Marina Murzina

(from the article “Charismatic Thespian”)

Sergey Bezrukov is a rare mix of talent, success and a human normalcy. The youngest laureate of the Government Grant of the Russian Federation and other titles. For example, “Future Star”. Although, why future? Today he is already a real star. It seems that he should start to turn into a bronze figure. Or turn to drunk as a result of his headache from the success “as befits a true Russian Mozart, who does not need Salieri” (quoting V. Shenderovich, his friend). But, alas! He is in good form (premieres in theatre, movies one after another), incredibly industrious, always favourably disposed towards people. At close quarters he gives the impression that he is neither a spoiled public darling who peaked too soon, nor a “young genius” who is missing a few marbles. Always happy, healthy, optimistic and good-mannered…

I am puzzled, what is the source of his energy that is enough for everything and everybody? “Unyielding, overflowing life force” – that describes him precisely. He is not a human, but a perpetual mobile. Non-stop. And his mobility, changeability and inner flexibility dictate the tone of this article. It is impossible to write fundamentally-heavy research (I hope that is still to come). The only possible style is a non-stop monologue-essay. Sergey is not a monument, not a mannequin – he is a kaleidoscope.

He has a light aura. He presents well. At Sergey Bezrukov’s 25th anniversary at the Actor’s House (by the way, Sergey is the only one who was granted permission to celebrate such an early jubilee) Victor Shenderovich said: let him be a genius, but a troll with the face of Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya (Lenin’s wife), but he is also handsome, simply a love-hero. But a love-hero ought to be thick or talentless – whereas he is clever and reads books. In short, the paradoxes are all around us.

I thought about this paradox when I learned that Sergey read Varlam Shalamov’s “Stories from Kolyma” on his entrance exam at the theatre school. And when I saw him in the role of Esenin where, despite somebody’s statement that his genres are comedy and lyrics only, he was especially convincing in dramatic scenes, without the accordion and chastushki (Russian limericks). He portrays the poet as a simple, wise, quiet and over-tired Russian man. And as a gifted poet – a philosopher stuck in the corner and doomed. Also I was amazed when, in “Krul’” in front of my own eyes, through the tender, immensely charming facade came a real monster-destroyer.

I hope Bezrukov is not going to stay forever “a curly-haired, jumpy, loving boy” despite all the repeated warnings. Still a young man and luckily (or unluckily for a person and an actor) without experience of hardship and suffering (at least, as far as I know), he can show not only his heroes’ talents, rich souls and revelry, but also “life on the edge”, strain and craziness like in “Psikh”. The death of a human soul like in “Krul’”. Or the closeness of death – like in “The Last Ones Standing”. It means he has the ability to dive and can go to such depths that are dangerous to even get close to, albeit very attractive – they can suck you in…

I believe that there are some mystical things in the acting profession even, one could say, dangerously mystical. For example, out of prejudice some actors are afraid to play madness or death. Suicide. Bezrukov plays exactly these things. His heroes – Alexander (Psikh, a.k.a. Just Looney), Esenin (although the actor is convinced that it was a murder, not suicide). And in the play based on Dostoevsky’s “Bobok” Bezrukov even lies down… in the coffin. Not everybody dares take risks, letting the high voltage emotional current and energy go through him or her. Looks like he is able to do that. Not everybody can construct that inner protection and defence using essentially simple methods of pure craftsmanship. It seems he can, but not always. Therefore I sometimes fear for him with that clear soul and no trace of craziness. What did Esenin write? “If you touch the passion in a human, of course, you cannot find the truth…” I think Sergey has lots of passion. Passion is a bottomless pit. And he wants to play Rogozhin, Dmitry Karamazov and Hamlet. He prefers it that way – to reach such depths in himself and awaken those passions…

…While I was preparing this article, just out of curiosity I questioned my colleagues, critics and journalists (mainly women): “Who for you is Sergey Bezrukov, the actor?” The replies were amazingly uniform: charisma, charm. Although, some called him “earnest” (i.e. concocted, extraordinary, known to wear a mask in public), some – “crafty”, others – specifically possessing a “frozen smile”. Overall, “unique and penetrating”. T. K. Shakh-Azizova drew the bottom line: ”I have grown accustomed to his charms”. And this is dangerous for an actor because it breeds “cliches”. However, it seems that an actor cannot exist without charisma – one needs something positive, like Bezrukov’s charms. An actor cannot exist without a mysterious mesmerising of the audience. But Bezrukov is too open to be enigmatic. Or is it just an illusion?

