1. The British playwright and screenwriter Peter Flannery is mainly known for his play Our Friends in the North (1982), which he adapted for television in the mid-nineties. In this nine-part adaptation, broadcast by BBC 2 in 1996, he follows the lives of four friends from Newcastle from 1964 to 1995 against the backdrop of a changing society. He also wrote the scripts for Funny Bones (1995) and The One and Only (2002). The Devil’s Whore, on the English Civil War, was shown on Channel 4 in 2008. [return to text]
2. Academy Award for the Best Foreign Film in 1994.
3. As reported by Alexander Barmine, a Soviet official whose book One Who Survived was published by Putnam in New York in 1945. See for details on the Kirov assassination p. 247-252. [return to text]
4. In the same trial, Trotsky was sentenced in absentia.
5. See Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purges of the Thirties. London: Macmillan, 1968.
6. Some of the minor events shown in the film are narrated in the play. This applies to the short sequence in the film when the truck driver explains that he has been turned back by the soldiers guarding the balloon.
7. "To ostatnia niedziela," written in 1935 by the Polish composer Jerzy Petersburski. The lyrics, by Zenon Friedwald, describe the last meeting of former lovers. A Russian version, "Weary Sun" (which is the correct translation of the title of Mikhalkov’s film) was written in 1937. The tango remained popular after the war and was used in other films such as Krzysztof Kielowski’s Three Colours: White (France/Poland, 1994).
8. Mikhalkov’s An Unfinished Piece for a Mechanical Piano (URSS, 1977) is based on Chekhov’s work. Several themes from this earlier film, such as the theme of lost love which cannot be recaptured, reappear in Burnt by the Sun.
9. Another direct link to the Russian writer are the last words of Maroussia’s father, which are based on Chekhov’s father’s last word. Mitia recalls that all that remained after a long life was the vision of a train with geese. Cf. Beumers, p. 84.
10. As in Close to Eden (1992), Mikhalkov’s portrayal of the Russian peasant is much more positive than in some of his previous films. In his adaptation of Oblomov (1979) as well as in Dark Eyes (1987), they are represented as dumb and primitive, less than human.
11. The tango was chosen as background music by several young Polish officers before committing suicide.
12. Mikhalkov was President of the Russian Society of Cinematographists and had influential positions in Russian cultural policy. He has been a strong supporter of Vladimir Putin and is known for his nationalist and Slavophile views. [return to text]
13. The fact that in both the film and the play the actor playing Kotov has, like Stalin, a moustache contributes to the ambiguous portrayal of the dictator. The view of Stalin as the good father to the Russian people still lingers.
14. See Beumers for more details on the film’s critical reception in Russia. Beumers, op. cit., p. 115-130.
15. Review of the play in The Independent, August 3rd, 2004.
16. "A Vicious Circle," January 17, 2008.
17. For Michael Billington the play is one of the groundbreaking works in recent times (The Guardian, May 19, 2004). Paul Taylor (The Independent, May 19, 2004) points to the entertaining qualities of a play which avoids easy answers to the complex questions on education it asks.
18. The Observer (June 4, 2006).
19. Cf. Michael Coveney’s review of the play in The Independent (January 20, 2009).
20. Tom Stoppard in an interview published in The Times (January 12, 2008).
21. "Burnt by the Sun," The Independent (March 4, 2009).
22. "Burnt by the Sun," The Guardian (March 5, 2009).
23. "Carousel of Misery," The Sunday Telegraph (March 8, 2009): 28.
24. "Why the National Theatre is Filled with Communists," The Times (February 27, 2009).
25. "Russia in One Dimension"
26. In the film the man is married and there is no love interest.
27. Performed in spring 2009 at the National Theatre.
Agamben, Giorgio. State of Exception. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2005.
Beumers, Birgit. Burnt by the Sun. London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2000.
Butler, Judith. "Guantánamo Limbo." April 1, 2002.
Figes, Orlando. The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia. London: Penguin, 2007.