Nobody believed in this cartoon, but it collected more than 35 international awards and all-Union awards. Either a fairy tale, or a philosophical parable, in which they are still looking for meanings, and everyone can find something of their own. Continuing the project “The ABC of Russian Culture”, “Snob” publishes a text with the letter E – about how the film “Hedgehog in the Fog” was created
Having passed half of earthly life …
From the very beginning, work on the cartoon was accompanied by difficulties. Firstly, the Soyuzmultfilm studio did not allocate a shooting machine, and Norshtein, together with the team, had to start with a hammer and nails to build a complex structure for filming. But in general, you can understand the film studio. Now we know that Norstein turned out to be a masterpiece, but how could this be understood before the creation of the cartoon? How to describe the images and allegories of the cartoon of the artistic commission? The bare plot is not to say that it staggers the imagination. The hedgehog goes through the forest to his bear friend, gets lost in the fog, wanders through the forest, then falls into the river and is saved by some force. Very exciting.
The difficulty was that Norshtein himself did not always have a clear idea of what exactly he should succeed. However, this was a characteristic feature of the creative method, which the director explained as follows:
“Yes, I never know how the film will end, this is my constant state. And not because I’m such an idiot. Of course, I can think of what will happen in the end, but what I came up with will never coincide with what will turn out in the end. The painting itself gives me direction.
The plot of “The Hedgehog” is based on the children’s fairy tale of the same name by Sergei Kozlov, but the plot of a small one-page fairy tale did not seem particularly interesting to the commission. It was then, trying to explain his plan, that Norshtein issued a quote from Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy: “Having passed half my earthly life, I found myself in a gloomy forest.” The essence of the idea, according to the director, was as follows:
“The hedgehog went all the time to visit the Bear Cub and once got lost in the fog. When he came out of the fog, he was already different.
Surprisingly, this idea, albeit with a creak, passed the commission, and the work began to boil.
The most important role in the creation of the cartoon belonged to cameraman Alexander Zhukovsky. He came to animation from documentaries, after he got injured on the set, which required him to abandon the “moving” filming. Norshtein spoke of him as follows:
“He was more than a cinematographer, more than a cinematographer. He humanized space. I can’t say “he filmed”. No. He influenced the camera with all his being, with all his composition, on the light, on the film, on the drawing. He spiritualized ordinary glass, ordinary celluloid. There was no difference between a huge pavilion and a cartoon machine for him.”
It was this man who created the most mysterious part of the cartoon – the fog. Even at the stage of team selection, the absolute consonance of the ideas of Norshtein and Zhukovsky became clear in terms of the technical implementation of this phenomenon.
According to Norshtein, the first question Zhukovsky asked him was about the fog: “Well, how do you propose to do it?” The director spoke about how he sees it. And the cinematographer replied: “Yes, right. I knew it. I was wondering what you think about this.”
The method of creating fog reproduces the silhouette-shadow principle, which was used in the ancient Chinese puppet theater. Dust was applied to the transparent film, and under it, on a layer below, the character was placed. To “dip” the character in the fog, the glass with it was moved away from the foggy tier. Nothing complicated, but the effect is amazing. It was for this design with eight tiers, for different “degrees of foggy” that it was necessary to learn how to work with a hammer and nails.
How did the inhabitants of the Russian Empire celebrate the New Year and Christmas?
The most important part is the correct “dustiness” of the glasses. Zhukovsky did not allow touching them with his hands at all, believing that the best filter for fog is natural dusting. The director said that once in Sweden he was asked how to get such an effect, and the cameraman answered: you won’t succeed, you wash the glasses.
By borrowing the principle of the theater of shadows, the connections of the “Hedgehog” with the East were not limited. Which is not surprising, given Norshtein’s tender and mutual love for Japan. According to the director, it all started at the age of 15 with a mysterious and completely incomprehensible volume of Japanese poetry. And it ended with the transfer of the concept of Japanese prints to celluloid. After all, fog, according to the director, is “Tao, space, great nothing.”
