УДК 180.1


Музычук Анна Андреeвна
Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет

Связь кинематографа и литературы действительно сильна, если в фильме удалось раскрыть тот подтекст, что присутствовал в тексте изначально. В данной работе анализируется, удалось ли Иосифу Хейфицу передать метафорический образ моря, задействованный Чеховым в рассказе "Дама с собачкой".


Muzychuk Anna Andreevna
Saint Petersburg State University

The connection between cinematography and literature is really strong, even if we as amateur viewers do not often feel it. To make the reader dive into text writers use subtextual language to show how deep this or that artistic detail is. The director’s main purpose is not to lose as well as recognize that tiny for the plot, but huge for the content threads in the work of literature and reflect them in his or her own film adaptations. Without the sea image we won’t be captured by Gurov’s story of the resort romance with Anna Segreevna. It is not Chekhovian story until there is mystery.

Keywords: Chekhov, Chudakov, Nabokov, Tatiana Tolstaya, The Lady with the Little Dog, Woolf

Библиографическая ссылка на статью:
Музычук А.А. The Deep Metaphorical Meaning of the Sea Image in Chekhov’s story “The Lady with the Little Dog” and its film adaptation made by Joseph Kheifits // Филология и литературоведение. 2014. № 10 [Электронный ресурс]. URL: https://philology.snauka.ru/2014/10/967 (дата обращения: 14.05.2024).

The connection between cinematography and literature is really strong, even if we as amateur viewers do not often feel it. To make the reader dive into text writers use subtextual language to show how deep this or that artistic detail is. The director’s main purpose is not to lose as well as recognize that tiny for the plot, but huge for the content threads in the work of literature and reflect them in his or her own film adaptations. This unwritten message is the most precious in any work of art no matter what exactly we are in front of – visual art or literature; it gives us freedom to try to understand what is behind the written text. But the keys are just between the lines, we should use our attention and imagination to feel the atmosphere of what the writer was going to discover for us.  In other words good reader is the reader who creates the story while exploring its depth.

To translate from the language of  literature into the language of  cinema is very difficult, but to do it with Chekhov’s story is a challenge to the director as an artist. Does he see clearly what to show? How to do it accurately?  How to avoid turning the plot in the wrong direction when there are spare places in the story itself? All that questions have in my view only one answer; director has to be extremely talented and attentive to the work of literature he is going to convey.

As Vladimir Nabokov wrote about Chekhov’s story “The lady with the little dog”: “The storyteller seems to keep going out of his way to allude to trifles, every one of which in another type of story would mean a signpost denoting a turn in the action <…>; but just because these trifles are meaningless, they are all-important in giving the real atmosphere of this particular story”. [Nabokov, 1982 : 263]   What is the purpose for using something to allude to? It seems to me that the point is to broaden the horizons of the story, to make it entire and consisting of tiny details at the same time. The image of the sea in the story is a great example of the symbolic language as well as the watermelon which Gurov eats after he and Anna Sergeevna became lovers and the hot tea which the hero will drink at the end of the story.  This opposition between cold and hot, fake affair and truelove is written by Chekhov in some other language, because these details are shown in the story as if they are accidental. But in fact they are not.

Virginia Woolf rightly mentioned that there are no simple coincidences in Chekhov’s stories: “Our first impressions of Tchekov are not of simplicity but of bewilderment. What is the point of it, and why does he make a story out of this? We ask as we read story after story. A man falls in love with a married woman, and they part and meet, and in the end are left talking about their position and by what means they can be free from “this intolerable bondage”.  [Virginia Woolf :The Common Reader: The Russian Point of View http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/woolf/virginia/w91c/chapter16.html#chapter16]

Metaphorical scenes are a huge part of Chekhov’s storytelling. He is special in using this literary device in such artistic way. As Chudakov wrote in the essay about Chekhov’s style named “Aromorphism of the Russian story“: ««Ощущение потока “живой жизни“вернее создается немногими деталями, чем их длинною вереницею. Внедренная в повествование неожиданная и кажущаяся случайной подробность окрашивает в свой тон остальные, создавая впечатление их многочисленности».  [ Поэтика русской литературы конца XIX – начала XX века, 2009 : 376 ]  This means the details such as the sea, the watermelon, the tea and many others are very slightly mentioned by Chekhov, but they make writer’s stories full of certain je ne sais quoi that charms readers.

