The Master and Margarita



« Any power will always be violence against men. »

Mikhaïl Bulgakov

Production company: Dunav film, Beograd, 1972. Euro International Film S.p.A.Rome
Screenplay: Based on the novel by Mikhaïl Bulgakov. Aleksandar Petrović in collaboration Barbara Alberti, Amedeo Pagani
Director: Aleksandar Petrović
Assistant director: Vladimir Basara, Nikola Lorencin
Set Desing: Vlastimir Gavrik
Cinematography: Nikola Majdak
Director of photography: Roberto Gerardi
Costumes: Divna Jovanović
Special effects: Dušan Vukotić
Artistic director: Nikola Rajić
Production: Arigo Colombo
Film editing: Mihailo Ilić
Music theme: Ennio Morricone
Choice of music: Aleksandar Petrović
Music: Bless us Bishop (Évêque bénit nous)
Man’s suffering (Russian folk song)
Russian tango (P. Leščenko) – Tango russe
Cast: Ugo Tognazzi, Mimsy Farmer, Alain Cuny, Velimir Bata Živojinović, Pavle Vujisić, Fabijan Šovagović, Ljuba Tadić, Taško Načić, Danilo Bata Stojković, Fahro Konjhodzić, Zlatko Madunić, Radomir Reljić, Janez Vrhovec, Branka Veselinović, Eugen Verber, Šandor Medve, Vasa Pantelić, Aleksandar Đurić, Anela Gojkov, Eva Ras, Branislav Jerenić Branko Pleša


majstor i Margarita1 Aleksandar Petrovic majstor i Margarita2 Aleksandar Petrovic majstor i Margarita5 Aleksandar Petrovic majstor i Margarita41 Aleksandar Petrovic Additional photos

Excerpts from pressbook:

The Devil in Moscow…

Some may believe in the existence of the devil. Others, if they choose to, can say that the Master, Bulgakov and myself had simply dreamed of him. I cant say what the Master and Bulgakov would have said, for they are both dead, but I am more inclined to believing in the Devil than not. – A.P.

Plot Summary:

“A benevolent Mephistopheles”

The plot begins in the most realistic of ways, with an image of snowy Moscow in 1920. A highly reknown writer (so much so that he is called “The Master”), Nikolaï Maksoudov, attempts to produce a play called Pontius Pilate. Rehearsals begin but the powerful “Union of Atheist Writers” run by a man named Berlioz delays the premiere in the hopes that Maksoudov will give up his play. It is already inconceivable in the eyes of these materialists that the hero of this play is a person who, in their view, has never existed: Christ. It is even more intolerable that he says things like: “All power will always be a form of violence against mankind. The time will come when there will be no power, not from Caesar or any other.” This is an audacious thing to say during Stalinism.

Little by little, Maksoudov is abandoned by everyone he knows, publicly berated by other writers, chased out of his modest home and finally admitted into a facility for dementia. At the same time, two things come to his rescue: the first, clearly human, in the form of a young woman named Margarita, the wife of a police officer, who compassionately understands the man and accepts to compromise herself and her reputation; the second is a much more mysterious being, an extremely effective and shameless professor of dark magic called Woland who is always accompanied by a large black cat and two acolytes who are half hobo, half crooks. In the spirit of Bulgakov and Petrovic as well, this professor Woland is none other than the devil himself. Though he has been an enemy of Jesus for much longer than Leninist Marxists, Beelzebub would not stand the doubt that Christ existed. For that would deny the existence of the devil as well. Woland-Satan has therefore decided to “Christianize” Moscow, not by religious fervor as we can imagine, but because materialism disgusts him. He attends the rehearsals of Pontius Pilate and comments such things as: “The set design is perfect but Pilate didn’t quite have that voice.” Then, when things start to look up for Maksoudov, he begins playing tricks on the Stalinists, going so far as to throw Berlioz under the wheels of a tram after having allowed himself the luxury of predicting his death to him.

Finally, on the day when Pontius Pilate was supposed to premiere, he takes the miserable Maksoudov to the theater (for real or in his imagination?) after having ridiculed the materialistic henchmen in the theater. A few hours later, Maksoudov dies. Woland tells him: “Jesus said, “It’s a shame that your play wasn’t finished. You will not know the light, but you will know peace.’”

Awards, honors, festivals:

