Saturday, April 24, 2010

Desyat negrityat (1987)

The works of Agatha Christie has followed me since childhood. After I read all those Enid Blyton-books, the only natural way to go was Dame Agatha. Her books are way more well written and smart than a lot of people will recognize, and is filled with interesting analysis on the human psyche. "Curtain" for example, the last Poirot-story to be published (1975) was written forty years earlier, but still had a very dark streak in it. But her darkest novel was written in 1939, and it's of course "Ten Little Indians" (or "Ten Little Niggers" as the first politically incorrect title was). 

The story could also be an early blueprint for all those slashers and giallo's that came much later. Ten people, all of different gender, class, ages and style, are invited to an island. Almost everyone comes there because of different reasons, and are invited my the mysterious Mr U.N. He's not there though, but to servants who fix them dinner and also starts playing a record - where a voice tells them that they are sentenced to death! A couple of minutes later the first guest meets his death with poison, and soon they're all going down one by one, all after the old nursery rhyme hanging on the walls in every room...

Morality is of course that no one escapes justice, even if they regards themselves as innocent. But everyone is involved in a death of some kind, and more than a few of them also feels guilty because of this. Guilt is also the concept in every character, and is shown here with some very haunting flashbacks in black and white. Both those we see as weak and those who pretends are strong are haunted by the memories of their crime. It's a very grim story, and for the first time and cinema history, this Soviet version adapts the book exactly as in how Christie envisioned it. No happy ending here, no meaningless change of character names or killing methods. This is like reading the book, but with the help of brilliant Russian filmmakers.

Gone is the humor from earlier versions, and the characters sometimes feels to real and nasty. Because it's humans we're talking about, the most dangerous animal in the world. Like in the book more or less all murders are show off screen, but we're treated with a nice bloody touch during the first killing. The location by the way, is amazing. Shot in Crimea, using two famous landmark-mansions there: the Swallow's Nest and Vorontsov Estate. The places oozes with atmosphere, and even if the house seem a little bit smaller than I imagined it from reading the book, I can't think of any better location (it's also a miniature, shot in perspective to look like it's there for real, which looks good... but a bit cartoonish). Desyat negrityat is also filled with wonderful Russian actors who is perfectly casted and still is far from Hollywood in style and talent - they are just better.

Slow pace, but those 2 hours flies by fast with ten murders and always something new around the corner. The best Agatha Christie adaptation ever made, in my opinion.


Alex B. said...

I'm not very keen on Christie, but this film sure has a solid cast

Eni said...

The first transition I also had from Enid Blyton to Agatha christie was the reading of Ten Little Indians (I too first read that first politically-incorrect version, "Ten Little Niggers"). By the way, I am glad to inform you that I have published a book on Enid Blyton, titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage
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