The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

L'Art cinématographique, 'that the great silent cinema of Sweden is dead, dead and buried. . . . It would take a genius to resurrect it from its present, routine state.'

The fiction films made in Sweden in the silent period are estimated to have been about 500 (including shorts synchronized with phonograph recordings). About 200 are at present preserved at the Svenska Filminstitutet in Stockholm.


Engberg, Marguerite ( 1977). Dansk stumfilm.

Film in Norway ( 1979).

Forslund, Bengt ( 1988), Victor Sjoström: His Life and his Work.

Schiave bianche allo specchio: le otigini del cinema in Scandinavia (1896 1918), ( 1986).

Uusitalo, Kari ( 1975), 'Finnish Film Production (1904-1918)'.

Werner, Gösta ( 1970), Den svenska filmens historia.

Pre-Revolutionary Russia


Original as it may seem in style and subject-matter, film production in Russia started as an offshoot of international trade. Because neither cameras nor film stock were manufactured in Russia in the 1910s, Russian production companies developed in a very different way from the major film companies in the west. Rather than being a corollary of the equipment industry, national filmmaking in Russia was actuated by importers (in the first place), distributors, and (in rare cases) theatre owners.

With the notable exception of the ex-photographer Alexander Drankov, the importer was the key to the first production companies in Russia. The importer was a gobetween linking foreign film producers and local exhibitors; the more companies an importer was able to enlist, the more chances he had to launch his own production. Alexander Khanzhonkov's production company started as a small commission agency selling films and projection equipment manufactured by Théophile Pathé, Urban, Hepworth, Bioscope, and Itala Film. Companies like Gaumont (until 1909), Warwick, Ambrosio, Nordisk, and Vitagraph were represented by Pavel Thiemann, another powerful figure in the pre-revolutionary film industry. Because it took a lot of travelling between Russia and the exporting countries, the share of early American films on the Russian market was relatively small. Pathé-Frères preferred to send their own representatives engaged in equipment sales (from 1904), laboratory services, or production ( 1908-13). Gaumont followed Pathé's example, but on a more modest scale.

Around 1906-7, film theatres in Moscow and St Petersburg started renting used prints to the provinces, and the system of importers purchasing films from production companies to resell to exhibitors began to be replaced. Specialized distribution agencies in Moscow supplied prints to the city's theatres and regional agencies. Each regional agency controlled several provinces, known as their 'distribution district' (prokatnyi rayon), renting prints to local cinemas.

Incidentally or otherwise, the first home-produced films appeared when the distribution system was fully established on the Russian film market. Combining production with distribution in this way was the only hope of success for a film-producing company in Russia in the 1910s. A vertically semi-integrated system allowed Russian studios to invest the money they earned from distributing foreign films into native productions-a system that would be used, with variable success, by the stock-holding company Sovkino in the mid-1920s.


Two types of strategy -- disruptive and competitive -- were employed by studios competing for the Russian market. Disruption (sryv), was a notorious gimmick whereby a competitor's production was undermined by a cheaper (and sloppier) version of the same subject (story, title) released earlier or on the same day. Borrowed from the theatre entrepreneur F. Korsh (who used the method to rob competitors' first productions of their novelty value), disruption was systematically employed in the film industry by financially insecure companies like Drankov or Perski in order to tempt regional renting agencies with a low-price alternative to Khanzhonkov's or Pathé's hits. This policy achieved little beyond hectic production races and a pervasive atmosphere of paranoid secrecy. Distinct from disruption, a strategy of competition (developed by studios with solid financial backing: first Khanzhonkov, Pathé-Frères, Thiemann, and Reinhardt, later Yermoliev and Kharitonov) consisted of promoting the idea of 'quality pictures' and turning a recognizable studio style into a marketable value.


In terms of style, Russian pre-revolutionary film-making falls into two periods, before and after 1913. From 1908 and the first Russian-made movie (Drankov's Stenka Razin) until 1913, the two main competitors were Khanzhonkov & Co. and Pathé-Frères. However, in 1913 all foreign production in Russia was curtailed, and the


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The Oxford History of World Cinema
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Contents xi
  • Special Features xv
  • List of Colour Illustrations xvii
  • General Introduction xix
  • 1 - Silent Cinema 1895-1930 1
  • Origins and Survival 6
  • Early Cinema 13
  • Transitional Cinema 23
  • The Hollywood Studio System 43
  • The World-Wide Spread of Cinema 53
  • The First World War and the Crisis in Europe 62
  • Tricks and Animation 71
  • Comedy 78
  • Documentary 86
  • Cinema and the Avant-Garde 95
  • Serials 105
  • French Silent Cinema 112
  • Italy- Spectacle and Melodrama 123
  • British Cinema from Hepworth to Hitchcock 130
  • Germany- The Weimar Years 136
  • The Scandinavian Style 151
  • Pre-Revolutionary Russia 159
  • The Soviet Union and the Russian émigrés 162
  • Yiddish Cinema in Europe 174
  • Japan- Before the Great Kanto Earthquake 177
  • Music and the Silent Film 183
  • The Heyday of the Silents 192
  • 2 - Sound Cinema 1930-1960 205
  • The Introduction of Sound 211
  • Hollywood- The Triumph of the Studio System 220
  • Censorship and Self-Regulation 235
  • The Sound of Music 248
  • Technology and Innovation 259
  • Animation 267
  • Cinema and Genre 276
  • The Western 286
  • The Musical 294
  • Crime Movies 304
  • The Fantastic 312
  • Documentary 322
  • Socialism, Fascism, and Democracy 333
  • The Popular Art of French Cinema 344
  • Italy from Fascism to Neo-Realism 353
  • Britain at the End of Empire 361
  • Germany- Nazism and after 374
  • East Central Europe before the Second World War 383
  • Soviet Film under Stalin 389
  • Indian Cinema- Origins to Independence 398
  • China before 1949 409
  • The Classical Cinema in Japan 413
  • The Emergence of Australian Film 422
  • Cinema in Latin America 427
  • After the War 436
  • Transformation of the Hollywood System 443
  • Independents and Mavericks 451
  • 3 - The Modern Cinema 1960-1995 461
  • Television and the Film Industry 466
  • The New Hollywood 475
  • New Technologies 483
  • Sex and Sensation 490
  • The Black Presence in American Cinema 497
  • Exploitation and the Mainstream 509
  • Dreams and Nightmares in the Hollywood Blockbuster 516
  • Cinéma-Vérité and the New Documentary 527
  • Avant-Garde Film- The Second Wave 537
  • Animation in the Post-Industrial Era 551
  • Modern Film Music 558
  • Art Cinema 567
  • New Directions in French Cinema 576
  • Italy- Auteurs and after 586
  • Spain after Franco 596
  • British Cinema- The Search for Identity 604
  • The New German Cinema 614
  • East Germany- The Defa Story 627
  • Changing States in East Central Europe 632
  • Russia after the Thaw 640
  • Cinema in the Soviet Republics 651
  • Turkish Cinema 656
  • The Arab World 661
  • The Cinemas of Sub-Saharan Africa 667
  • Iranian Cinema 672
  • India- Filming the Nation 678
  • Indonesian Cinema 690
  • China after the Revolution 693
  • Popular Cinema in Hong Kong 704
  • Taiwanese New Cinema 711
  • The Modernization of Japanese Film 714
  • New Australian Cinema 722
  • New Zealand Cinema 731
  • Canadian Cinema/Cinéma Canadien 731
  • New Cinemas in Latin America 740
  • New Concepts of Cinema 750
  • The Resurgence of Cinema 759
  • Index 785
  • List of Picture Sources 823


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