The Film Club is a homage to cinema. Every month the team at The Calvert Journal selects a favourite Russian movie, from a classic of Soviet cinema or a groundbreaking documentary to the latest short by a new young director. Lights down please.
When animator Yuri Norstein gave a public lecture in February in Moscow, scores of young people turned up for one reason only — to find out more about his legendary animation, Hedgehog in the Fog (Yozhik v tumane). Although the ten-minute, award-winning animation was created in 1975, long before most of the audience members were born, it has remained a firm favourite among generations of Russians, young and old, and has triggered multiple interpretations from the political to the religious.
The animation follows a small hedgehog who encounters a thick fog while on his way to meet his friend the bear cub for a cup of tea and spot of star-gazing. Horses, owls and falling leaves all take on a much more frightening and surreal feel in the little hedgehog’s mind, all of which is brought to life by the haunting soundtrack and Norstein’s ethereal drawings. Braving the elements, the intrepid little hedgehog eventually makes it out the other side to find the bear waiting with a warm welcome by his samovar.
Despite the success of the Hedgehog in the Fog, Norstein has not produced any animations in the past 30 years. Since 1981, he has been working on a feature length, hand-drawn animation of Gogol’s short story The Overcoat, earning him the soubriquet, the “golden snail”. Although he has received several international offers to help finish the animation, Norstein has chosen instead to to develop it at his own pace and in his homeland.