Vladivostok Film Commission

Norwegian actress: to play Karenina in Russia was a challenge which I wished to accept
May 5th, 2017
The Norwegian movie star Gorild Mauseth had a great success playing Anna Karenina in theater at home and she never thought of playing this role in Russia. A sudden offer has come from Primorsky Regional Drama Theater to play Karenina at their stage and it has become the main challenge of her life, and changed her completely. During a trip to the Far East along the Trans-Siberian Railway in 2013, Mouset tried to learn a language she did not know, penetrate into Tolstoy's plan and re-understand her heroine. The spouse of Mauseth - Italian director Tommaso Mottola - devoted four years of work on the film, which tells how the artistic quest of the Norwegian actress helped her to find herself and look into the soul of Tolstoy's character. The Karenina & I film, which genre is not easy to identify, was presented to the Norwegian audience this spring and is scheduled to be screened at film festivals in Europe and Russia. The director and actress told TASS about the history of the creation and development of the idea of the film, its perception of the image of Karenina and further plans.

- Mrs. Mauseth, how did your acquaintance with the novel of Tolstoy and his, perhaps, the most famous heroine happened?

Mouseth: I never imagined myself in this role. I saw two screen versions of the novel - with Greta Garbo, who, incidentally, like me in the theater, twice played Karenina in the cinema - with different actors in the roles of Karenin, Vronsky and Seryozha. It seemed to me that for the role of Karenina this type of actress fits well. When I was offered this role in Norway, I refused. I was asked if I had read the novel. I had to admit that, to my shame, I did not read, like many people around the world who say that they read "Anna Karenina," but in reality they did not.

I was sent a book, and, in my opinion, to the 78th page, I realized why the role was offered to me. I also realized that Tolstoy's Karenina was completely different from Greta Garbo. I finished the novel and was completely conquered by this way. Yes, outwardly I was like her, but inside was a completely different person. It is always very tempting for an actor to play a hero who behaves completely differently than you would. You have to think differently, to challenge yourself, to discover new unusual lines of life and your own personality.

- Agreeing to come to Vladivostok, you launched a whole series of events that led to the creation of the film, which took four years to complete. How did things develop?

Mottola: It all started with the fact that Gerild for two months went on tour in 57 cities with the State Theater of Norway (Riksteatret). It was 2012 year. At that moment I still did not know that the artistic director of the theater Ellen Horn, having suggested Gorild role in "Anna Karenina," insisted that during the tour she was not be separated from our son. Only later did we understand why it was so important.

The actress and her passion, the actress and her family - in a sense, all this was very much like the situation of Anna Karenina at the moment when she meets love and is torn between her and her family, the son of Sergei. Somehow I had the right mood. I had to travel together with Görild, sit with the child and try to ensure that during the tour she could spend with him as much time as possible, and he with her. The first month I felt like Karenin, who is trying to keep the family whole. This experience enriched me spiritually - I watched the performance many times and loved it passionately. Soon I had to leave for Russia to the Far East, and Görild wanted to go with me. I made her a condition. You want to go to Russia - the family will be on you, and I will do my own business.

- But how then did it happen that you went to Vladivostok to play Karenina on the stage of the Russian theater?

Mauseth: It's been a while since we stayed in Vladivostok for three months. Tommaso worked on the script, and now I was Karenin. Zvenyatsky asked for a new meeting, we arrived. He looked at me, held the program in his hands, then pointed to it and said in Russian: "I want this." I answered that it is impossible, the show is no longer on, there will not be any new tours. He shook his head and explained that he wanted to put the Russian version of the play with me in the lead role. The remaining roles were to be performed by Russian actors from Primorsky Drama Theater. Zvenyatsky told me to return to Oslo and persuade the State Theater, director Morten Borgersen, choreographer, costume designer and light artist to come to Russia and put a copy of the Norwegian performance.

- And what was planned to do with the language barrier problem? After all, before you started working on the Russian version of the play, you did not learn Russian.

Mauseth: Efim said that I can perform this role in any language. Repeated: "You will be for me Karenina, even if you speak Japanese." For him it did not matter, but I wanted to learn the language and pronounce my cues in Russian. It was important for me to understand the author better. It seems to me that the actor is able, like no other, to approach the writer. Without the author's words, without his descriptions, without his thoughts, we are none. They are our food, without which we can not go on stage or appear in front of the camera. Our task is to transform these words into a feeling that the viewer can share with us.

- It looks like we came to the point where the idea of the film matured in your head. What was the idea behind this project?

Mottola: Gorild agreed on everything with Efim. I convinced everyone at the State Theater, once again flew to Vladivostok, and we returned home to Rome. Two months later the text of the treaty came and it's time to make a final decision - the same situation as before the tour in Norway. I understood that the family should not be separated and that it was very important for Gorild to get to know Russia more closely. How to combine all this? And then the idea of the film came to me. Everything revolves around the family - and we, and Tolstoy. The first phrase of the novel is devoted to families.

