Hoffmaniada (Гофманиада, 2018) by Stanislav Sokolov

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Gofmaniada (ru)
Hoffmaniada (it)

Year 2018
Director(s) Sokolov Stanislav
Studio(s) Soyuzmultfilm
Language(s) Russian
Genre(s) Biography
Literature (non-Rus./USSR)
Animation Type(s)  Digital 2D
Length 01:13:25
Wordiness 11.37
Animator.ru profile Ru, En
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Date: June 03 2024 08:11:53
Language: English
Quality: good
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Creator(s): Kevin McNeer, Niffiwan

Date: October 29 2023 02:06:47
Language: Italian
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Ernst works as an attorney, but cherishes his lofty hopes and dreams far more than his dull daily existence. A film about German Romantic fantasy writer and composer E.T.A. Hoffman, based on his fairy tales, music and journals, with puppets designed by Mikhail Shemyakin.

The only feature film made by Soyuzmultfilm in the post-Soviet era, the production lasted from 2001-2018. Here is a brief 2013 article with some details about the production of the film written by Kevin McNeer, who was also the primary translator for the English subtitles (there seems to have once been a longer article here, but it has been removed and not archived anywhere).

2018 - Brazil - Brazil Stop Motion International Film Festival - Grand Prix & Honorary Director Prize for Stanislav Sokolov
2019 - Russia - Golden Eagle Award
2019 - Russia - Icarus Award - Best Production Design
2019 - Russia, Crimea - Sunny Island - Jury Diploma




This is probably my favourite work from the studio in decades. I'm glad that they've finally made it available so that it can appear here.

The IMDB rating is currently 6.4, which I think is unjust - this is a remarkable film, albeit one with a rather narrow potential audience. The reason, I think, is that it is very "outdated" in temperament (though not in technique), and with a rather auteur script and direction. For all its spectacle, it is actually rather complex; very much in the style of some of the less mainstream productions of the late Soviet-era Soyuzmultfilm, but with mainstream production values and talent.

Quite astonishing that it did get made and released, really, when so many other promising big projects started by the great directors of that era didn't.

Here is the most insightful review I found, from Kino-Teatr (the translation is mine):

"Hoffmaniada" is a film with a complex and even tragic story. Work on it began in 2001 and was associated primarily with the name of the artist Mikhail Shemyakin, who created truly brilliant puppets. As is often the case with ambitious animated projects, the production dragged on. Feature-length animated films can take 5-6 years to complete even in normal situations, but "Hoffmaniada" set a record: it took 16 years. The reasons included lack of funding, the mess that reigned almost all these years at "Soyuzmultfilm" studio, and certain creative differences (the film did not turn out the way Shemyakin wanted it to - and in the end, the artist practically renounced it).

At one point, it seemed that like many protracted productions, "Hoffmaniada" would remain unfinished; nevertheless, director Stanislav Sokolov brought this incredible work to completion. Although, this too is relative; in the coming months, perhaps right up until its theatrical release, the studio plans to continue working on the film.

Probably, not least because of such a complicated production history, “Hoffmaniada” turned out to be a strange film. It looks a bit like an anachronism, like a not fully completed work of another era, pulled out of storage and presented to the public at last. If even in 2007, when the first part of "Hoffmaniada" was screened, the film looked quite modern, then in 2018, with puppet films back in fashion and the stunning works of Wes Anderson and Laika setting the tone, the picture seems old-fashioned, and the viewer is struck by various imperfections. Finally, due to the fact that different segments were filmed at different times, sometimes there is a feeling that “Hoffmaniada” is not quite a complete piece and is stitched together from rags, as it were. In a word, there are a lot of critiques that could be made about the film, and all of them were made by professional viewers (in particular, at the Suzdal animation festival, in backroom discussions).

And yet, in a strange way, all these shortcomings absolutely do not prevent the film from being outstanding, interesting, integral and authentic. Perhaps, this is mainly due to the fact that the Romantic era, in the spirit of which the film was created, absolutely allows all of this: unfinishedness, incompleteness, fragmentation. A hesitant artist, the gap between ideal and reality, the attempt to capture some subtle matters and lofty feelings, the expression of which sometimes comes to artistic indecency and banality... All these make up the essence and the irresistible charm of the Romantic era, together with terrible visions and the constant presence of something unspeakable that is eager to be expressed yet finds for itself neither images nor words.

The main character of the film is the young Ernst (in fact, Hoffmann himself). By day he serves in the Chancellery, and in the evenings he tries to write his opera "Undine". A dry young man, poring over paperwork, and endlessly dreaming of something more - about great love, about the beautiful country of Atlantis, about events greater and more important than clerical routines. His fantasies are so strong that they literally capture Ernst's life, so that he is almost unable to distinguish reality from fiction. He is in love with the beautiful snakelet Serpentina, is afraid of the insidious Sandman, meets Little Zaches on the street and talks with the Nutcracker. The real difficulties and minor setbacks that he encounters are immediately clothed in fantasy: his father’s angry friend turns into the Sandman who wants to take his eyes, a girl in the window appears to be a clockwork doll created by villains so that Ernst would forget his true love, and Ernst himself in response to a humiliating situation is able to turn into a giant.

It’s difficult to compare “Hoffmaniada” to anything - it is too original and it falls out of the context of our time with its rationalism and positivism. Such an auteur, sincere and completely non market-oriented film probably could have appeared only in the timelessness in which it was filmed, in which the leadership of "Soyuzmultfilm" studio changed every few years, and the director had the highest degree of freedom from the dictates of officials and financiers. Partly chaotic, in many ways illogical, “Hoffmaniada” conveys sharply and precisely the viewpoint of a romantic, artist and poet, locked in everyday reality, but motivated not by that reality, but by a phantom life - veering painfully between two non-existent beautiful girls, fearing fictional monsters. In the modern world, all this seems like banal insanity, as does working 16 years on a picture that obviously and clearly will not have crazy box office numbers. However, "Hoffmaniada" is indeed such an anachronism. It is a reflection of the beautiful era of free artists, incredible fantasies and protracted, wild dreams about something more.


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