Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

Moskva

Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

Moskva

Article excerpt

Woman's Part

In 1994 Gosfilmofond of Russia took part in the creation of the montage film Woman's Part. The creator of the film, Ivan Dykhovichnyi, is one of the best-known Russian film directors working in the Russian cinema of the «post-Tarkovsky» period. At the film festival in Yalta he was named one of five film directors most likely to establish «the Russian cinema style of the XXI century.» Ivan Dykhovichnyi worked for ten years as an actor in the Moscow Taganka Theatre (directed by Yurii Liubimov), then graduated from the High School of Film Directors. His first short films are marked by a delicate and elaborate style. Black Monk (prize-winner at international film festivals in France and Italy), based on Anton Chekhov's story, turned out to be too aesthetic, and in his following film Prorva (Moscow Parade), Ivan Dykhovichnyi took a different path in search of new words and new ideas, and created an unexpected and startlingly original artistic interpretation from well-worn thematic material - the repression of the Stalinist period. Before commencing work on a new feature film (Music for December), the director was seduced by the opportunity, presented by Gosfilmofond, to make a film completely from archival footage. This film is Woman's Part.

It is difficult to imagine a literary or a musical composition, compiled exclusively of quotations, which would purport to be an author's original work. Nevertheless, cinema since the 20s has dealt with the notion of a montage film, which manifests this apparent contradiction between appropriation and originality. Still, the classic Soviet montage film (from Esther Shub to Mikhail Romm) used archival material as a historical document, organized in such a way as to establish a certain filmmaker's ideas and arguments. It was very much in the spirit of young Eisenstein's «montage of attractions» to combine (for example) documentary footage of the solemn tsar with images of the people's sufferings, rebellions, etc, in order to create certain effects and meanings. Romm later added the «lyrics» of the filmmaker's commentary to the visual effect, a quantitative addition that didn't change the filmmaker's basic attitude towards the image material.

Quite recently an important change has taken place in the history of Russian montage film: one after another we have seen a stream of films such as Oleg Kovalov's Scorpion's Gardens and Islam of the Dead, and Ivan Dykhovichnyi's Woman's Part. The critical evaluation of these individual films is not particularly significant here. What's important and new is the filmmaker's attitude towards archival material. Both directors spent a lot of time at the cutting table in Gosfilmofond. God knows what ideas they started with, but there is no doubt that the viewing of the archival footage brought out the spirit, the flavor, the «force field» of the time. One can play with and multiply words for ever, but it is clear that the experience of viewing the archival footage influenced and transformed the filmmaker's original ideas, adjusted them, and re-shaped them.

Woman's Part demonstrates vividly the differences of aesthetic potential in each period of Russian cinema from the beginning of the century to the present. Though the aesthetics of the female image (especially in the strongly ideological Soviet cinema) is to a large extent socially determined, it's not the focus of the director's major interest. …

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