The Arty Semite

Animating Brodsky In a Room and a Half of His Own

By Ezra Glinter

  • Print
  • Share Share

When the Russian-born American poet Joseph Brodsky won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1987, he was asked whether he thought of himself as an American or a Russian writer. “I am Jewish — a Russian poet and an English essayist,” he replied. Born into a Jewish family in Leningrad in 1940, he was exiled in 1972 on charges of “parasitism” and moved to the United States, where he became a citizen in 1977.

Whether to his regret or relief, Brodsky never returned to the Soviet Union. In “A Room and a Half,” Russian animator and director Andrey Khrzhanovsky imagines what Brodsky’s return might have been like. As critic and novelist Sonya Chung describes it for The Millions:

It is no surprise that a central theme of Khrzhanovsky’s Brodsky story is return: an elder Brodsky — let’s say a fictional 57 — travels by ship to his native St. Petersburg. En route, he remembers, narrates, imagines. Animated cats, crows, and other winged figures (Khrzhanovsky is primarily known as a master animator) populate the screen, i.e. Brodsky’s memory and imagination. In one of the film’s most memorable visual moments, young Joseph, who has just witnessed the selling off of the family piano (likely more of a confiscation than a sale, the first ominous signs of Jewish removal from Leningrad), imagines all the musical instruments of the city staging a kind of inspired/conspired escape, floating high above the monumental structures of history and politics, and reuniting to form a heavenly orchestra in the sky.

The first full-length feature from the 69-year-old Khrzhanovsky, “A Room and a Half” is currently playing at Film Forum in New York.

Watch the (unfortunately unsubtitled) trailer below, as well as Khrzhanovsky’s first film, ‘There Lived a Man Called Koyzavin’:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: St. Petersburg, Sonya Chung, Poetry, Joseph Brodsky, Russia, Nobel Prize, Film, Ezra Glinter, Animation, Andrey Khrzhanovsky, A Room and a Half, The Millions

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.