Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol turns a page as gothic-style detective

A man walks past posters of the Gogol. The Start film as he enters a cinema in Moscow, on Sept 5, 2017.
A man walks past posters of the Gogol. The Start film as he enters a cinema in Moscow, on Sept 5, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (AFP) - A new Russian film aimed at a youth audience reinvents classic novelist Nikolai Gogol as a gothic-style detective who battles dark supernatural forces to solve a series of ritual murders.

Critics have queried the lashings of eyeliner, plumped-up lips and lack of historical rigour while the makers say the film will breathe new life into the 19th-century writer's works for today's students.

Mist swirls, black horses gallop through dark forests and naked witches leap over bonfires in the first film in a planned series of four, called Gogol. The Start, which opened in cinemas on Aug 31 and will also be shown in an eight-episode television version.

The film is based partly on the author's real life, with references to his epileptic fits and a brief job as a clerk for the tsarist political police - as well as to his fear of being buried alive.

In the film, Gogol works alongside a famed tsarist investigator, who is sent to rural Ukraine to probe a series of murders of young women.

The plot references Gogol's works, especially the spooky tales of peasant life collected in Evenings On A Farm Near Dykanka.

Gogol - whose most famous work was the novel Dead Souls published in 1842 - grew up in today's Ukraine and was inspired by its folk traditions.