Russian Cultural Studies: An Introduction

By Catriona Kelly; David Shepherd | Go to book overview

9
Cinema

JULIAN GRAFFY


From the Beginnings to the Revolution

In 1896, only months after its first public demonstration in Paris, the French theatrical entrepreneur Charles Aumont brought the Lumi׳re brothers' cinematograph to Russia. It was seen at the All Russian Fair in July of that year by the young Maksim Gor׳kii, who memorably captures the perceptual confusions experienced by audiences by describing the experience as a visit to 'the kingdom of shadows'.1 Though the first Russian amateur films also date from 1896, for the next decade distribution and exhibition of films was in the hands of French companies such as Path׳ and Gaumont, who established offices in Russiain 1904and 1905, and began to make films especially for the Russian market. The first Russian film company was set up in 1906by Aleksandr Khanzhonkov, and from 1908the Khanzhonkov company began to produce films on Russian national subjects, including the first full-length feature film in the world, The Defence of Sebastopol ( Oborona Sevastopolia, 1911). The Khanzhonkov studio would go on to shoot over 300 films with many of the leading directors and actors of the period.2 Khanzhonkov's main rival was Aleksandr Drankov, who set up the first Russian film studio in St Petersburg in 1907, and shot a scene from Pushkin's Boris Godunov. This was followed in 1908by Sten׳ka Razin, based on the life of the leader of a seventeenth-century peasant revolt, now usually described as 'the first Russian feature film'.3

By the end of 1913Russian producers had made over 300 films and controlled 10 per cent of the market. The outbreak of the First World

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