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 Nikolai Burlyayev

Born:   03 August 1946

Russian actor


Nikolai Burlyaev is a person endowed with a wide range of talents; he is well-known as an actor, film director, scriptwriter, and a public figure. First time appearing on screen as a slim and frail teenager in Tarkovsky’s drama film Ivan's Childhood he at once came to be a mature actor in great demand.

Nikolai Petrovich Burlyaev was born on August 3, 1946 into the family of actors living in Moscow. When Nikolai was thirteen, he happened to meet Andrei Konchalovsky, who was at that time a student of the Film Directors’ Faculty in VGIK (All-Union State Institute of Cinematography) and invited the boy to star in his graduation work, the short-length feature Malchik i golub (The Boy and the Pigeon) (1961).


Ivan's Childhood (1962)
In 1962 Nikolai Burlyaev starred in Andrei Tarkovsky’s picture Ivanovo detstvo (Ivan's Childhood) after the same-name story by Vladimir Bogomolov. The actions take place during the Great Patriotic War. Till date this almost debut role of Burlyaev is considered his best and probably the most famous one. The young actor faced a challenging task of playing both a happy poetical boy from dreams, and a small scout who is possessed by the war and rejects his childish essence for the sake of revenge mission. This role was quite professionally played by Nikolai Burlyaev and determined the actor’s inherent traits, such as frantic nervousness, inner conflict, and “catastrophic” existence within the image.

In 1962-1964 Nikolai Burlyaev worked as an actor in the Mossovet Academy Theatre, playing children’s parts, like that of the young tsar Ptolomei in Tsar and Cleopatra, a page in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and others.


With Tarkovsky. Filming Andrei Rublyov

In 1967 Andrei Tarkovsky was finishing his grandiose film fresco Andrey Rublyov. The Bell, the last novella of the genius film, features Boriska, a deceased master’s son in shabby cloths with clavicles knuckled of leanness, who undertakes to do his father’s job, to cast a gigantic bell for the Great Prince. The actor had the fortunate rare chance of conveying that extreme condition of the soul, which is called creation. Work with Andrei Tarkovsky had a great impact on the personal development of Nikolai Burlyaev, and confirmed him in the idea of the messianic destination of art.

After graduation from the Actors’ Faculty of the Shchukin Drama School in 1968 Nikolai Burlyaev started to appear on screen more often. One of his best works is the lead in the film Voenno-polevoy roman (War-Time Romance) (1983).


Photo of 1977
Playing the teenage Boris in the film Mama vyshla zamuzh (Mama Married) (1969) by Vitali Melnikov the actor succeeded in profound and exact psychological portraying of his character’s poignant process of becoming adult, the latter’s conflicts with his mother, stepfather and the whole world. The role of Aleksei Ivanovich (Igrok (Gambler) (1970) directed by Aleksey Batalov), an eccentric, passionate, and gifted person, dissipating his life at gambling, revealed how close Dostoyevsky’s world was to Nikolai Burlyaev.

Another memorable work by Burlyaev is an episodic role in the outstanding film Proverka na dorogakh (Checkpoint) directed by Aleksei German. Right after the completion of the film in 1972 it was “put on shelf” and had to painfully carve its way to the public for many years. In the small, yet bright role of a police agent the actor expressed the very essence of treachery – the animal fear of death and the endlessness of the fall.

In 1975 Nikolai Burlyaev graduated from the Film Directors’ Faculty of VGIK, where he studied under Mikhail Romm and Lev Kulidzhanov, and since then tried prentice hand at film directing.


Lermontov (1986)
In 1975 he directed Poshekhonskaya Starina based on the stories by Saltykov-Shchedrin. In Vanka-Kain, one of the novellas of this film almanac, he played the lead. Later he also starred in his films, such as Vybor (The Choice) (1979), and Lermontov (1986).

Nikolai Burlyaev played Jesus Christ in Master i Margarita (Master and Margaret) directed by Yuri Kara in 1994 and still unreleased.

In 1991 Nikolai Burlyaev organized the annual Moscow Film Festival of Slavic and Orthodox Peoples “Zolotoi Vityaz” and became its permanent president. In 1996 he founded the International Association of Cinematographers of Slavic and Orthodox Peoples and was elected its chairman.


Nikolai Burlyayev
“We will be able to fight the evil powers, if we ourselves make true cinema, showing the examples of selfless devotion, examples of Christian living and paragon Orthodox families, if we teach to love people, love motherland, and just love”, - Nikolai Petrovich says.

Recently the actor has not been much into filming, probably for the reason of his high claims towards cinema. Nikolai Burlyaev lives and works in Moscow.




Tags: Russian cinema Russian actors Nikolai Burlyaev   

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