Yuri Norstein - Writer

Animator. Nationality: Russian. Born: Yuri Borisovich Norstein, 1942. Family: Married; has children. Career: Joined Soyuzmultfilm, Moscow; 1968—first film as animator, 25 October, First Day ; 1971—co-directed the film Battle under the Walls of Kerchenetz with Ivan Ivanov-Vano.

Films as Animator:


25 October, First Day (co)


Battle under the Walls of Kerchenetz (with Ivan Ivanov-Vano)


The Vixen and the Hare


The Heron and the Crane


Hedgehog in the Mist


The Tale of Tales


By NORSTEIN: articles—

Banc-Titre (Paris), September 1982.

Banc-Titre (Paris), November 1984.

Positif (Paris), November 1985.

Filmkultura (Budapest), November 1986.

Film a Doba (Prague), vol. 33, no. 4, April 1987.

Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), April 1989.

Positif (Paris), December 1989.

Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1990.

Vertigo (Paris), 6–7 1991.

Télérama (Paris), 21 July 1993.

Kino (Moscow), March 1997.

On NORSTEIN: articles—

Banc-Titre (Paris), December 1980.

Sightlines , Fall/Winter 1982–83.

Cinéma (Paris), January 1985.

Revue du Cinéma/Image et Son (Paris), January 1985.

Soviet Film (Moscow), July 1986.

Film a Doba (Prague), November 1986.

24 Images (Montreal), no. 43, Summer 1989.

Kino (Warsaw), July 1990.

Kino (Warsaw), September 1990.

Filmkultura (Budapest), July 1994.

Kino (Warsaw), June 1995.

On NORSTEIN: film—

Yuri Norstein , directed by Tarabanov, 1991.

* * *

Yuri Norstein, who has been working for years under the veteran Russian animator Ivan Ivanov-Vano, has emerged as one of the world's leading animators. His film, The Tale of Tales , was considered the most artistic production to come out of Eastern Europe in years. The success of this film, as well as others such as Hedgehog in the Mist , The Vixen and the Hare , and The Heron and the Crane , is due to his unique style of multidimensional figures and backgrounds that have depth, roundness, and shading, giving a visual quality to his scenes seldom seen in other films. His humor is full of human observation, contrasting emotion over a broad scale from gaiety and laughter to sadness and disappointment. The fact that these moods are happening to animals and birds with their own particular environment provides an element of magic, and once again proves that the art of animation can bridge the biological barrier between human and animal worlds.

Norstein considers animation to be a new field of art, but underestimated, its artistic plasticity and social significance not having been explored so far. According to him its principles are taken from life, avoiding a documentary approach in describing a social situation. Aristotle said, "art, above all teachers, allows people to enjoy life." This principle still holds. Norstein takes his own material from an ordinary situation and develops it in his own particular way. His material consists of human emotions: joy, tears, love, and all levels of emotion within the experiences of life. Norstein, apart from being a filmmaker, is also a good painter and brilliant illustrator, which explains the high visual quality of his backgrounds and the expressions of his characters. He has a close relationship with his young children and closely considers their reactions before making a film. He thinks that only those who understand children's psychology should make a film for them. If one has sympathy with them and can play with them, one is able to look at the world through their minds and eyes.

On the question of visual quality, he thinks that animated film directors should be interested in fine arts, especially painting, since films have a dual objective: the creation of a new and original setting and a defined dramatic action within the setting. The spectator should be able to adapt to such a background and participate in the film on the terms present in the subject. Norstein recognizes that a film is composed of various elements. It contains myth, fantasy, cosmographic ideas, sound, absolute realism, and naturalism. The combined quality of these elements could be of great value, lifting animation above all other media, but so far he has not seen any film, short or long, able to make full use of such total potentialities. He holds that a feature-length film should not only tell a story but present the richness of human life, make full use of the specific properties of animation, and look for its own way of development.

—John Halas

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