Vladimir Nabokov

Göbler, Frank. Nabokov’s Novel Mary in the Film Adaptations of 1987 and 1991. 2016

Bibliographic title
Nabokov’s Novel Mary in the Film Adaptations of 1987 and 1991
Periodical or collection
Nabokov Online Journal
Periodical issue
v. 10
Publication year
Frank Göbler’s (University of Mainz) essay, “Nabokov’s Novel Mašen’ka in the Film Adaptations of 1987 and 1991,” focuses on the writer’s first novel and its screen adaptation. The novel was adapted for film in 1986 by a largely British/German team in a European production, and was shown in European film theatres in 1987/88 without meeting with much success. The film was later televised in 1989. In 1991, Mašen’ka was adapted for a second time in a Russian TV studio production. The Russian film followed the novel’s recent publication in 1986—which was the first Soviet publication of a work by the émigré Nabokov. As such, it reflects the rediscovery of Nabokov for the Russian public, working with strong symbolism and featuring the images of the manor house that had once belonged to the Nabokov family. Both Western and post-Soviet films take a rather illustrative approach to the literary material and are, thus, conceptually quite similar. They mainly follow the plot of the novel, embedding Ganin’s memories of the woman he loved in his youth as flashbacks intruding into the sequence of present-day events. Both films also use similar coloration techniques, showing pre-revolutionary Russia in bright daylight, full with the beauty of rural spring and summer (although the European version also includes a winter scene), while the Berlin of the 1920s is set in sombre tones, with grey predominating in the Russian version. Similarly, the background music in both films evokes a nostalgic atmosphere.