As Nabokov rightly mentioned the sea image in the story is something poetic, deeply emotional, personal and the unsuitability of the inner state to the real life with its prejudices and symbolic cages is the tragedy in Chekhov’s story : “The contrast of poetry and prose stressed here and there with such insight and humor is, in the long run, a contrast only for the heroes; in reality we feel, and this is again typical of authentic genius, that for Chekhov the lofty and the basis are not different, that the slice of watermelon and the violet sea, and the hands of the town-governor, are essential points of the «beauty plus pity» of the world”. [Nabokov, 1982 : 263]

Without the sea image we won’t be captured by Gurov’s story of the resort romance with Anna Segreevna. It is not Chekhovian story until there is mystery. For instance, the sea may be interpreted as symbolic or even fatal, not only fateful power for the lovers. Let’s try to avoid this fragment in the story and we will definitely loose all its beauty and depth. Although for the plot it won’t make any changes, the content of the story will be badly damaged and the story itself will turn to be rather trivial.

If we do so, we will get not Chekhov’s story “The Lady with the Little Dog”, but something like “Sweet friend” written by Maupassant. At the begging of the story Gurov was an extremely cold  and  indifferent heartbreaker like George Durua was. The similarities between the two different heroes can be traced by taking into account these phrases from Chekhov’s story in which Gurov is very close to the attitude George had towards women: “He had begun being unfaithful to her [wife] long ago –had  been unfaithful to her often, and, probably on that account, almost always spoke ill of women, and when they were talked about in his presence, used to call them «the lower race»”.[http://www.eldritchpress.org/ac/jr/197.htm]

Not only these aspects make Gurov so alike Durua, but also the addiction they both feel to women and their own self-esteem as the one who deserves the passion of women’s attention and know how to react easily: “It seemed to him that he had been so schooled by bitter experience that he might call them what he liked, and yet he could not get on for two days together without «the lower race». In the society of men he was bored and not himself, with them he was cold and uncommunicative; but when he was in the company of women he felt free, and knew what to say to them and how to behave; and he was at ease with them even when he was silent. In his appearance, in his character, in his whole nature, there was something attractive and elusive which allured women and disposed them in his favour; he knew that, and some force seemed to draw him, too, to them “. [http://www.eldritchpress.org/ac/jr/197.htm]

My idea in fact only seemed to be personal; soon I realized that there are critics who think the same. Let me quote from their publications. This is how Vladimir Nabokov express his point of view: “Chekhov has been compared to the second-rate French  writer Maupassant (called for some reason de Maupassant); and though this comparison is detrimental to Chekhov in the artistic sense, there is one feature common to both writers: they could not afford to be long-winded. When Maupassant forced his pen to run a distance that far outreached his natural inclination and wrote such novels as Bel Ami (Sweet friend) or Une Vie (A Woman’s Life), they proved to be at the best a series of rudimental short stories more or less artificially blended, producing a kind of uneven impression with none of that inner current driving the theme along that is so natural to the style of such born novelists as Flaubert or Tostoy.” [Nabokov, 1982 : 252]

So now it is clearer that Chekhov’s story strikes the reader not because it is rudimental and short, but because it is as deep as the sea in. That’s how this image  appeared in Chekhov’s story : “Afterwards when they went out there was not a soul on the sea-front. The town with its cypresses had quite a deathlike air, but the sea still broke noisily on the shore; a single barge was rocking on the waves, and a lantern was blinking sleepily on it”. [http://www.eldritchpress.org/ac/jr/197.htm] I mean the sea as a character, because here in this episode we can feel its potential power, but in the previous appearances it was just as if it was the decoration in the theatre for the play.

Joseph Kheifits showed it in his movie by the waves from which Anna Sergeevna was trying to escape, but couldn’t. This in my opinion is a way to foreshadow the future love of the main heroes, who were trying to forget each other, but crashed by indulging in the memories. The words of the story “there was not a soul” and “deathlike air” appeal to some mysterious connotations in which we can think about life after death, because the heroes are face to face with the sea, which is a symbol of fate. Even in that episode we feel that the sea is unusual and play some other role despite being the beautiful scenery of heroes’ affair.   But it is just our guess which in the next picture of the sea will broaden our understanding of Chekhov’s story as well as deepen the sea as a metaphorical language.

The adaptation of the story “The Lady with the Little Dog” is also full of  symbols and unwritten language. The film was made by Joseph Kheifits in 1960. It was the very year when the film was awarded of the Cannes festival which shows how high the artistic value of this picture is.  Alexei Batalov and Lya Savina were starring as Gurov and Anna Sergeevna. The actress impressed me so much, because when I was reading the story itself  I imagined the woman so close to the one who is shown in the movie. The whole image of Anna Sergeevna is so fragile and sincere that it captured me from the first moments of the film. Nevertheless I was overwhelmed by the acting of Alexei Batalov who was showing the process of spiritual rebirth of the main hero without any extra words or phrases. His style of acting was so Chekhovian itself that I believed what his Gurov was going through.

