The documentary Keep My Words Forever tells a story of Osip Mandelshtam, one of the most significant Russian poets of the twentieth century. The poet's rebellious spirit challenged the Soviet authorities and he was arrested for 'counter-revolutionary activity'. Mandelstam's own prophecy was fulfilled: "Only in Russia poetry respected so much that it gets people killed. Is there anywhere else where poetry is such a common a motive for murder?"
Mandelshtam was sentenced to deportation to Siberia and died in a transit camp near Vladivostok on 27 December 1938, starved, sick, frozen and mentally ill. Witnesses remembered that during the last months of his life Mandelstam was succumbing to insanity. The name of Osip Mandelstam was prohibited for more than 20 years after he passed away. Only in the second half of the 20th century Mandelstam's creative work became well known and appreciated. Mandelshtam's wife Nadezhda literally saved the poet's speech memorizing everything he had written. As it was too dangerous and illegal to keep any records containing Mandelshtam's poetry for more than 20 years Nadezhda spent every night learning, silently reciting his poems and copying by hand in order to save them. Only thanks to her memory we can read these poems today.
"Osip Mandelshtam is one of the most important poetic events that happened to the Russian language in the twentieth century. At the same time it's one of the most tragic fates in the history of our literature. His poetry is extremely tied up to the epoch he lived in and its events," says Roma Liberov, movie director.
The movie encompasses a wide range of various genres and mediums: documentary, motion graphics, collage, street art, animation, digital art and puppet theatre.
We were extremely excited to take part in this project. We were responsible for the design of 21 animated chapters of the movie, which finally made a promotional trailer, a promotional movie posters and a series of editorial promotional illustrations.
The movie consists of twenty-one chapters telling about the meaningful events of the poet's life:
I. The Birth
III. The First Poems
VIII. Nadezhda Khazina
X. Nadezhda Mandelshtam
XI. The New Age
XII. The Noise Of Time
XIII. Till Eulenspiegel
XIV. Armenia, Armenia
XV. The Return
XVI. The Epigram
XVIII. Moscow 1937
XX. The End
XXI. The Miracle
Each chapter is preceded by animation sequences using the visual language and symbolism of Orthodox iconography and Russian avant-garde at the same time. Icon-inspired animation merged with the key images of Mandelshtam's poetry aims to communicate the poet's inner states.
Being accompanied by the subtitle 'For all innocent victims killed by their country' the movie structure refers to hagiographies of the first Christian martyrs and saints. Images beholden to traditional iconography with richly tangible craquelure combined with the pioneering techniques of Russian Constructivist artists – collage and photomontage – illustrate that ambivalent state of being between Scylla and Charybdis of the two epochs faced by many liberal-minded people of that time.
The promotional movie poster contains twenty-one illustrations opening each chapter of the movie. The composition of the poster refers to the genre of Orthodox icons with scenes where the saint is framed by 'scenes' from his life. One of the main tasks we faced creating this poster was to make it look really otherworldly, something you can not expect to see in the street among the other posters and advertisements, an image from another reality, a window into another time that is more real than here and now.