Crime and Punishment at 150 (2016)

Finding a Homeland : Omirbaev’s Student Burry, Alexander


In this paper, I discuss Kazakh director Darezhan Omirbaev’s interpretation of Crime and Punishment in his 2012 film Student. In setting Dostoevsky’s plot in present-day Kazakhstan, Omirbaev emphasizes his hero’s observations of a corrupt and barren nation. The film transforms Dostoevsky’s vision of the infection of Russian society by Western radicalism through a reversal of ideological poles. If Raskolnikov’s crime is motivated by the left-wing nihilism and rational egoism embodied by the “new men” of Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s What is To Be Done?, then Omirbaev’s unnamed student confronts a post-Soviet Kazakh society whose native identity has been engulfed by an equally pernicious right-wing, authoritarian, oligarchic, capitalist ideology. The eponymous student and the director each seek Eastern, native Kazakh values in opposition to the influx of both Russian and American ideas. I focus on Omirbaev’s emphasis on non-verbal language throughout the film, reflecting Dostoevsky’s own foregrounding of gestures and gazes at various key points. I also examine Dostoevsky’s and Omirbaev’s common focus on an Eastern alternative to encroaching Western values in their respective versions of Crime and Punishment.

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