” one asks. “No, on the beach.” Takes his mug, rinsed in the sea and says to me: “On mine, I have not drunk yet.” It’s insanely touching… If you wander, you’ll feel uncomfortable. To do this, he rinses and warns: I have not drunk yet … Do you understand the nuance of the relationship?

“I think so. Chukchi, like children?

– That’s right: childishly clean, naive, trusting… That’s why I don’t like jokes about Chukchi. These are amazing people. With a complicated, sad fate, of course. The last time I arrived – in 89 – he would come to meet me and say, “You’re like, “You don’t recognize me?” “No, I don’t think so. “I’m Gunn! “Gunn, darling, I didn’t recognize you. “Why didn’t you recognize me?” “And he was younger than me on my first visit. And the last time I arrived, he looked a lot older. Because life there is very difficult. Everyone teased me and asked me: what did I leave and lose in Chukotka? I’ve lost nothing but contact with these people. In 54 was the first time, at 89 – the last, probably. It’s a pity that it is very difficult to get there now.

– And in some troubles you probably got there? I say so, because also had to visit those places – severe and quite dangerous for the life of an unprepared person.

– My favorite artist is Rukoell Kent, he has a painting called “The Funeral in Greenland.” There are four Eskimos and as if looking into the grave, located between the viewer and the depicted. They have on their faces both indifference and peace, and some bewilderment, and obedience to fate. I realized how great the artist Rukoell Kent was when one day we went on dog sleds from one Chukchi village to another. It was impossible to go on the tundra – the snow had not fallen yet, and the sea was dangerous – the ice was not strong. Waited three days, it seems there was a coastal priss. Well, and with God. And here I am sitting on my narthas, in front of me the fur back of the kaura. Dog sled – six dogs, in my opinion, there are still sleds ahead. The low winter sun hangs over the horizon. The strait is not frozen yet, from the water the sysis of steam rises. On the right, the sheer cliffs of Chukotka are both pink and orange. And under the runners slips something lilac, blue, greenish. I perceive everything around as a miracle and think: does the kayur not pay attention? Maybe it’s familiar for him… And suddenly I see that they are waving their hands in front of us. I do not have time to think what are these signs such as suddenly we roll out on the ice – not white, thick, and some grayish-blue. And he’s swaying! The young ice is battered by a wave: it raises, then lowers. And I finally realize that the strait is breathing like this, and it’s only a few centimetres before the living water. I feel like something strange is going on. And I ask the kayur, “What will happen?” On the faces of people in the picture “The Funeral in Greenland” just the same obedience is depicted …

But I see that the ice doesn’t fall through, it seems to sink early. I say to the kayur, “Come on.” I get up myself and feel under my feet some mattress elusive. But I’m in torboses of dried sedge, I’m wearing fur stockings, chuni – in general, there is a decent plane of support. I’m not failing, it’s good. The dogs felt that I got up, they felt better, and they reached forward. Kaur, too, slid down from the narth, got up on all fours. I see a small space of seven meters in front. Ice under the weight of the narth sags, and when pass, will rise. Narthas are heavy even without sedaks, my camera and kayura carbine are tied to them with belts. I see they didn’t drown, the dogs pulled the sleds on the nice ice and ran forward – happy!.. As I remember now, I’m making a step, I’ve put my hands up, I’m saying, don’t come, don’t come! I’m afraid the two of us will fail. And here we are, like two big birds, with their arms outstretched, slowly unfolding. And to the hard ice of three meters, but it is necessary to go through such an unthinkable swell! We walk silently with our arms outstretched… And when I finally fell on the hard ice, the feeling was indescribable! Life itself has returned to me… Kaur caught up with the narthas, calmed the dogs and soon we got to the place safely.

What struck me most about this story? The submissiveness of the cayur when he said, “We will sink now.” He did not contradict fate. Because there is such a belief in the Chukchi: if a person drowns in the cold sea, it is evil spirits take him, they can not resist. I still, as I remember that obedience, frost on the skin.

– Chukotka, as far as I understand, you have mastered already without Carmen?

– Yes, this is my own initiative. Chukotka – I don’t know why – has always attracted me. And the Far East as a whole. Here’s one of the letters I wrote back home at the time:

I was on the Kurils,
I was in Kamchatka, in the city of Khabarovsk I put on gloves.
Shaved in the barbershop somewhere in
Chukotka, in the tea room of Blagoveshchensk drank a stack of vodka.
In Komsomolsk I thought, over
Amur standing, And in Okhotsk, I remember, listened to the sound of the surf.
I blew my fingers in Birobidzhan,
and then in Sovgavani I washed in the bath for a long time.
I was in the Far North, I saw the Eskimos,
I talked to them, I asked a number of questions.
Clouds from the sky are dripping, like a ureter.
I’m a Far Easterner.

At some point I wanted to leave the capital office of the CSDF, where I already had authority, I received recognition, but felt that under the wing of Carmen I turn out to be somehow too prosperous. I felt somehow uncomfortable and went to work at the Far Eastern documentary studio.

The best shot is the one he refused

– Sergey Evgenyevich, how many films have you made in all – have you ever counted?

