a short story about two misunderstood filmmakers
One day Illarion Illarionovich, a young filmmaker with an exquisite structure of face and body, even more exquisite structure of mind, was spending the late hours of the evening sorting out correspondence in the studio with Vitya, his colleague and comrade. Vitya, stocky and bearded, stood with a pile of paper in his hands, smoking an odorous papirosa1. Torn envelopes spread out on the table. A pathéphone was spewing jazz sounds.
– Here, read it, I told ya, – said Vitya, chewing the papirosa, and handed to Illarion Illarionovich one of the letters.
Illarion Illarionovich waved off the smoke, straightened the folded sheet and began to read:
– "Watched until 2:32, couldn't bear it anymore. Very slow and very boring beginning, 0 dynamic, 0 action"
Illarion Illarionovich shoved the letter back to Vitya like a hot potato.
– Come on, Vitya, I've read a dozen of these already.
– Wait, wait. Keep reading.
Illarion Illarionovich looked at Vitya with deep displeasure for a moment but kept reading the scribbles. His eyes had begun to widen more and more with every word adding a glimpse of vexation and surprise on his face.
– "I don't watch films or tv shows or anime because it's impossible to watch for the same reason. Unbearable from the first minutes – very dull and boring. I can only watch short clips where many actions per second happen."
Illarion Illarionovich turned away from Vitya and looked into the window, blinking nervously twice.
Vitya puffed once more.
– I don't get it at all. Photography is truth but cinema is truth twenty-four frames per second. What's wrong? – said Illarion Illarionovich.
– We should've done, eh, forty-eight frames. Twice as much truth. Perhaps, they’d have got imbued then.
Vitya grinned, philosophically glancing at his papirosa.
– Joking again, aren't you, Vitya.
– What else am I supposed to do, Larik2? Here, look, another one: "You know, people prefer watching cinematographic action with a bad picture rather than a beautiful humdrum. This is not a film. Not a film, so stop trying to make one. With the skills you have, you can create much more intense action. No offence."
Illarion Illarionivich shrugged.
– "No offence," see? – Vitya showed Illarion Illarionovich the letter. – No offence but I'm still offended. It caused me emotional damage. I put my whole cinematographic soul in it: bought new lenses, set up lights properly, calculated symmetry, and all that stuff just like fucking Kubrick, for God's sake. I wasn't even seen in reflections, not once.
– Our film is something greater than a sequence of images, Vitya.
Vitya’s eyes widened, his eyebrows raised and he gave Illarion Illarionovich a look Illarion Illarionovich hadn't seen before, such look as if it gently invited him to elaborate.
Illarion Illarionovich stood up to open the window and his chair creaked.
Vitya, meanwhile, continued to aggressively fill the interior with the odour of papirosa, fighting against the fresh air for control over the room.
– It is Art. It is a life-affirming picture.
Illarion Illarionovich's lips tightened, his eyes closed, he opened them and looked out of the window. Classical music started playing in his head.
– It is the truth about mankind, their place in the universe; the truth nobody can tell you; the truth no money can buy; the truth you can read in no book. It awakens our innermost feelings and lets us see life as it is.
Vitya shook his papirosa against the ashtray.
– No one needs your life-affirming truth. Why would anyone in their sober consciousness want to know what an existential arsehole they're in? Would you want to know?
– You don't get out much, Vitya. It's not about what kind of an arsehole, but why.
– Well, so why, why then?
– No words can convey it, you can only see and feel it.
– No words, you say? Here, look at this.
Vitya handed Illarion Illarionovich another sheet of paper.
– I don't want to.
– Read it, read it. This letter puts it all into perspective. Brief, clear, succinct. With meaning, as you like it.
Illarion Illarionovich's eyebrows furrowed. He sighed heavily but took the sheet.
A moment later, the condemnation in Illarion Illarionovich's eyes met with a smile in Vitya's eyes. Illarion Illarionovich slightly crumpled the sheet, threw it in Vitya's face and hurried out of the room.
Vitya sighed, shrugged, extinguished his papirosa and followed out Illarion Illarionovich.
– Larik, wait!
The crumpled sheet of paper was left lying on the floor, hiding a lonely word - "shit".
Thanks for reading.
Thanks for reading The Lifeboat! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Papirósa - a style of Russian filterless cigarette.
Larik is a short and informal version of Illarion, similar to Thomas → Tom.