Movie: The Woman with the 5 Elephants
Release Date: July 20, 2011 (NY)
Studio: A Cinema Guild Release
Director: Vadim Jendreyko
Screenwriter: Vadim Jendreyko
Starring: Svetlana Geier, Anna Götte, Hannelore Hagen
Summary: A poignant and inspiring new documentary by Vadim Jendreyko. The 5 elephants in question are Dostoyevsky’s great literary works, all of which have been translated by the octogenarian Svetlana Geier, considered the world’s most masterful translator of Russian literature into German. The filmmaker visits with a woman whose fascinating, dramatic life story has been colored by some of the most violent events in 20th century European history: Stalin’s purges of the kulaks (responsible for her father’s death) and the Nazi occupation of the Ukraine (ultimately responsible for saving her life and leading to a university education in Germany).
A rigorous intellectual whom we’re privileged to watch parse the language, word by word, with her colleague (sometimes with great, dry humor), she warms the screen with the depths of her dignity and humanity. Language as a civilizing force is the thread that runs through Geier’s life, and it illuminates every minute of the film. Interestingly, Geier reveals her human failings at those moments when the filmmaker points out to her, however gently, the irony that her good fate was made possible by the Nazis’ temporary conquest of her homeland. Svetlana Geier died on November 7, 2010 at age 87.