Although the wife of the hero and husband of the heroine are important in the story, I prefer to talk about the mysterious sea, how the director managed to show something ethereal and even possibly invisible by using the language of cinematography. Joseph Kheifits succeeds in showing inner movements of Gurov’s soul. It is similar to what Vladimir Nabokov wrote about the specific storytelling Chekhov had in his works of literature: “The variety of his moods, the flicker of his charming wit, the deeply artistic economy of characterization, the vivid detail, and the fade-out of human life – all the peculiar Chekhovian features – are enhanced by being suffused and surrounded by a faintly iridescent verbal haziness”.  [Nabokov, 1982: 253]

All of this phrase can be said about the way the director interpret the story, because in his insight there are so Chekhovian nature in that black and white film with the space for silence which was extremely important for Anton Chekhov as an artist. Joseph Kheifits not only sensitive to every slight details in the story, but he adds something as well that reflects his own attitude towards “The Lady with the Little Dog”.

One of those details are metaphors as well as the metaphors in story itself. For instance, in the movie there is some stranger who seems to be praying and looking in the sky while Gurov and Anna Sergeevna are admiring at the sea or even feeling frightened by its secret power. There is no praying man in the story, but the insight the director made helps us feel the inner state of Gurov’s soul which is now on the edge of her previous dirty and destructive existence. It is time to clarify your soul as if you are praying now like this poor person who is looking in the sky for hope and future peace. The similar ideas were in the head of Gurov while he was looking at the sea.

The main character of the story was puzzled by the strange changing the sea had make to him as if this power was not under but above him. In Chekhov’s story this is, in my point of view, the most artistic, picturesque and deep image:  “At Oreanda they sat on a seat not far from the church, looked down at the sea, and were silent. Yaltawas hardly visible through the morning mist; white clouds stood motionless on the mountain-tops. The leaves did not stir on the trees, grasshoppers chirruped, and the monotonous hollow sound of the sea rising up from below, spoke of the peace, of the eternal sleep awaiting us. So it must have sounded when there was no Yalta, no Oreanda here; so it sounds now, and it will sound as indifferently and monotonously when we are all no more. And in this constancy, in this complete indifference to the life and death of each of us, there lies hid, perhaps, a pledge of our eternal salvation, of the unceasing movement of life upon earth, of unceasing progress towards perfection. Sitting beside a young woman who in the dawn seemed so lovely, soothed and spellbound in these magical surroundings – the sea, mountains, clouds, the open sky – Gurov thought how in reality everything is beautiful in this world when one reflects: everything except what we think or do ourselves when we forget our human dignity and the higher aims of our existence”. [http://www.eldritchpress.org/ac/jr/197.htm ]

This image is stronger than the previous appearance of the sea and even more frightful.  But as  Vladimir Nabokov rightly said about the sea in the story it is, despite all the mystery, realistic: “Now comes a first glimpse of Chekhov’s  own system suggesting atmosphere by the most concise details of nature,  « the sea was of warm lilac hue with a golden path for the moon» ; whoever has lives in Yalta knows how exactly this  conveys the impression of a summer evening there “.[Nabokov, 1982: 257]

It is in my point of view quite misleading when the writer combine scenery and philosophy into one expressive and concentrated image as Chekhov did.

Let us stop on unnatural details suggested to show natural sea. In other words what the features of the sea are shown in the story which outstand from the whole previous context of “The Lady with the Little dog”. Philosophical meaning of this image is highlighted by the following details : 1) “the monotonous hollow sound of the sea rising up from below, spoke of the peace, of the eternal sleep awaiting us. So it must have sounded when there was no Yalta, no Oreanda here; so it sounds now, and it will sound as indifferently and monotonously when we are all no more”. 2)   “…complete indifference to the life and death of each of us, there lies hid, perhaps, a pledge of our eternal salvation, of the unceasing movement of life upon earth, of unceasing progress towards perfection”. 3) “…Gurov thought how in reality everything is beautiful in this world when one reflects: everything except what we think or do ourselves when we forget our human dignity and the higher aims of our existence”.

