The Gadfly (Russian: Овод, Ovod) is a 1955 Soviet historical drama film based on the eponymous novel by Ethel Lilian Voynich and directed by Aleksandr Fajntsimmer. In 1955 the film was third in attendance in the Soviet Union, collecting 39.16 million ticket sales.
The motion picture tells a story of the underground struggle of Italian patriots against the Austrian invaders for independence of their homeland. Against the background of these events is a tragic story of a man transformed from a pure heart and an enthusiastic young man to an ruthless revolutionary - the legendary and elusive Gadfly.
The film adaptation is more ideological than the Voynich novel. The romantic subplot was significantly reduced; Arthur and Gemma are shown not as lovers but as party comrades and the jealousy between Arthur and Giovanni due to Gemma is not depicted.
Young student Arthur Burton (Oleg Strizhenov) says goodbye to his beloved teacher, the priest Montanelli (Nikolai Simonov), who is departing to Rome on the orders of the Pope. Arthur participates in activities of the organization "Young Italy". He is resentful of its leader, Giovanni Bolla (Vadim Medvedev); he experiences jealousy towards him regarding his girlfriend Gemma (Marina Strizhenova) and confesses this to the priest, father Cardi (Ruben Simonov). After the confession all revolutionaries end up arrested by the gendarmes. Arthur is walking through the prison courtyard and admits to Giovanni what he told in the confessional and Giovanni calls him a traitor. Arthur gets released from prison and tries to tell Gemma about what happened but she slaps him and runs away. Back home Arthur learns from his uncle Burton that his real father is Montanelli. Arthur's world falls apart before his eyes, he breaks his crucifix and runs out of his home. Everyone considers him dead.
Many years later Arthur comes home adorned with scars which he received from revolutionary battles in South America. Under the pseudonym of Gadfly he joins the revolutionaries and leads an armed struggle in Italy and terrifies the Austrian invaders. To the revolutionary intellectuals he is known under the name Felice Rivarez. The Austrian emperor sends an additional military contingent to Italy and Cardi's father welcomes marching Austrian soldiers and their commander. Gadfly is involved in a secret weapons delivery but the police agents are on his tail. The Carbonari retreat from battle but Rivarez lowers his weapon as he hears the order of Montanelli and is taken prisoner. The death sentence has been predetermined for him. Compatriots give a file to the prisoner and he saws through the bars but falls unconscious in the prison yard. Before the execution Arthur admits to Montanelli that he is his son and offers his shocked father a choice between fighting for freedom or faith in Christ. The cardinal offers his son an escape but Arthur does not want to take life or become a servant of the church. Austrians shoot Gadfly at dawn and he commands his own execution. Montanelli screams in terror that there is no God.
The film's score was composed by Dmitri Shostakovich. The music from the film became very well known and the piece Romance is one of the most famous compositions of the 20th century. The film's score was later arranged into The Gadfly Suite.Oleg Strizhenov as Arthur Burton / Felice Rivarez
Marina Strizhenova as Gemma
Nikolai Simonov as Cardinal Montanelli
Vladimir Etush as Cesare Martini
Antoni Khodursky as Grassini
Vadim Medvedev as Giovanni Bolla
Grigory Shpigel as James Burton
Ruben Simonov as Father Cardi
Pavel Usovnichenko as Giuseppe
Yelena Yunger as Julia