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Other Munchausen

I recently went on a short quest to watch all of the major versions of Baron Munchhausen. (IMDB lists 13 versions, but most of those were early shorts or tv versions that I can't find.)

Briefly: the 1979 French animated version is worthless, I couldn't even sit through five minutes of it. The infamous 1943 Nazi version is watchable but not good, and the 1962 Czech and 1979 Russian versions are both fantastic, for completely different reasons. (And of course Gilliam's 1988 version is great.)

The 1943 German version, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen has a few interesting twists & visual sequences, but is overall horribly stiff and formal. Although it was produced on Josef Goebbels' orders, they were practical enough to not try to fill it with propaganda. It's an escapist film for the masses of a country currently losing a war.

The 1962 Czech version, Baron Prásil , by brilliant multimedia animator Karel Zeman is excellent in both content and medium. The portrayal of the Baron is interesting, and the visuals of the film use ever-changing techniques, combining live action with stop-motion and paper cutouts. It is interesting that Zeman was a major influence on Terry Gilliam, and Gilliam remade this.

The 1979 made-for-tv Russian version, The Very Same Munchhausen is visually very subdued. In fact, there are only a few brief instants where there are any special effects at all. In terms of the plot, this version is interesting for showing the Baron as a storyteller, rather than portraying his fantastic world as real, like the other adaptations do. The Baron also goes through some very hard times, and is brilliantly portrayed by Oleg Yankovsky who also played the lead role in Andrei Tarkovsky's Nostalghia. (There was a live production by the same director at the Lenkom Theatre, but I don't know if it featured the same cast.)