  • Film review, Banja Koviljača, Serbia 2016
  • International Film Festival Cinema City, Novi Sad, 2009- Homage to the national author Aleksandar Sacha Petrović
  • Festival l’Europe around Europe Festival, Freedom and dependence, Paris, March 2010
  • Serbian film Festival, Paris-Normandie, 2006
  • Documentary Film Festival of Rennes (Programme spécial) November 17- 22, 1992
  • 9 th Istanbul International Film Festival, (Yugoslav Films program), 1990
  • Georges Pompidou Center, Paris, Yugoslav Cinema, 1986
  • Grand Prix Cinéma 73-74 “ELLE”.
  • Art films in Pau, France, June 1974: GRAND MEDAL  « EDELWEISS D’ARGENT» de la Ville de PAU, GRAND SILVER MEDAL Henri IV de la Ville de PAU
  • Meeting with cinema Niš, Yugoslavia 1973: GRAND PRIX for Best Movie
  • Mini Festival in Rouen, France, october 1973
  • Vienna International Film Festival 1973- selection for Best movies of the year:  VIENNALE PRIZE
  • 26th Cannes Film Festival, 1973 (not in competition)
  • Best movie of the year 1972 (poll of the Yugoslav audience)
  • Los Angeles International Film Festival, November 1972
  • International film Festival in Denia, Spain: November 18-26, 1972
  • International film Festival in Carthage, Tunisia, Sept 30-Oct 10,1972
  • 8th Chicago International Film Festival November 3-23, 1972: HUGO D’ARGENT (for the screen adaptation and the visual transposition of Bulgakov’s theme and for Alain Cuny’s performance as Satan).
  • 33rd Venice Film Festival 1972:
  • LEONE D’ARGENTO (Silver Lion)
  • PRIX CIDALC for best on-screen adaptation of literary work PLACA D’ORO SAN MARCO
  • 20th Pula Film Festival (Yugoslavia), 1972:

GRAND PRIX (Golden Arena) for Best Film

GRAND PRIX (Golden Arena) for Best Film

GRAND PRIX GOLDEN DOOR (zlatna vrata Pule) for Best Film,

GRAND PRIX (Golden Arena) for Best Set design

GRAND PRIX (Golden Arena) for Best Actor

Press Excerpts:

  • The Master and Margarita, the epic novel by the Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov, is such a considerable and large work that it defies any cinematic adaptation, even Fellini refusedA must see. Crazy and sublime. LA CROIX

    “ ‘…When tyranny strangles the Holy Spirit, Satan is in charge in the meantime…’

    Saints and cathedrals, the golden bulbs and wooden isbas, the snow: we are in Moscow. From the starting credits, Aleksandar Petrovic foreshadows for us: its religious Moscow, spiritual Moscow. Its believing in the devil. What am I saying? The belief itself is the devil. Petrovic, on Bulgakovs heals, sneaks him onto the stoup of soviet paradise. This beautiful devil, reactionary and anti-establishment, engineers a way to act as a bad devil in the eyes of the authorities. Petrovic, who earlier even met happy Gypsies, shows us today that he even met a much active devil.

    Active as are all devils: so is black magic. Disappearances, apparitions, diabolic omnipresence, divination, power over objectsAll of this brought together with a joking malice that is perfectly described by the word sardonic. Petrovic tries to show this magic and malice with a maliciously magic production.

    … It’s all very merry. The sequences that show us the evening of black magic hosted by Satan on the official stage give us an overwhelming buffoonery of beneficial jubilation. But dont be fooled by this grotesque humor and naive illusion. It dresses, without going so far as to being a costume, a political pamphlet of bitter vehemence. Who accurately designates its scapegoats? The blind and imbecile tools of intellectual tyranny;  the civil servants of the official thinking, of the dominant ideology as we must say today, when this thought and ideology are too shaky to authorize questioning and to allow freedom of expression. Petrovic puts the finishing touches on the puppet caricatures of failed writers and hypocritical critics under the Party’s thumb. We cheer for the devil when he dresses up as an officer to badly beat them.

    We see where this tragicomic farce is in the debate: very high, because it shows the relationship between freedom, creativity and the force of the State, meaning, the rapport between power and spirit.

    Bulgakov, Petrovic, the Master and his Margarita are all devilish enough to disqualify dogmatism, never more deadly than when it is in power.Jean Louis BORY, LE NOUVEL OBSERVATEUR

    The admirable novel by Bulgakov had in its complexity the ability to discourage any adaptation. Petrovic was able to maintain the right amount of political satire, eccentric humor and magic that make The Master and Margarita so original

    The Master and Margarita is the novel of Russian writer Bulgakov, one of the key literary oeuvres of the 20th century. But this novel was only published in 1966: 26 years since Bulgakovs death!

    It is a work steeped in the depths of despair. That is where itsquivering gravity and overwhelming sensibility come from.

    And finally a filmmaker is interested in this novel: his name is Aleksandar Petrovic. He has many successes before this one, including but not limited to I Even Met Happy Gypsies. Hes the without question the leader of Yugoslavian cinema. He successfully adapts The Master and Margarita. He presents the film at the Pula Film Festival, an annual Yugoslavian competition, and wins all the major prizes. The reviews are enthusiastic. And then, suddenly, the film disappears. Banned? By whom? Not a single nation can say that it hasnt, at one point in time, lost itself in the fight for freedom.

    Did Petrovic predict this? Is this what drove him to make such an impossible film? His success is therefore tenfold: an insatiable passion to make good films become great films. Pierre Billard, LE JOURNAL DU DIMANCHE

    All the devils of hellThe piece is baroque, inspired, exemplaryWe feel the winds of imagination, it screams its present relevance…” – R. Benayoun, LE POINT

    A film worthy to be covered in flowers…”

    Attempting to adapt a novel as dense as this to the screen is difficult beyond belief. Aleksandar Petrovic succeeds brilliantly. Mixing the daily with the supernatural is not an easy task, but he makes it seem like a fish in water.

