Soviet silent cinema

  • Vladimir Erofeev – Pamir, krisha mira AKA Roof of the world (1928)

    1921-1930DocumentarySilentSoviet silent cinemaUSSRVladimir Erofeev
    Pamir, krisha mira (1928)
    Pamir, krisha mira (1928)

    Film-maker Vladimir Yerofeyev (1898-1940) was a pioneer of expedition cinema in the Soviet Union, advocating for increased attention and investment in edifying non-fiction films made to win the interest of broad audiences. Pamir. Roof of the World, 1927, is his second feature film, and the first resulting from an expedition (his debut that same year, Za poliarnym krugom [Beyond the Arctic Circle] was a co-edited compilation film). In summer 1927, a trek to the mountainous Pamir region, known as the “Roof of the World”, in present-day Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, was organized by the Sovkino studio in co-operation with the Geological Committee. Yerofeyev worked with prominent geologist Dmitrii Nalivkin and ethnographer Mikhail Andreyev; both scholars had extensively researched the area and contributed to the planning for the crew’s journey.Read More »

  • Abram Room – Yevrei na zemle aka Jews on the Land (1927)

    Abram Room1921-1930DramaSilentSoviet silent cinemaUSSR
    Yevrei na zemle (1927)
    Yevrei na zemle (1927)

    A 20-minute documentary of Jewish settlement in the Yevpatoria district of the Crimea. Exhibiting a certain amount of Jewish irony, Jews on the Land opens with scenes of a war-devastated shtetl (all that is left of the central market is a single pathetic fish stall), than shows an elderly Jew wandering about an even more desolate wilderness. Soon, however, sod-brick settlements rise and, as irrigation ditch criss-cross the once –barren plain, the now- productivised Jews are equally transformed: a new-born baby is named Forget-You-Sorrow. Tractor drivers and Young Pioneers’ are given particular pride of place and the film-makers emphasise that, among other livestock, these new Jewish peasants are raising pigs.
    “Inside the film factory” by Richard Taylor, Ian ChristieRead More »

  • Ivan Pravov & Olga Preobrazhenskaya – Kashtanka (1926)

    1921-1930DramaIvan PravovOlga PreobrazhenskayaSilentSoviet silent cinemaUSSR

    Mariann Lewinsky (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020): “Kashtanka by Olga Preobrazhenskaya, print 1995, a film of winter, of night and snow, of children and animals, a film about loss, a masterpiece”, read my viewing notes from 2012. My Prague colleagues had it screened for me because they knew I was interested in colour in silent cinema, and they knew a tinted Soviet silent film to be a rare item. I had never heard the name of the director. My encounter with her work was enhanced by the shock of discovering that a major director who had reached international audiences with Baby ryazanskie and Tikhiy Don (The Quiet Don) around 1930 could disappear without a trace from official film history. In 2013, Il Cinema Ritrovato dedicated a retrospective to her.” Mariann Lewinsky (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020)Read More »

  • Pavel Kolomoytsev – Chyornaya kozha AKA Black Skin (1930) (HD)

    1921-1930DramaPavel KolomoytsevSilentSoviet silent cinemaUkraine

    Three American workers are dismissed from the Ford plant during the Depression, and come to the Soviet Union. Not wanting to live with a man of “inferior race” one (Sam) kicks the other (Tom) out of the dorm. The Soviet workers are outraged by the American’s ugly act, declare a boycott of Sam and convince him to abandon racial prejudices and make peace with Tom.Read More »

  • Semyon Timoshenko – Napoleon-gaz (1925)

    1921-1930Sci-FiSemyon TimoshenkoSilentSoviet silent cinemaUSSR

    Synopsis:A squadron of American warplanes, armed with gas developed by Corsican chemist Gannimer (dubbed “Napoleon Gas”) flies to Leningrad. American workers inform soviet comrades about the impending catastrophe. But the air attack on the city has already begun, and the assault troops of the enemy capture one suburb of the city after the other. The Red Army is organizing the defense and reflects the attack of the enemy with gas-armed drones

    … All these events turn out to be a dream of a girl from Komsomol, who came to the farm to agitate for Aviahim.Read More »

  • Fridrikh Ermler – Dom v sugrobakh AKA The House in the Snowdrift (1927)

    1921-1930Fridrikh ErmlerShort FilmSilentSoviet silent cinemaUSSR

    synopsis, autro-transl.: Petrograd. 1919. An unemployed musician, trying to help his sick wife, steals wood from a neighbor – a speculator. Soon he is exposed and disgraced. But once the revolutionary troops are back in the city, there’s work for a musician – to support the morale of the weary soldiers.Read More »

  • Konstantin Eggert & Vladimir Gardin – Medvezhya svadba AKA The Bear’s Wedding (1925)

    1921-1930HorrorKonstantin EggertSilentSoviet silent cinemaUSSRVladimir Gardin

    Grigorii Grebner and Anatolii Lunacharskii adapted Lunacharskii’s play (based on a story by Prosper Merimee) to the screen. Since it was yet another glaring example of the commercial “line” of the studio Mezhrabpom Rus’, “The Bear’s Wedding” was an odd effort indeed for the Commissar of Enlightenment to be associated with.Read More »

  • Aleksandr Dovzhenko – Zvenigora AKA Zvenyhora [1928 Cut] (1927)

    1921-1930Aleksandr DovzhenkoDramaSilentSoviet silent cinemaUSSR

    There is a mysterious place in the midst of the Ukrainian steppes, the Zvenyhora, or the Ringing Mountain. According to folk legends it harbors invaluable treasures of the Scythians. The entire chain of historic events that left their trace on the face of Ukraine – the Varangians, the nomad invaders, the struggle against the Polish gentry, the Haidamaka uprising, the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution – are connected by one image of a Ukrainian old man, ageless, ingenuous, enterprising, cunning and indestructible – Dovzhenko’s personification of Ukrainian identity itself. The old man’s entire life is devoted to hunting for the illusive hidden treasures, which, as the film unfolds increasingly appear as a metaphor of Ukraine’s national soul and its – yet unlocked – spiritual potential. In the process, the old man is torn between his grandson Pavlo, epitome of the Ukrainian nationalist cause, and Tymishko, forward-looking, proletariat-oriented Bolshevik. The old man, instigated by Pavlo attempts to derail the Bolshevik train of progress. He is captured by Tymish’s comrades-in-arms, forgiven and taken on board the train speeding away towards the bright new day.Read More »

  • Abram Room – Tretya meshchanskaya AKA Bed and Sofa [+Commentary] (1927)

    Abram Room1921-1930DramaSilentSoviet silent cinemaUSSR

    A married couple have a small apartment in Moscow. When an old friend of the husband’s arrives in the city, he is unable to find lodgings. Kolia, the husband, invites his friend to move in with them. While Kolia is away on business, sensual Liuda and attractive Volodia fall in love and have an affair. After his initial outrage, the husband calms down. Kolia winds up on the sofa, and the three settle into a menage-a-trois until the wife finds herself pregnant. The two men are trying to decide what to do, but Liuda is strong enough to make her own decisions. Considered a landmark film because of humor, naturalism, and its sympathetic portrayal of the woman.Read More »

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