Grigori Kozintsev & Leonid Trauberg – Novyy Vavilon AKA The New Babylon (1929)

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The Paris Commune was an epic phenomenon in the early history of the socialist movement. The Commune was located in the workers quarters within the centre of Paris. An important location was the emporium LA NOUVELLE BABYLONE, still existing at Metro Babylone. The main character in the film is Louise, a salesgirl in the shop. She is a communard. Her counterpart is a soldier that helps to wipe out the Commune. Thus, the enormous social and dialectic complications and contrasts between the workers on one side, and bourgeoisie and army on the other side, are projected on two characters. And of course they fall in love. Louise is a fierce heroine. Jean a naïve soldier, a farmer who is ordered and abused. In the end they meet not in bed but on the barricades. Jean is a conscript in the army that defeats the Commune fighters in the bloody week in June 1871. Thousands of the Communards were killed in action or shot at Père Lachaise cemetery. Continue reading

Grigori Kozintsev & Leonid Trauberg – S.V.D. – Soyuz velikogo dela AKA Union of the Great Cause (1927)

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Summary:
The film tells about the Decembrists’ revolt in the south of Russia.

(imdb)
A failed Russian Revolution succeeded magnificently on screen., 3 June 1999
Author: Theodore J. van Houten from Haamstede, 4328 ZG 1 Netherlands

S.V.D. was released in August 1927. A beautiful costume drama, it is on the other hand a somewhat expressionistic, poetical fantasy. Its photography and images are more important than its desired political contents. The script, written by the inspiring historian Yuri Tinyanov (director Leonid Trauberg [1901-1990]could speak about Tinyanov for hours) supplied a failed love story, a political intrigue involving two czars, and a traveling circus background. The picture glorifies the 1825 ‘Decembrists’ uprisal: officers in the imperial Russian army are fed up with the new czar’s autocracy. The main character is a traitor, the Scotsman Maddocks (Medoks). He has won a ring gambling. It carries the initials S.V.D. – the secret union of the ‘Big Deed’ (overthrowing the czar). Maddocks expects the ring to protect him. He is desparate to enter the circles of political power in St. Petersburg hoping a former lover (Sofia Magaril) will introduce him there. A wounded revolutionary officer is on the run, finding refuge in a circus. This setting enabled cinematographer Andrei Moskvin to film a sequence on a galloping horse ‘holding only the camera’. One of the most imaginative scenes takes place on the skating rink. The picture suddenly turns into an ice crystal created by using mirrors. The skater now waltzes his rounds all over the picture. S.V.D. introduces several pessimistic symbols: night clouds, a turtle suggesting how slowly the wounded revolutionary can move, etc. It is an extremely beautiful film, its narrative less important than its image qualities. An un-Russian revolution that failed but turned out a success on screen. It is clear that Kozintsev & Trauberg were ready for their next costume drama THE NEW BABYLON, now considered their great masterpiece. S.V.D. was restored by the German TV-station ZDF ca. 1980. For this version German composer Hamel wrote a new electronic music score, not very fitting apart from the skating rink waltz. Continue reading