The Dovzhenko Centre Special Program “Literary Movie Canon. Volume One”

The Dovzhenko Centre Special Program “Literary Movie Canon. Volume One”

Cinema has always been inspired by literature, and all significant new waves of national cinema, in one way or another, followed the rise of literature. The history of Ukrainian cinema is no exception. In the 1920s, the first significant period of our cinema was preceded by the appearance of a whole generation of talented writers and their works. Subsequently, some of the authors tried their hand at the film industry, which was rapidly developing in Ukraine.

Through the literary tradition, a wave of poetic cinema was also born, which literally began with the screen adaptation of Mykhailo Kotsiubynskyi’s novel Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors and ended with another appeal to Gogol in The Lost Letter

In our program, we will show three films based on iconic literary works: Dream, based on Shevchenko’s poem; the eccentric film adaptation of Gogol’s The Eve of Ivan Kupalo, and the epic film adaptation of Zakhar Berkut by Ivan Franko.

Each of these films is an interesting example of how literary primary sources have been used differently in cinema. Each of them shows how, based on original works and ideological distortions made according to party orders or censorship norms, Ukrainian cinematographers managed to bring important themes of national history and issues of Ukrainian identity to the screens.


Program Films


The Ukrainian SSR, Oleksandr Dovzhenko Film Studio, 1964, 80 min

Director: Volodymyr Denysenko

Screenwriter: Dmytro Pavlychko and Volodymyr Denysenko

Director of Photography: Mykhailo Chornyi

Starring: Ivan Mykolaichuk, Yura Leontiev, Dmytro Miliutenko, Nataliia Naum, Kostiantyn Stepankov, Mikhail Dierzhavin, Vasyl Dashenko, Dmytro Franko, Ivan Kononenko, Volodymyr Honcharov, Yukhym Kopelian, and Raisa Nedashkivska

A biographical film about the poet Taras Shevchenko, which tells about his life from childhood to exile. The plot is built simultaneously on the poem Dream, Shevchenko’s memories after the interrogation, his fantasies, visions, and events that took place in the history of Ukraine.



The Ukrainian SSR, Oleksandr Dovzhenko Film Studio, 1968, 72 min

Director: Yurii Illenko

Screenwriter: Yurii Illenko

Director of Photography: Vadym Illenko

Starring: Larysa Kadochnykova, Borys Khmelnytskyi, Yukhym Fridman, Dmytro Franko, Boryslav Brondukov, Mykhailo Illenko, Viktor Panchenko, Davyd Yanover, and Kostiantyn Yershov

A screen adaptation of the novel of the same name by Mykola Gogol, where the director Yurii Illenko hid the real mythological story of Ukraine behind the story about the Ukrainian Faust. The young village inhabitant Petro fell in love with his master’s daughter, and the girl reciprocated the guy’s love. This alone wouldn’t be a problem if only the father didn’t refuse to give his daughter in marriage to a laborer. From grief, Petro goes to a tavern, where he meets Basavriuk, whom everyone considers to be the devil. Basavriuk offers Petro a terrible deal, which should help the guy marry the beautiful girl.



The Ukrainian SSR, Oleksandr Dovzhenko Film Studio, 1972, 72 min

Director: Leonid Osyka

Screenwriter: Dmytro Pavlychko

Director of Photography: Valerii Kvas

Composer: Volodymyr Huba

Starring: Ivan Mykolaichuk, Kostiantyn Stepankov, Boryslav Brondukov, Ivan Havryliuk, and Antonina Leftii

A screen adaptation of Ivan Franko’s novel of the same name. The selfish and evil boyar Tuhar Vovk takes possession of the land of one of the Carpathian villages. He believes that the local people, who are used to being free, are now his property. Having lost the confrontation, he flees to the Mongols, promising them a benefit. Now the farmers and hunters, led by the wise Zakhar Berkut, have to fight the Mongols. Meanwhile, love flares up between Zakhar Berkut’s son, Maksym, and the boyar’s daughter, Myroslava.