While still a student he played Hamlet, Khlestakov, Samozvanets (Impostor), Pushkin, Count Myshkin… and “vaudevillian” Golokhvastov (“After Two Rabbits”) with glued eyelashes and a guitar. He was talked about early. When he was just 16 he admitted to liking kissing in his acting. And today, after the performances, – he is all covered in fans’ lipstick: ”How can I refuse them?” He eagerly agreed to take on different roles as if from the beginning he wished to avoid the type-casting he might possibly be forced into later (which proved to be true ). Such a dear, a charmer, an angel, straight-forward fellow, “Little Prince” or “Prince in jeans”…
In one newspaper’s interview with him I’ve read: “Bezrukov ruled the stage. I was overcome with delight”. By the way, those are the words of a well-known critic, a mature woman. Such adoration I would not wish upon anyone, not only Sergey but even my enemies. I purposely exaggerate here, adding a bit, and perhaps making up a psychological portrait of an actor, not theatrical review. For those who have not seen Bezrukov on stage yet, I suggest you just go and watch him. Or read a bunch of newspaper’s articles and reviews. A few quotes, i.e. Bezrukov in the mirror of the media. At first – epithets: “one who swallowed an atom of sun”, “venturesome, heated, temperamental”, “charismatic actor, game-player”. He is “an artist capable of turning any text, even the most trite, into words full of true feelings”. ”Excellent abilities, rare luck. Dear Lord, please do not let him lose his head!” (The last passage is repeated in many discussions about him).
“Divine being of perfect proportions, not too grand, not too small. One man band. One who loves others less than they love him. Werewolf. A man born to seduce and to make others fall in love with him.” No, no it’s not about Sergey. It is about his hero, Felix Krul’. It happens sometimes that the critics start to identify an actor with his roles and it is especially true about Krul’ and Glumov. By the way, about Glumov: “A child, sensitive, inexperienced, naive, not a cynic, gaining sympathy and affection“, “charming young man”. More about him: “In this role Bezrukov is forced to play the antithesis of himself; “becoming a scoundrel” is not easy for him, it is torturous”. On the other hand some may see in his Glumov “Gogol-Bulkagov’s diabolism”, “an evil spirit, an immoral irresistable scoundrel”, “charming evil-doer”, “little imp”.

They see “phenomenal organic wholesomeness” and “crazy energy” in him. He is “lovely, moving, romantic – the last romantic of the current theatre stage”. No-one calls him “sex-symbol”, thank God! Quite the opposite – “do not want to say that Bezrukov is a sex-symbol of the Moscow theatrical stage”.
Judging by interviews, Bezrukov for some reason is sincerely convinced that he has detractors. First of all, I think he is mistaken. Besides, you cannot live without criticism. A famous name said: “I am not a 10-ruble banknote to be loved by everyone”. And as for detractors… It is said that a talented person always has detractors… It is, if you wish, further proof of talent. However, I wish this rule (that every Mozart has his Salieri) applied to real life rather than an artistic career, and would make an exception for Sergey.
Overall impression – an all-around success, good luck, praise. Sergey is now “a symbol of the new generation”, and “the victor” – from the same name movie (although his hero just wants to live well and, to achieve this, he does mean things – another Glumov)…

Perhaps Bezrukov is a wee bit sentimental. Some do not like the fact that he often, easily (judging by the looks of it) cries onstage. Bezrukov says: “You ought to cry more, then you would live longer”. At a tender age he played in “Alen’ky Zvetochek” (“Beauty and the Beast”). In school he directed a fairy-tale “Geese-Swans”. He cried in the “Bandits”. He is jealous – he admits it. He loves the stage as if it were a woman. He loves women as women. His favourite actor (in addition to the named, mentioned in the interviews) – Marcello Mastroianni. He grew up at his grandma’s place on the Volga river. He likes drawing and fishing: “Take my word, I cannot live without the Volga. I must at least once a year walk barefoot on the grass”. He graduated from the guitar class in music school, writes songs, plays accordion (which he learned for his performance in Esenin”), flute, balalaika. He can dance and tap-dance.

Perhaps he could successfully play Ostap Bender, the great adventurer and actor, just allowing others to “evaluate the beauty of the game”, as another Bezrukov’s favourite actor, Andrei Mironov sang in the role of Bender.

Bezrukov does not get carried away by pretence … he is not affected or poisoned by it, although sometimes it seems so. Once during the performance of the “Every Wise Man Stumbles” the electricity was cut off. He (Sergey) was quick to react: “My eyes cannot see, please bring the candles!” The show went on. He is professionally thrifty in the best sense of the word. His inner computer works well.

What would I not wish for him? To become a pop-culture idol, to find his “main” glory outside the theatre…
Almost every role brings a prize. “Moscow debut” awarded him for playing Petr in “The Last Ones Standing”. “Constellation-94” was awarded for his debut in cinema (“Nocturne for Drum and Motorcycle”) – “For youth, actor’s charm and ingenuousness”. Twice he received the top awards of the All-Russian (Reciters, Reading , Declamation) Contest in the name of Vladimir Yakhontov. He had become the Laureate of the Presidential Stipendium while studying in the MAT School, but he received his money in full after the graduation. Here is another dangerous temptation: to become an everybody’s favourite, an “A-student” and to expect continuous praise from critics and fans after all your work.

The actor about himself: “ I am by nature Harlequin. I have loved to make faces since I was a child”. The Italians who saw his Harlequin in “Farewell… and Applaud!” said that they would take him at Comedia del Arte with open arms. About his Harlequin: “He is just like a bright rubber ball, it is difficult to see his real face”. Onstage he can be a clown or buffoon, a trickster-magician and such a mass-entertainer. But I am convinced that he is not meant for that. He can mix the genres. In his play “the tragical farce is possible”.
“It would be better for a while to be unrecognised, unacknowledged ” – some critics are of this opinion. And then add “for him”. And even better – to fight the habit of “making eyes at the audience”, being coquettish with the public – the same can be said about his hero, Harlequin. Truth be told, I have not noticed it.