“I don’t think so. But not much. You know, what’s the point: for example, in Vietnam during the war had to shoot three months – such was the shooting period. I got to Chukotka – so immediately for six months. BAM – about the same timing. I’ve been working on my paintings for a long time. Not immediately everything worked out. That’s why I can’t boast about the amount.

“But did something work? I ask so, because I can not remember, for example, domestic films about American aggression in Vietnam, but you shot …

– That’s right, but these films were not shown here. Okay, some episodes. At the time I was working in television, 1971. For example, I was forbidden to take off the fighting, oddly enough. And if the fire was able to capture some kind of alarm, the accompanying people disapproved of the working camera – who knows why.

– Have our rocket launchers at least perpetuated – or was it also secret?

– We didn’t shoot our rocket launchers only in the port – economic aid. Perhaps the most poignant memory is when the port is bombed in Haifon, and I see how at the same time quite nearby on the dusty lawn boys play football with a rag ball.

“Have you taken it off?”

“No, I don’t think so. I was the only one there. Saved money, so I had to be an operator, and a director, and a lighter, and a loader, and a sound engineer – a multifaceted such name Janus. To get a camera, a tripod, to set everything up – it’s time… And then there’s the food, I see – the children are playing, and among them one boy on crutches, one-legged. Rushes on the field, as everything, when the ball accidentally flies in his direction – hits him with his only foot and looks absolutely happy!.. I really wanted to shoot this episode, but I didn’t. I think: why direct a camera at a boy? He will understand that only as a disabled person interested me – it will be inconvenient … I didn’t take pictures. To be honest, I still don’t regret it.

– It’s a good time – we could have received some more prize.

“I guess. But this is not, I think, happiness… I didn’t make any other similar story on purpose. The bridge over the river – Red, it seems – is one and a half kilometers. And suddenly a one-legged cyclist leaves right in front of us. He’s wearing a cork helmet, in a military gymnastics, crutches tied to a bicycle, the only foot is pedalling. And I think: here to take out the camera and take off – a long, long passage, and then to put the captions: “Vietnam is invincible. Because here perseverance is in the movement towards the goal…” But again I did not do it – speculation on disabled people seemed to me inappropriate.

– I wonder if Carmen would refuse such a frame?

– With Carmen, I know, this happened too. Once in France, on the coast, he saw a procession of Catholic believers – people walked with crosses, carried statuettes of saints. He wondered: to shoot? It’s 56 years old. But how will they feel? What if they don’t like this intervention? And he didn’t even take the camera out. Suddenly, a little girl of eight with a cross on her chest falls to her knees and crawls on the sand to that procession, then for a moment freezes, whispers something, apparently praying. The master aroused: it is necessary, what panorama something missed! But the camera never bothered to get. The feelings of believers are sacred…

– And you had a lot of moments in life that you would like to capture on film, but you had to be delicate? Badly regretted?

– You know, it is not necessary to regret something lost in such situations. You act generously, and people are grateful for it. In one fishing village, in Vietnam, I was given a souvenir: a case from a ball bomb. There was no explosives, but the thing is terrible. Deadly balls, which started such bombs, had the peculiarity of flying on unthinkable trajectories, hit on a huge space all living things … I knew that the Vietnamese had been bombed, entire villages were being destroyed, and all of a sudden they were giving me this thing with shining faces. To be honest, my mother was very ill at that time, I didn’t even want to go on a business trip, refused. But they said to me, well, you have to! I went, but I was scared all the time worried about my mother. And then there is the constant tension from the war. All this somehow came together, nerves could not stand, and I burst into a burst of cheering … The Vietnamese were afraid: sorry – they’re going to burst… Yes, no, I say, guys, you’ll forgive me… And then all of a sudden, when I left, they say to me with cunning faces, “Tati-Sergey, or we can pass the letter to one person.” And it wasn’t supposed then, we had no right to bring anything from abroad. But how could I say no to them? Okay, I’m telling you, let’s do it. And they suddenly hold out an envelope to me that says, “Eugene Ilyinichna Medynskaya.” I was dumb with me: how did they know the name? But I took the letter home, and my mother then read with pride to me: “Thank you for raising your son…”

– Are you a happy man, Sergey Evgenyevich?

“Of course I’m happy. Everything was: difficulties, troubles, betrayals, meanness, but it’s such nonsense compared to the main.

What do you think is the main thing?


From the dossier

Sergey Medynsky was born in 1922 in Yekaterinburg. Despite the “white ticket”, he volunteered for the front, fought until Victory. He was awarded military orders and medals. In 1950 he graduated from the VGIK Faculty of Cinematography. In 1950-69 – cameraman, director of the CSDF. He worked in the group of the famous Soviet documentary filmmaker R.L. Carmen. Winner of the Lenin Prize 1960 (for the films “The Tale of the Caspian Oil Workers”, “The Conquerors of the Sea”). In 1970-90 he worked in the “Ekran” State TV and Radio of the USSR. Since 1973, VGIK teacher, head of creative workshop, professor. In 1996-2002, he was the head of the Department of Cinematography at the Institute of Excellence of TV Workers. He is the author of a number of articles, books on the theory of documentary film. Distinguished Artist of Russia.

He lived with his wife Valentina for 53 years and seven months. She died in December 95. Daughter Olga, works in television.