The thing is that in Japanese engravings, unlike European paintings, there is always some kind of understatement. There is a whole mass of unused space. Literally an empty canvas with nothing but fog. Figures, mountains and trees dissolve and disappear in it. This is the fundamental principle of Japanese engravings that the master transferred entirely to the screens of our TVs.
By the way, Japan highly appreciated this homage. Norshtein in 2004 was awarded a high award – the Order of the Rising Sun. And a year before that, in Tokyo, at the Laputa Animation Festival, which brought together critics and directors from all over the world, The Hedgehog in the Fog, according to a survey of more than 140 famous masters, was recognized as the best cartoon of all times and peoples. And finally, Hayao Miyazaki, the master of world animation, also considers The Hedgehog to be his favorite cartoon.
It is curious that the main character, the Hedgehog, turned out far from immediately. Norstein’s wife, production designer Franceska Yarbusova, drew dozens of versions, each of which was ruthlessly rejected. Everything was ready, and even the shooting in the pavilion had already begun, but the Hedgehog still did not work out and did not work out. Norshtein reached a white heat and shouted that it was all wrong. “It should appear for 1/12 of a second – and imprint! The profile must be absolutely clear, clear!”
Finally, one day, after an evening walk, during which the couple saw a tame hedgehog in the arms of a passerby, a miracle happened. True, and here it was not without a riddle. In the memoirs of the playwright Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, one can find a mention that Norshtein allegedly used the features of her face in creating his most famous hero. True, the director himself has always denied this borrowing. According to him, the Hedgehog was inspired in another way – literally by Jesus. When creating the main character, the family tandem was inspired by a reproduction of the icon of the Savior Almighty by Andrei Rublev. According to Norshtein, she conveyed the spirit of the character, “a sense of the universality of the hero”.
References and meanings
The matter was not limited to Jesus and Japan; in general, there are a lot of references and references in the cartoon. For example, on Tarkovsky’s Solaris, in which Donatas Banionis, overgrown with bristles (and thus slightly reminiscent of Norshtein’s Hedgehog), just like the cartoon character, walks in the fog, sees a horse, leaves his knapsack on a stump, which he then does not he took it, so that one can say that he seemed to have lost it, and, figuratively speaking, he ends up in the river, that is, he washes himself. There is also a huge oak tree in the middle of the stage.
And here is Fellini for you: in his painting “Amarcord”, in the middle of a mysterious forest, in an endless fog, there is a little boy. From the forest, just like in the “Hedgehog” monsters, the Nazis come out – the Duce and his retinue.
There are an infinite number of such examples – for example, traces of the “Hedgehog” can be found in Bella Akhmadulina’s poem “Light and Fog” and in “Smeshariki”, and the post-war children’s counting rhyme “A German came out of the fog / took a knife out of his pocket / I will cut, I will beat / everything it’s all the same to you to drive” after the release of the cartoon got a new version: “A hedgehog came out of the fog / took a knife out of his pocket / took out pebbles and chalk / smiled as best he could …”
There are plenty of interpretations too. The cartoon is often interpreted as a parable, and the river into which the Hedgehog falls is compared to the Styx, the river of the dead. And someone parses the cartoon into images and each endows it with a symbolic meaning: the owl is chaos, the river is time, the horse is light. Then it turns out that someone invisible is God, saving the Hedgehog and giving him life.
The main thing, getting deeper and deeper entangled in these wilds, finding parallels either with the realm of the dead, or with Solaris, is not to get lost in this fog yourself. Well, as a guiding star, you can once again recall the words of Yuri Norshtein.
“I looked at the situation in Hedgehog as an absolute reality that could happen to me. The world is being transformed. And there is a change in the philosophy of this little character. A cheerful, living creature was running, and now it finds itself in an absolutely inadequate situation and comes out of this situation as a completely different person. This is actually what happens to us in life … “
Authors: Semyon Aksenov, Nikita Deshevykh
- Boyarsky I. Ya. Literary collages. M., 1998
- Gorshkova D.V. The history of Russian animation. XX century .. – M .: Publishing house “Vario”, 2016
- Norstein Yu. B. Snow on the grass. – ROF “Yuri Norshtein Foundation”. – M .: Publishing house “Red steamer”, 2016