I'll be a bastard - Weekend - Kommersant



Forty years ago, work began on a television project in the UK (the next round anniversary of the release on television will be celebrated next spring), for which there was nothing sacred. In The Black Adder, Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson turn their country's great past into a cheeky anecdote. This did not stop the TV show from going down in history - it is still considered one of the best TV comedies today. We tell how the main characters of the series have been looking into the distorted mirror of historical experience for centuries and what they see there.

Text: Vasily Stepanov

One of the frequent Internet queries in connection with the "Black Adder" (or "Blackadder", as the title should be translated more correctly) is if this sitcom is based on real events? Still, the Prince Regent is quite real. Although he looks like Hugh Laurie, Field Marshal Haig and Wellington appear. Maybe there was some Sir Blackadder, at least in one of the five centuries described by the series? If not Edmund, then at least John or Robert? Maybe there was (if not next to him, then somewhere nearby) and Baldrick with his "cunning plan" at the ready? By the centenary of the First World War, a bold point was put on this issue: in the military archives, an entry was found about the Scottish captain Blackadder, who fought on the Somme and was awarded the military cross for bravery. Private Baldrick was also found, laying down his head relatively nearby, near Mesen. Alas, a story read even in the most comical way to its heroes is usually ruthless.

The fourth season of Blackadder, poisonous to the centuries-old British way of life, ended with the soothing spectacle of a poppy field somewhere in Flanders. Just like in a romantic poem by John McCrae: “Here is our place ... Poppies flutter in the fields. We are all dead." The protagonist of "Blackadder" would hardly have appreciated such battle lyrics with a bias towards a cemetery elegy. I remember that in the same fourth season there was an episode in which Baldrick, who had so quickly brewed coffee from trench mud and served it with dandruff instead of sugar, composed something like a futurist poem about the horrors of German guns - and the captain, wrinkling his lips, caustically scolded. Yes, a sense of humor also helps in war, at least until the leaden abominations of life take the form of a bullet flying in the forehead, and the stepladder on which you must climb from the trench does not become a ladder to heaven. Having ridiculed more than five hundred years of British history, the Blackadder could not really laugh as it broke through the German lines at Cambrai in the late autumn of 1917. Hooray? Fight? Stop, frame, there is a poppy field. Here is the end of the story.

And it all started so funny. The British, one must think, were not always so relaxed in terms of handling the national treasure. With history, it was customary to rush that with a written sack. Born in the mid-1950s, the creator of Blackadder spent his childhood reading the writings of Robert John Anstead, a school teacher who returned from the war with the idea of ​​telling and showing children the history of his native country in an accessible form - with pictures and something to be proud of. Later, Anstead's books reproached his colleagues for everything - from excessive naivety to creeping chauvinism. Anglo-centric tweed-conservative view of the world he clearly succeeded. Who knows if Monty Python dived with Anstead in his Holy Grail? After all, his conservative historical opuses were included in the lists of required reading; richly illustrated books clouded the eyes and excited the imagination of schoolchildren.

"History teaches nothing" - perhaps this is how the main idea of ​​the authors responsible for "Blackadder" could be formulated, if it had to be packed into four words. Taking hostage several eras, Richard Curtis (then, in the 1980s, not yet the author of the popularly beloved Love Actually), Rowan Atkinson and Ben Elton filtered through the sieve of comedy both national trauma and reasons for national pride. Having allowed themselves some liberties, they did not really mock the history of their native country and its main characters. Still, both Dr. Samuel Johnson, played by Robbie Coltrane, and the Duke of Wellington, played by Stephen Fry, evoke lively sympathy, as does the absurd Elizabeth I, played by Miranda Richardson. Curtis and his comrades rather laughed not at historical figures, but at those who liked to write the word "history" with a capital letter, devoting their free time to finding answers to the burning questions of the present in the great, but, alas, unique past. Above those who still love to grunt today: “Yes, there were people in our time ... Bogatyrs, not you.” Yes, they were, Curtis and Elton agreed, they were and are. Admire, the story turns the performance in a circle, just have time to change costumes, and people ... They never change - the same Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie are on the screen.

British aplomb completely dissolves in this comic leapfrog, like honey in tea. The moral of Blackadder is simple: before the stupidity of our great history, even the smartest person on Earth is defenseless (and Blackadder, of course, is called that for a reason - he is smart like a snake). What can we say about simpletons: in a pigeon meek rogue Baldrick, the stupidest Percy Darling or the inflated Lord Melchetta performed by Stephen Fry. Everyone is destined to lie under the wheels of history, and flattering enthusiasm about the importance of this or that historical moment and the role of the individual in it is inappropriate. Here, as in the epilogue of Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon": "They lived and quarreled under George III ... Good and evil, rich and poor, now they are all equal."

In a sense, inheriting the psychedelic jokes of the 1960s (Richard Lester’s How I Won the War comes to mind first of all), as well as the parodic impudence of Monty Python or even the American Mel Brooks (who in the early 1980s , recall, appeared its own "World History, Part I"), "Blackadder" endowed its historical anecdotes with the charm of a truly British defeat. No one in the world knows how to smile with such charm at their fiasco, destroying and at the same time strengthening historical and cultural myths about themselves in their minds. In every joke, as you know, there is a share of bitter truth, in every feat - something from a slapstick. But deadly seriousness is hardly compatible with a good memory.

Alas, in Russia while its "Blackadder" is hardly possible. At least in the mass cinema segment. This is confirmed, for example, by the humiliating ratings of parodies by Marius Weisberg - “Hitler Kaput!” and Rzhevsky against Napoleon. In the last ten years ago, Vladimir Zelensky, scary to say, played the French emperor, who fell in love with Pavel Derevyanko. (I want to exclaim: if you don't joke about history, it will joke about you!) The point, of course, is not the quality of the films mentioned. Whatever, mediocre works, but no worse and no better than the revisionist historical blockbusters of Channel One. It seems that the very light form and intonation is still impossible. We already have our own Russian ansteds, sincerely and in pictures telling about the greatness of bygone times. We need to wait a little longer - their readers will also grow up. In the irony directed to the past, there is nothing wrong. Judging by the British experience, it helps to survive historical cataclysms in the present quite well (the 1980s were a turbulent time for yesterday's empire). It seems that today the lessons of loving, but imposing handling of a large historical narrative, which Blackadder gives its viewer, can become truly invaluable for us.


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