Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Polikushka

Поликушка. RU or SU, year of production 1919, year of release 1922. PC: T/D ”Rus”. D: Aleksandr Sanin. SC: Fjodor Otsep, Nikolai Efros – based on the tale by Leo Tolstoi (1863). DP: Juri Zheljabuzhski. AD: Sergei Kozlovski, S. Petrov. Cast: Ivan Moskvin (Polikei), Vera Pashennaja (Akulina), Jevgenija Rajevskaja (mistress of the house), Varvara Bulgakova (foster daughter), Sergei Aidarov (farm superintendent), Dmitri Gundurov (gardener), Sergei Golovin (Dutlov), A. Istomin (Iljuha). 1366 m / 77 min. An Österreichisches Filmmuseum print with electronic subtitles in Finnish by Pirjo Kinnunen. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Leo Tolstoy), 30 March 2010.

The print is as good as it gets: from less than perfect source materials with a duped look, picture instability, superfluous framelines, and jump cuts, yet it is pretty complete, and it is still possible to imagine the original pictorial quality. The speed should be 16 fps, we screened this slightly too fast.

I had seen this film before, but now, thanks to the loving care of the translation by Pirjo Kinnunen, it was possible to make much more sense of the film the intertitles of which are largely directly from Tolstoy. According to her, there is a lot of old-fashioned language in the text.

A lot of talent involved in this prestige production (Sanin, Ozep, Efros, Zheljabuzhski, Kozlovski, Moskvin, Pashennaja... ) - a prestige production which is heart-breakingly naturalistic, giving us a vivid portrait of the poverty in the countryside just after the abolition of serfdom.

This is the story of the attempt to break free from the vicious circle of poverty and alcoholism. This is a story of an attempt at redemption. This is also the story of the curse of money and the military system.

Ivan Moskvin (1874-1946) is astonishing as Polikei. It is impossible to tell that he was a leading Russian man of the theatre who had famously portrayed kings and czars and would become the director of the Moscow Art Theatre. The acting styles are overall quite natural, and the outbursts of violence and alcoholism seem true to life.

An example of realism between the anti-realistic styles of Yevgeni Bauer in Imperial Russia and the montage / eccentric / futuristic currents of Revolutionary Russia. Lauri Piispa in his programme note reports that the realistic style was much more widespread and highly appreciated at the time than the anti-realistic styles that now get the attention in the history books.

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