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The Death of Ivan Ilych l Leo Tolstoy / RAC 2023-24

This guide is designed to support the Reading Across Campus

The Death of Ivan Ilyich on Film and in Opera

Tolstoy’s novella has inspired the following adaptations on film (adapted from Wikipedia):

  • Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952) – about a Tokyo businessman (played by Takashi Tamura) who is terminally ill
  • Alexander Kaidanovsky’s A Simple Death (1985) – a direct adaptation of Tolstoy’s story, it concerns a man possessed of riches who declares himself to be completely happy, then learns he is about to die.
  • Bernard Rosen’s Ivans Xtc (2000) – updates Tolstoy to present-day Hollywood, where an agent (played by John Huston’s son, Danny) must confront his impending death from cancer, even as he deals with an egotistical star, played by Peter Weller.
  • Iranian actor and director Ali Mosaffa’s The Last Step (2005) – inspired not only by Tolstoy but also James Joyce’s The Dead, a novella filmed by the aforementioned John Huston in 1985.
  • Oliver Hermanus’ Living (2022) – this most recent updating stars Bill Nighy as an aloof bureaucrat living in post-World War II London who learns that he has only a few months to live. He considers suicide but decides instead to build a children’s playground on a bomb site and dedicate it to the women whose idea it was. Nighy was nominated for an Oscar.
  • The Death of Mr. Kim – an 80-Minute Chamber Opera (2020) Composed by Yeseung Oh with libretto by Young-Sun Shin Produced by Opera Bank in South Korea.
  • Death of Ivan Ilyich (2021)a Full-Length Chamber Opera in One Act composed by John Young with libretto by Alan Olejniczak. A Co-Partnership Premiere with Opera Orlando and Thompson Street Opera Company.