Frunze Dovlatyan – Scriptwriter, Director, and Actor

Frunze DovlatyanFrunze Dovlatyan began his “stage activity” at the age of 12. Even then, the future screenwriter, director, and actor created his own scripts and together with his siblings embodied them on the improvised home theater stage. Growing up, Dovlatyan worked as an actor in provincial theaters and in the Sundukyan Armenian State Theater, from the drama school of which he would graduate.

In 1959, he graduated from the directing department of VGIK (Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography) in Moscow. In 1959-64, he worked at the Gorky Studio and Mosfilm. During the last years of his life, he directed the studio Armenfilm. Dovlatyan drew many interesting paintings as well.

For the film “Hello, that’s me!” (1966) which he directed, Dovlatyan was awarded the State Prize of the Armenian SSR. Dovlatyan received another State Prize in 1970 for playing a role in his film “Saroyan Brothers”.

Within the framework of the “Island” series, the relatives, friends, and colleagues of Dovlatyan told about his life.

The camera operator of the picture “Hello, that’s me!” Albert Yavurian recalled:

“Frunzik already had a wonderful school at Mosfilm and a desire to move apart walls, remove boundaries, break through, go outside, to the field, to the road, almost reach the sky. It was a cinematic task to part with the theatrical past, part with the scenery, part with those cinematic conventions that reigned back then.

During the shooting of the film ‘Hello, that’s me!’, an interesting case happened. We filmed Armen Dzhigarkhanyan’s visit to his friend played by Rolan Bykov. We built a scene, which was a tiny apartment. It was very crowded, and Rolan Bykov was very upset because I did not task him to occupy some ‘correct cinematic’ points.

In the end, Roman Anatolyevich asked: ‘Alik, and where should I stand, which device should work for me?’. I said: ‘Roman Anatolyevich, stand where you want! You can even get under the bed – I’ll see you there and will definitely film you.’

This story would become a subject of interviews and jokes. But in the essence, this is an example of how strikingly our methods of work — Frunzik’s and mine — differed from those adopted at that time. We did not flaunt it. What we invented was part of our aesthetic creed.”

Margarita Terekhova and Armen Dzhigarkhanyan also recalled their work with Dovlatyan, for whom their performance in “Hello, that’s me!” was the first major work in cinema.

The program “Islands” also included fragments of archival interviews with the hero of the program. So, for example, Frunze Dovlatyan told how uneasy the approval of the film “Saroyan Brothers” was:

“Telegrams from Yerevan were sent to Moscow that we had made an anti-Soviet film. I had to go to Moscow. There, our film was watched by Baskakov, Deputy Minister of Culture for the cinema.

He had been contused in the war. His face was somehow distorted and always dissatisfied. He watched the film, and it was not clear whether he liked it or not. He said: ‘Well, girls, what is your opinion?’ Those ‘girls’ who watched the movie with him were 60-70 years old. They said: ‘There are Dashnaks in it.’

And he told them: ‘Do you know what the Dashnak movement is? I’m sure you do not know and confuse it with the monarchist movement. But many representatives of the Armenian intelligentsia were Dashnaks.’ I was surprised: how does this Russian person know such details?! Baskakov continued: ‘In the end, we must learn to distinguish the good from the bad! A beautiful picture, we consider it approved.’

It was as if a heavy burden fell from my shoulders…”

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