Arseny Bulakov, president of the Tolkien Society of St. Petersburg, called the production a “very revealing artefact” of its time: “filmed in poor times, without stage settings, with costumes collected from acquaintances – and at the same time with great respect for Tolkien and love for his world.

Mr Bulakov said it reminded him of “the early years of the Tolkienists” in Russia. “Not getting paid for six months, dressed in old sweaters, they nevertheless got together to talk about hobbits and elves, to rewrite elven poems by hand, to try to invent what was impossible to really know. on the world.

Tolkien’s books were hard to find for decades in the Soviet Union, without an official translation of “The Hobbit” until 1976 – “with some ideological adaptations,” according to Mark Hooker, author of “Tolkien Through Russian Eyes.” . But the “Rings” trilogy has been “essentially banned” for decades, he said, perhaps because of its religious themes or the portrayal of disparate Western allies uniting against a sinister power in the world. ‘Is.

In 1982, an authorized and abbreviated translation of “Fellowship” became a bestseller, Mr. Hooker said. Translators began to create unofficial versions of samizdat in the years that followed – translating and typing all of the text themselves.

“Khraniteli” aired at a time of “great systemic turmoil” as the Soviet Union was dismantled, and was part of “the flood of ideas that rushed to fill the void,” Mr. Hooker said. “For the average Russian, the world was turned upside down.”

Irina Nazarova, an artist who saw the original show in 1991, said the bbc that in retrospect, “the absurd costumes, a film devoid of direction or editing, dismal makeup and actor – all this screams of a country in ruins.”

Mr. Hooker compared the production itself to a translation of samizdat, “with all the rough edges”. Among them, flickering cameras, as if the hobbits were filming their journey with a camcorder, and sudden cuts to a narrator who, smoking a pipe or smiling in silence, sometimes seems content to leave his audience in the dark.

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