'Loyalty by Obfuscation: Aleksandr Sokurov's Dni zatmeniia vs the Strugatskii Brothers' A Billion Years before the End of the World'
This article seeks to rectify two misconceptions that have been following Aleksandr Sokurov’s award-winning sf film Days of Eclipse (Dni zatmeniia; USSR 1988) almost since its release. The first is reflected in the claim that the film – with its odd mix of enigmatic fictional scenes and documentary footage that would not look out of place on a visual anthropology course – is not only difficult to fathom but downright ‘anti-explicatif’ (Ostria 59).2 The second has been expressed in a statement that Days of Eclipse ‘has altered everything but the names of the principal characters’ (Moskvina 45) in the Strugatskii brothers’ story it has adapted, A Billion Years Before the End of the World (Za milliard let do kontsa sveta, 1976-77; see Strugatskie 1988: 3-148).3 Even Boris Strugatskii himself said of the film that, ‘significant, powerful and sui generis exceptional’ as it may be, it is ‘far removed from both the original book and the last version of the authors’ script’ (Strugatskie 2001: 648). I will argue that there is enough left of the source material in the film to help the viewer make sense of it – especially if the viewer has a prior knowledge of the source material. I will also try to explain why Sokurov has opted for obscuring the Strugatskiis’ message as his book adaptation strategy. Finally, I will attempt to categorise Sokurov’s approach to film adaptation in the context of some of his other films, as well as some Strugatskii-related films by other directors.
This is accepted manuscript version. Published version available at http://dx.doi.org/10.3828/sfftv.2015.12