    Petrovics film exists. It is both here and otherworldly. Tough, strong, filled with mastery, clarity, irony and tenderness. It is a rare beauty and strong testimony, as much as it is an accusation.

    A high-class film worthy of the novel that it is inspired from. – Michel Duran CANARD ENCHAINÉ

    Power and the Devil. Bulgakov directed by Petrovic: a masterpiece. That the Yugoslavs will not get to see.

    The meeting of two forcefully creative personalities, even decades apart, is always fascinating.

    Massive and debonair, moved by the kindness of its gaze, this born Parisian (1929) seduces with his modesty, melancholic humor and the heights of his visions.

    Today, he is a famous and recognized filmmaker in his country, sent to festivals where he winsbut his films are still not allowed to be publicly released. The Master and Margarita is not technically forbidden, but is not screened.

    Lyricism and magic. The film has the tranquil gravity of a masterpiece. It existswith such force that a logical analysis seems ridiculous. It is both a detailed, realistic, historical recalling of Moscow in the 1920s and a fairytale haunted by the Devil, his black cat and his henchmen. The way that Petrovic blends the real and surreal, satire and tragedy, humor and horror, is a marvel. All these elements follow each other from one sequence to another without a sense of continuity, and end up simply existing at the same time, merging in a poignant lyricism. The same magic animates the metamorphoses and games of the three principal actors; Ugo Tognazzi (the Master), Mimsy Farmer (Margarita) and Alain Cuny (the Devil).

    The Master and Margarita is a film that needs to be seen and seen again. They say “Any power will always be violence against men.” If this hopeless statement is true, will we never be done questioning ourselves?” – Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, L’EXPRESS

    “It’s the same Moscow of the 1920s where Bulgakov lived the same sinister experience as his hero Maksoudov, for, let us not forget, that this genius writer was condemned by the Stalinist government to be neither read nor performed while he was alive. Maksoudov’s death in an insane asylum foreshadows the death of other rebellious intellectuals in other asylums where they were locked up to this time, paradoxically, let their insanity soothe their spirit.” L’AURORE

    One of the most beautiful films that we have ever seen at Cannes…” L’EXPRESS

    “… and it is very hard to play on these two levels: a film that is both supernatural and accusatory. It is very hard, but here, it is done.

    “A must see.” Pierre Bouteiller’s magazine RADIO FRANCE CULTURE

    “A delicious piece of ironic comedy.” HERALD TRIBUNE INTERNATIONAL

    “The Master and Margarita is exceptionally beautiful…” DIE PRESS

    “… A major film” DIE WELT

    … The most curious film of the year.” TIMES

    “A masterpiece” DIE TAT (ZURICH)

    “A masterpiece” TV-RADIO ZEITUNG

    “A masterpiece” LUZERNER NACHRICHTEN

Aleksandar Petrovic about The Master and Margarita

Even the most complicated things can be said simply and comprehensively. It wasn’t easy with the film The Master and Margarita.
It was particularly difficult to translate the characters of the Devil and his assistants; scenes that happened in the world of the fantastic were no easier as their attitudes, the costumes and the decor had to be from the real world.
I think it’s important for me to say that at certain points throughout the film I literally transposed the original text of Bulgakov’s novel.

“I obviously knew that I could not adapt every single plot point nor recreate all of the sorcery of the novel. I even decided to completely leave out the references to the Passion of Christ that show up in the novel as a counter- plot. Realistically, in The Master and Margarita, there is enough material for numerous films; I could only make one. And I had to adapt Beelzebub sometimes turns into a gigantic cat and it was out of the question for me to use a stuffed animal cat.
On this level, literature has more freedom to be a lot more imaginative than cinema. That is also why I chose a single scene to show the hellish
provocation whereas Bulgakov has many. I chose the night when the Devil
showers the audience of a theater with money and fashionable clothes just to turn back around and let the audience members go in the streets entirely naked. Cinema is a concrete art. It was hard for me to go farther in the irrational.”

… a few words on the ending of the film: the Master is sent to a mental
hospital. In a way, that is completely logical because he claims he saw the
Devil. But we saw the Devil ourselves in the film and therefore know that he exists. And we can continue to believe that until the film ends.

At the end, after the Master has already been freed from the asylum from
the Devil, we find him yet again in a hospital room. This time, he’s dead.
The Devil, with all his infernal tricks, is he not just a product of the Master’s imagination? Or has everything that has transpired truly transpired and the Master’s death is just another trick? We don’t know the answer.
Some may believe in the existence of the devil. Others, if they choose to,
can say that the Master, Bulgakov and myself had simply dreamed of him. I can’t say what the Master and Bulgakov would have said, for they are both dead, but I am more inclined to believing in the Devil than not.” Aleksandar Petrovic

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