The first part reflects the indifference of the sea towards what is going on in the human life. It reminds me of Pushkin poem there we have these marvelous lines: “И пусть у гробового входа /Младая будет жизнь играть, И равнодушная природа/ Красою вечною сиять”. [http://rvb.ru/pushkin/01text/01versus/0423_36/1829/0508.htm] It also reminds me of the epilog in Turgenev’s “The fathers and the sons” when we read these: “Неужели их молитвы, их слезы бесплодны? Неужели любовь, святая, преданная любовь не всесильна? О нет! Какое страстное, грешное, бунтующее сердце ни скрылось в могиле, цветы, растущие на ней, безмятежно глядят на нас своими невинными глазами: не об одном вечном спокойствии говорят нам они, о том великом спокойствии «равнодушной природы»; они говорят также о вечном примирении и о жизни бесконечной…” [http://ilibrary.ru/text/96/p.28/index.html] The theme, as I see, is  the one in all examples – the thoughts about the high existence of human soul.

This is how I personally feel the sea image in the story, but let us hear other voices. Contemporary Russian writer Tatiana Tolstaya in her book “Изюм” (“Raisin”) has her own explanation of the meaning of the sea in Chekhov’s story. She devoted to this theme the little, but very interesting essay called “Любовь и море” (“The love and the sea”). Let us read some extracts from it in Russian: «С чеховским героем происходит ПРЕОБРАЖЕНИЕ, без всякой причины, без всякого объяснения, нипочему. Эта, самая большая и таинственная правда, которая известна, наверное, каждому, не объяснима ничем, кроме вмешательства сил метафизических, духовных, тех, что выше нас, тех, что могут невидимо «постучать в дверь». [Татьяна Толстая URL :http://lib.rus.ec/b/282175/read#t5] The main idea of this part in her essay is that changes of inner world which occurs with Gurov or any other human being are unexplainable in common sense, because these metamorphose belongs to something above us, something that can knock on your door when you do not know that this is time of your life, your fate.

Tataina Tolstaya continues spreading the idea of high importance of the sea image in Chekhov’s story : «… почему же в равнодушии природы — залог спасения? Спасения от чего? В чем гибель, от которой мы хотим спастись? И ответ, как ни странно, будет такой: гибель — в любви. Равнодушие природы — залог спасения от любви, обещание, что все пройдет, и любовь тоже пройдет<…> В самом сердце счастья зреет горе, в самом желанном и блаженном чувстве заложена гибель самого чувства; <…> Спасение — в забвении, в смерти чувства, в смерти любви». [Татьяна Толстая URL :http://lib.rus.ec/b/282175/read#t5] Let me comment  : in my view this is the best part of Tolstaya’s essay. Her brainchild is that all the feelings with all of their depths have signs of death in themselves and we can’t manage with it as the start and the end are closer than we are used to think. The power is not in our hands, hearts or even thoughts, because it is the Universe which plays with our destinies. Really we ask each other why did we meet! There are so many people on earth, but when you love all your previous existence disappears as if you are dead, but no, on contrary, you have just awaken for the new life and who do that changing in your inner world is unknown power. All you know, or not know, but feel is that this power exists and it moves your soul.

The only way to exit and to survive is to kill feelings, to forget the dearest memories you have, but this is a trap, because when you love you can’t get rid of the happy, or may be, bitter recollections you have. Why? Because they are precious to you and nothing else matters except for it. So to make our inner world wordless we have to take lessons from the nature which is really indifferent of what is going on in your life, because the Universe doesn’t care about us: «Спасение в том, что «так шумело внизу, когда еще тут не было ни Ялты, ни Ореанды, теперь шумит и будет шуметь так же равнодушно и глухо, когда нас не будет». Спасение — в полном равнодушии древнего, как мир, моря к жизни и смерти каждого из нас. <…> Спасение в том, чтобы выпасть из мучительной и чудесной ловушки, в которую неизвестно почему поймал тебя тот, кто постучал в дверь, в том, что выход есть, выход горький, двусмысленный, выход через смерть». [Татьяна Толстая URL :http://lib.rus.ec/b/282175/read#t5]

The finale of the story now is deeper, because of the influence the sea image (let us call it destiny) on the heroes love. There is no possibility in 1899 to ask for a divorce your wife or husband, because the society will accuse you of that and you will definitely loose the social status you have. That’s why in the film we see Gurov and Anna Sergeevna who are shot as if they are shown not through the window, but the criss-crossed lines which foreshadow the idea that there is no exit from that situation for two loving hearts and they have to fall victims of their love.

