Is it possible for one to be a great artist and also find happiness in a relationship? Many stories have contemplated this question, like the 1946 Aleksandr Ptushko fantasy film The Stone Flower (Каменный цветок)
, based on a story by Pavel Bazhov which was in turn based on Ural folklore. One of the most beautiful fantasy films I've ever seen, the film tells its story of a young man, obsessed with mastering his art of stone cutting, with chiaroscuro lighting and deliberately artificial sets. Every shot looks like a painting and the special effects are charming.
I hope this poor lizard wasn't injured in being given this crown. She ends up being a Russian mythological figure, the Mistress of the Copper Mountain, played in human form by Tamara Makarova.
We see her taking an interest in the day dreaming young shepherd named Danilo who later becomes an apprentice to a master gemcutter, Prokopych (Mikhail Troyanovsky). Danilo (Vladimir Druzhnikov) soon surpasses his master. He crafts a beautiful stone flower commissioned by a French noblewoman.
As he gains fame and success, he and a farmgirl, Katinka (Yekaterina Derevshchikova), fall in love. But he becomes obsessed with the idea that his stone flower could have been better made, his urge to destroy his creation distracting him from Katinka. Soon the Mistress of the Copper Mountain seduces him into joining her in the heart of a mountain where he can do stone work in isolation forever.
Katinka, saddened by his absence, becomes Prokopych's new apprentice and a pretty good gemcutter herself, one of the more surprising aspects of the story.
I found the scenes where Danilo contemplates destroying his stone flower provoked some real anxiety in me. I guess it's like a metaphor for the Star Wars
special editions. At some point the artist needs to give his or her art to the audience and in this may be the real answer to the conflict between artistry and relationships--an artist does have a relationship with an audience and treating the audience like it's irrelevant can be dangerous to the artist's mental health. On the other hand, the Mistress of the Copper Mountain is pretty fabulous.
The whole movie is currently on YouTube
, I recommend checking it out for the gorgeous visuals before someone with absolutely no right to it files a copyright claim with YouTube so almost no-one will be able to see the movie for years. Click the CC button to get English subtitles.