Written by Michail Bulgakov in 1925, Heart of a dog was censured in Russia until 1987, while in Italy it was published in the mid-1970s, together with another masterpiece by the same author, The Master and Margarita.
The story tells the tale of a stray dog, Pallino, (Paolo Pierobon), which Professor Preobražénskij (Sandro Lombardi) subjects to a curious experiment: he implants a pituitary gland from a human. Preobražénskij, a doctor who works with a rich clientele of rich Moscovites, is looking for a therapy to rejuvenate people. Having carried out the transplant and having discovered that the pituitary gland in reality hides the secret of human development, the doctor proceeds with a forced re-education process aimed at turning the dog into a man to all intents and purposes. However, the situation gets out of hand and Pallino turns into “Citizen Pallinov”, the ideal model of the new Soviet man, so despised by the upper-class and nostalgic professor.
“Heart of a dog - explains Giorgo Sangati - is a marvellous example of the power of Bulgakov’s writing, which spares no-one. The novel is a ruthless diagnosis of the failure of the revolution, that transformed from a potential propulsive force into a cancer of the system. When a society is created that is founded on terror, imposition and violence, it is impossible to obtain a positive outcome.
Stefano Massini’s re-writing focuses particular attention on the function of language, it’s expressive potential, the process that allows for it to be learned, that forms thought (and standardises it), which allows social relations, and even a political awareness. Yet, paradoxically, the transformation of Pallino from a dog into a man translates into his “de-humanisation”, a kind of “post-Soviet anti-Harlequin”, kicked, burned, recruited, operated on, “re-educated”, registered and exploited, crushed between the positivist experimentation of the professor and the social experimentation of the new political system, Pallino-Palinov becomes the tool which demolishes the contradictions of a world founded on hypocrisy and opportunism, becoming dangerous, destructive and devastating, as he is the bearer of an animality/humanity which is cruel, irreverent and violent, but at the same time, naïve and sincere. Bulgakov and Massini tell us that the monsters are amongst us, perhaps even inside us and that we need to come to terms with our “monstrosity”, which is difficult to govern, but is stimulating, as it shows how much is false and contrived in each society. I direct an extraordinary cast of actors, with two protagonists who have always worked on language. Together we will seek to communicate to the audience the strength of a piece which was born to be contemporary, and which offers multiple levels on which each of us can seek their own truth”.
two hours and 20 minutes with interval