University supports VCA students and staff produced film adaptation of Dostoevsky classic

February 16 / 175

Still from Andrew O'Keefe's film Crime and Punishment.
Still from Andrew O'Keefe's film Crime and Punishment.

A talented group of current and past staff, students and alumni at the VCA and MCM have brought Dostoevsky’s classic novel Crime and Punishment’ to life in a bold new feature film. Led by director and film lecturer Andrew O’Keefe, the cast and crew have transformed the classic tale of murder and guilt, giving it a modern context.

Mr O’Keefe describes the story as the “original psychological thriller”, and says it’s “really all about the psychological journey”.

Watch the trailer here:

CRIME & PUNISHMENT TEASER from Apocalypse Films on Vimeo.

The adaptation is set in a city that has been split into rich and poor, after university fees have been deregulated. Rodya Raskolnikov, the main character, is financially strapped but wants to finish his PhD, so plans to kill a “low-life drug-dealer who preys on impoverished students”, to fund his studies.

The story plays with Raskolnikov’s ‘The Extraordinary Man’ principle: the idea that some people achieve such great heights in life that they change the world, and so are given the right to commit crimes for the greater good. In this case, Raskolnikov believes the murder would be justified if he were able to finish his studies and publish his thesis.

But suffering from guilt, will Raskolnikov confess to murder? Enter a prostitute, who “is the protector of his emotional soul,” says O’Keefe. “The policeman says you have to confess to the law, and the prostitute – who is also religious – says you have to confess to God”.

The project started after O’Keefe visited St Petersburg in 2012 and ended up reading the book twice in a row.

“I read this book and I loved it, I don’t know why,” he says.

After he returned, he assembled his core team, and they began a crowd-funding campaign through Pozible.

O’Keefe says that the film has “really hit a chord,” and recounts the flood of interest that it has been garnering from international societies and enthusiasts of all things Dostoevsky.

“This year will be the 150th Anniversary of Crime and Punishment’s publication, and the City of Melbourne is uniquely positioned to celebrate it because of our Sister City relationship with St Petersburg in Russia,” he says.

The film was shot over the summer in 2013, across both the Parkville and the VCA campuses. The Chemistry Building features as a police station, while the VCA studio hosted the film’s purpose-built set. O’Keefe is grateful for the support of the university community during filming, saying that it “opened so many doors.” Among those doors, was the opportunity to shoot the NYE fireworks scene on the balcony of the University of Melbourne Rowing Club.

O’Keefe says the response from students was “amazing,” and points out that working on the set provided a rare experience for students, to work under professional filmmakers. 

“There were around 50 graduates involved in the making of the film,” and many current students, who made the project possible on such a limited budget.

Crime and Punishment will have a staggered release in mid-2016. For up-to-date information about screenings, and to read more about the film, visit crimeandpunishment.com.au, or follow it on Twitter or Facebook at CrimeandPunishmentFilm, and on Vimeo.

Story by Bridget O’Reilly

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