Journal article

Of Omniscient Fish and Socialist Utopias: Emir Kusturica’s Intermedial Borrowing from Andrei Platonov in Arizona Dream and Underground


  • 2021
Published in:
  • Zeitschrift für Slavische Philologie. - 2021, vol. 77, no. 2, p. 417-461
English In Emir Kusturica’s film Arizona Dream (1993), the protagonist Axel Blackmar (Johnny Depp) explains at the beginning why he has a special fondness for fish: “People think that fish are stupid, but I was always sure that they weren’t, because they know when to be quiet and it’s people that are stupid and fish that know everything, and don’t need to think.” This quote is borrowed from the novel Chevengur by Andrei Platonov (written in 1926/28), in which one of the characters, a fisherman, declares: “Look –there’s wisdom! A fish stands between life and death, so that he’s dumb and expressionless. I mean even a calf thinks, but a fish, no. It already knows everything” (transl. A. Olcott). Kusturica himself referred to his borrowing in a 2010 interview. Nevertheless, no scholarly attention has been paid to this intermedial relationship. In this article, the common themes and motifs in Platonov’s Chevengur and Kotlovan (written in 1930) and Kusturica’s Arizona Dream and Underground (1995) will be examined in more detail, including the reception of Dostoevsky, to whom both Kusturica and Platonov refer. Interesting interfaces emerge, especially with regard to Kusturica’s and Platonov’s utopian thinking, in which both refer to natural philosophical, religious, and folkloristic sources. Thus, this study not only opens up a new approach to Kusturica’s artistic worldview of the early/mid-1990s, but also provides insight into the Yugoslavian reception of Platonov in the 1980s – and at the same time sheds new light on Platonov’s texts.
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
Département d'études européennes et de la slavistique
  • English
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