Monday, 12 May 2008
Russia: A Journey with Jonathan Dimbleby
Last night the BBC aired part one of a new series following Jonathan Dimbleby’s 10 month odyssey over 10,000 miles of modern Russia. I found it difficult to assess on the evidence of 60 minutes whether the programme will present a useful portrait of the Federation. Dimbleby’s stated objectives certainly display a degree of ambition, but it remains to be seen whether he will succeed in reflecting the outlooks, lifestyles and preoccupations of real Russians or whether in seeking to impose a narrative on the material he has collected, the show flounders under the weight of metaphor and interpretation and collapses into easy cliché.
Both outcomes suggested themselves during the programme last night. There were plentiful interviews in which Russians were allowed to voice their opinions with only occasional interjections from the presenter. On other occasions however the grand, national metaphor made an appearance. The north’s White Nights we were told, coupled with accompanying long, dark winters suggested the history of Russia. Dimbleby at one point received a prolonged battering from a masseur in a banya, ‘I feel like the Russian people’, was his portentous comment.
The programme is available on I Player.