One of the most important living masters of animated film, Yuri Norstein created a relatively small body of work, but his work is nevertheless included in all the anthologies and lists of the most significant achievements in recent decades and is in the animation world globally considered one of the greatest accomplishments. At first he worked as a phaser, cartoonist and animator and together with Arkadiy Tyurin he made 25th October, the First Day (1968), a film inspired by Soviet propaganda visuals. With Ivan Ivanov-Vano he made Seasons (1969) which won a prize at the first Animafest Zagreb, followed by The Battle of Kerzhenets (1971), based on a work by the great composer Rimsky-Korsakov, visually leaning on Russian medieval visual tradition.
As an independent filmmaker he mostly leaned on folklore, fairy-tale and other traditional elements, constantly perfecting photographing, animation and post-production techniques, developing a new, unique and recognisable artistic handwriting. The Fox and the Hare (1973), The Heron and the Crane (1974) and Hedgehog in the Fog (1975), exceptional and still today favourite works, served as a basis for Norstein’s masterpiece Tale of Tales (1979), another Animafest Zagreb winner, the work often called the best animated film of all times. This work, characterised by recognisable nostalgia and powerful lyrical qualities, tastefully and functionally uses the broad range of techniques specific for animated film, as well as those used in other visual and audiovisual arts, always astounding the viewers with its freshness and emotional impressiveness. In addition to great successes in non-fictional writing and film education, as well as some smaller animation projects, Norstein has dedicated most of the last years to the project of his life, the still unfinished Overcoat based on a short story by Gogol.
A master of animation and a role model to the new generations of filmmakers, Yuri Norstein works painstakingly and carefully, paying attention to every detail. His serious approach and individuality has set high standards in contemporary artistic animation, the standards every new generation is always trying to attain. (N. Gilić)
Films screened at Animafest