Shakespeare in Russian is a wondrous thought. But it has been done and Lenfilm Studio's production of Twelfth Night is done quite well. There are a few perilous moments. When Viola first sees Duke Orsino whom she is to wed, she rips off her unfeminine cloak and, radiant in something like a strapless evening gown, exclaims (in Russian), "I'll serve him." The next shot shows the duke, his fair hair rippling in the wind, gazing like a bowsprit at the horizon.
Despite the pleasure that the director (Y. Fried) seems to take in noble poses, most of the straight scenes are successful. And that is due to a lovely Viola, Katya Luchko, who is also a powerful actress. While serious roles are done in a somewhat over stylized way. The Russian actors are magnificent in the comic scenes. The conspiracy against Malvolio is a pleasure to watch, and his final downfall is a great success, ingeniously accomplished.
In the comic roles and in some of the serious ones, the Russians make humorious Italians. Against Katya Luchko's fine Viola, Anna Larionova is a rather large Olivia. As Duke Orsino and Sir Toby Belch, V. Medvediev and M. Yanshin are, respectively, stolid and solid. In a funny role the latter is very funny. The rest of Sir Toby's circle is just as good. Sir Andrew Aguecheek (G. Vipin), Maria (A. Lisyanskaya), the clown (B. Freindlich), and Fabian (S. Filippov) conspire wonderfully with their hands, grunts, and songs as well as their (Russian) words. Though his role loses depth in the director's editing, V. Merkuriev as Malvolio is a fine victim for the happy crew of conspirators.
What troubles the movie is that the familiar lines sometimes sound silly in another language, especially since it is Russian. Making a concession to the titles though, the movie is well worth seeing. There is also a short of songs of the Auvergne.