I told Gorild that I would make a film about this experience, that she should follow her passion, and from this an interesting story will turn out. I liked it all: the actress poses a very difficult task and goes on a long journey. I felt that I could connect this with the core of the story "Anna Karenina" - the struggle for love and the consequences of the decision to succumb to the call of the heart. I told her: you will not fly to Vladivostok by plane, you will go by train with me and Baltasar - our son, who was then 5 years old.

We will cross Russia from the coast of the Barents Sea, where you grew up, and to the Pacific Ocean. You will have an extra month to learn the language, get acquainted with people. I will ask all my friends and acquaintances in Russia to help you understand the origins of the image of Karenina and the plan of Tolstoy, and find Karenina in yourself. I started to work on the script.

- But nevertheless it is about you with Karenina, about how this role and this trip influenced you.

Mauseth: I did not realize until the last that this film is also about me personally, about my "roots", about my country. I was focused on finding the "roots" of Karenina in Russia, studying the language, this task I gave myself 100%. And only when everything was over, I realized that the film turned out much deeper. He is about me, and about my profession.

Mottola: During the trip, I was not yet very well aware of the direction in which the picture will develop. It seemed to me a great idea to capture on the film a journey through Russia and a difficult road to the premiere of the play. But something unexpected happened. As we recently explained the great-granddaughter of the writer Fyokla Tolstaya, from the contact with Tolstoy, any idea begins to expand, and this can not be stopped. It's as if Tolstoy is pushing you and everything along with you is farther and higher, and the development of the universal questions posed to them is becoming a challenge for you. This is indeed so. By the end of 2013, I thought that all the material for the film was already collected. We had a lot of filmed - travel, a magnificent performance in Vladivostok, beautiful actors. But six months passed, and Görild was still obsessed with Karenina. Actors should be able to leave behind the roles played, to take on new ones, but it did not work. She called me from Kyoutukain in Arctic Norway, I was in London, and she said: "Tommaso, please come, we need to shoot. I need a scene in my homeland, I need Anna in the snow, a part of me in this image." At first I refused, but she convinced me. We were three - me, she and the operator Andreas Eusland. On a mountain plateau in Northern Norway. June, a polar day, a midnight sun, snow. There we shot the future final scene of the film. An incredibly beautiful image, but then I still did not know what to do with it: Anna goes to the distance on skis, disappearing among wild nature ...

- Do you plan to bring the film to Russia and offered it to the organizers of several festivals. How do you think it will be perceived in Russia? I, like many of my compatriots, are always very curious about how foreigners see our country, its culture and literature, and the film is just about that.

Mottola: I really want the Russian viewer to be able to see our film. Not only at festivals, but also just in the movies, it's shot for a big screen. This film, of course, can not be compared with blockbusters and kinoneynstrim, but a Russian audience who is well acquainted with the book might be interested in another view of Anna Karenina, not limited to the screening of the novel. In it, of course, there is no dramatic scene of Anna's death, there is no choreography of the feature film, brilliant scenery and costumes, but there is something unique. The results of the work of a German playwright, Norwegian theater director and Italian film director, embodied on stage and screen by a talented actress. In this film there is a soul and the living flesh of Anna.

We will be happy to show the picture in many cities of Russia, starting from Moscow, and would like to see "Karenina and I" repeat our way across the country to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

- At the final stage of the film, the British actor Liam Neeson joined the project. How did it happen?

Mauseth: I called him, because we needed money to finish the film, and I thought that maybe he would want to invest in our project. At about the same time, I discovered in my novel Tolstoy's voice, I wanted the film to have excerpts from a book that are not in the play, but which illustrate what I discovered for myself. I wanted to be read by Liam.

"I tend to be quite expensive," he told me. But he added that he was ready to invest in the film work, which was much better than the money to pay bills, because his name gave the picture additional benefits. At first he thought he would just read the voiceover text, something like "Our heroes arrived in Moscow, begins their journey along the Trans-Siberian Railway ..." "No, no," I told him. "You will be Tolstoy." His voice was to unite all parts of the film. He read the text that I sent him, and replied in a letter: "If you and Tommaso think that I will turn out to be Leo Tolstoy, then I undertake." So for him, it was an interesting challenge, a non-trivial offscreen work. I am very proud that he decided to participate, and what we have together turned out. The result can be seen in the film.

- And what impressions did you have left from working with Russian actors in Vladivostok? How are the Norwegian theater actors different from the Russian ones, did you just work together?

Mauseth: People in Norway and Russia do not differ much from each other, but there are certain differences, for example, when communicating men with women. We Norwegians are more relaxed. My Russian colleagues were excellent professionals, they were responsible for their work, they were very patient and respectful with me. My Russian probably made them laugh more than once, although they tried to keep serious faces.

- The director of the play, Morten Borgersen, told me that the language barrier you were trying to overcome at some point turned into a metaphor. Anna is not understood by anyone around her, as if she speaks another language.

Mauseth: Yes, it emphasizes her loneliness. The ostracism to which she is exposed. This is perfectly described in Tolstoy, and the problem of language makes this idea much more obvious. However, if I did not try to learn all my cues in Russian, I would never have worked so well with other actors. They had to understand me, and me - them.

Source: TASS Information Agency

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