Tatiana Tolstaya in her essay has written many ideas about the death in the story, but still Chekhov’s style of writing did let her make summary: «Но Чехов двоится и ускользает от ответа и здесь: смерть возможна, но не обязательна, может быть, ничего плохого и не случится, может быть, эти двое удержатся и не умрут, может быть, только они двое и окажутся бессмертными… во всяком случае, времени еще много, путь еще долог». [Татьяна Толстая URL : http://lib.rus.ec/b/282175/read#t5]

Virginia Woolf was also lively captured by the mystery as we call it open ending of Chekhov’s “The lady with the little dog”: “But is it the end, we ask? We have rather the feeling that we have overrun our signals; or it is as if a tune had stopped short without the expected chords to close it. These stories are inconclusive, we say, and proceed to frame a criticism based upon the assumption that stories ought to conclude in a way that we recognize. In so doing, we raise the question of our own fitness as readers. Where the tune is familiar and the end emphatic — lovers united, villains discomfited, intrigues exposed — as it is in most Victorian fiction, we can scarcely go wrong, but where the tune is unfamiliar and the end a note of interrogation or merely the information that they went on talking, as it is in Tchekov, we need a very daring and alert sense of literature to make us hear the tune, and in particular those last notes which complete the harmony”. [Virginia Woolf :The Common Reader: The Russian Point of View http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/woolf/virginia/w91c/chapter16.html#chapter16]

Chekhov didn’t tear the threads he made in his story, but he also didn’t have the answer for the question whether the main heroes will cope with all the difficulties their love faces or not. The point is that the love itself is not the static state, but the movement, like the Universe which is never sleeping. So Vladimir Nabokov was really accurately to mention two parts of the story .The one is the staircases theory of all ups and downs which challenged true love: “A remarkably fine scene follows when Gurov manages to talk to her, and then their mad swift walk up all kinds of staircases and corridors, and down again, and up again, amid people in the various uniforms of provincial officials. Neither does Chekhov forget «two schoolboys who smoked on the stairs and looked down at him and her». “[Nabokov, 1982: 260] And the second is the thermometer theory in which Gurov tries to explain to himself what had happened to his previous life, who had crushed into it and changed it dramatically : “The thermometer, Gurov was saying to his daughter, shows a few degrees above freezing point  <…>, but nevertheless snow is falling. The explanation is that this warmth applies only to the surface of the earth, while in the higher layers of the atmosphere the temperature is quite different.  And as he spoke and walked, he kept thinking that not a soul knew or would ever know about these secret meetings“. [Nabokov, 1982: 261]

Nabokov also highlighted the  importance of the open finale in Chekhov’s story : “They find no solution and in the typical Chekhov way the tale fades out without no definite full-stop but with the natural motion of life. «And it seemed as though in a little while the solution would be found, and then a new and glorious life would begin; and it was clear to both of them the end was still far off and that what was to be more complicated and difficult for them was only just begging».” [Nabokov, 1982: 262]

In conclusion I would to say that this little research open my mind on the connection between two spheres of art which are literature and cinematography. They share the similar idea to express unexpressive by using the subtext. And in both works of art it not only works, but broaden the horizons of the previous perception. It is true for Joseph Kheifits who managed not only to convey the story “The lady with the little dog” really close to the work of literature, but add his own metaphors which live in Chekhovian style and make the story more and more charming for the viewer. This is how we can judge the adaptation and the work of literature itself, but they should cooperate in creating the strong images that not only captures, but discover the new worlds of the text. I talk about that unwritten language (part of which is the sea image).  That message ought to be not read, not viewed, but felt. To do so is really rewarding thing for yourself.

  1. Nabokov V. Lectures on Russian literature.San DiegoNew York London:HBJ BOOK, 1982. – 316 p.
  2. Поэтика русской литературы конца XIX – начала XX века. Динамика жанра. Общие проблемы. Проза. – М . : ИМЛИ РАН, 2009 – 832 с.
  3. Virginia Woolf :The Common Reader: The Russian Point of View http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/woolf/virginia/w91c/chapter16.html#chapter16 (10.10.2014)
  4. Татьяна Толстая  Изюм URL : http://lib.rus.ec/b/282175/read#t5 (10.10.2014)
  5. Пушкин Брожу ли я вдоль улиц шумных URL : http://rvb.ru/pushkin/01text/01versus/0423_36/1829/0508.htm (10.10.2014)
  6. Тургенев Отцы и дети URL : http://ilibrary.ru/text/96/p.28/index.html (10.10.2014)

Все статьи автора «Muzychuk Anna»

© Если вы обнаружили нарушение авторских или смежных прав, пожалуйста, незамедлительно сообщите нам об этом по электронной почте или через форму обратной связи.

Связь с автором (комментарии/рецензии к статье)

Оставить комментарий

Вы должны авторизоваться, чтобы оставить комментарий.

Если Вы еще не зарегистрированы на сайте, то Вам необходимо зарегистрироваться: