The History of Motion Pictures

By Maurice Bardèche; Robert Brasillach et al. | Go to book overview

film were, slowly and painfully, to be formulated, and it would be impossible to exaggerate the radical importance of the part which Sweden played in formulating this aesthetic.


6. The Russian Film

IT IS not generally realized that these years spelt prosperity for the Russian film industry. Though Germany had cut them off from communication with the Allied countries, the Russian people nevertheless wanted to see films, and the firms Khanzhonkov and Yermoliev therefore provided them in large quantities. During this period Ivan Ilitch Mosjoukine, an actor-director who was afterwards to become famous, first came to the fore. Born in 1889, he had won success in the modern theater both at home and abroad, particularly in L'Aiglonand in Kean. He played the Devil in Starevich Christmas Eve, adapted from Gogol, then appeared in The Terrible Vengeance, also by Gogol, and in Pushkin Ruslan and Ludmilla. Next he played in A Tomboy, The Chrysanthemums, Do You Remember, The Slums of St. Petersburg and several Tolstoy pieces--War and Peace and The Kreutzer Sonata. He passed into the hands of Protazanov, one of the most productive of directors, and made seventy films with him, into which all the romanticism of crime and the underworld was packed, all the succedaneum of Stendhal and Dostoevski--Raskolnikov even became a sort of hero of the criminal world. Rimsky directed The Darker the Night the Brighter the Stars, about two lovers, one of whom was blind and the other disfigured. Meyerhold directed a Dorian Gray and Starevich a "medieval tale" called Jola, also Stella Maris. Aestheticism and the Apocalypse were the principal ingredients.

Between 1917 and 1919 Volkov and Protazanov made their reputation with somber dramas--Protazanov with The Queen of Spades and Volkov with Father Sergei. The latter, who had discovered the lovely, mysterious Natalie Lissenko in 1917 in Behind the Screen, now evolved Danse Macabre about an orchestra leader who goes mad while conducting Saint-Saëns' symphonic poem.

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