The film may never be completed, but its story is mythical in animation circles. For four decades, Russian director Yuri Norstein and his creative partner — and wife — Francheska Yarbusova have been working on The Overcoat, an intricate cut-out feature based on the Gogol story of the same name.
Its on-off production is a tale of creative ambition and frustration, and Youtube culture channel Atrocity Guide tells it well in a new 45-minute video essay, which you can watch below. The video starts by outlining Norstein’s and Yarbusova’s earlier career at Soviet state studio Soyuzmultfilm, from propaganda shorts to the ageless classic Tale of Tales.
That last production sees the pair testing the limits of Soviet censorship, while their own marriage suffers from the demands of their work. Tensions personal and political run on into the making of The Overcoat, which stalls as the Soviet system collapses and the artists fail to adapt to new economic realities.