Thursday, April 08, 2010

Der weisse Teufel

Valkoinen paholainen / Den vita djävulen. DE 1930. Production year 1929. PC: Ufa. EX: Noé Bloch. P: Gregor Rabinowitsch. D: Alexander Wolkoff. Ass D: Anatole Litvak. SC: Alexander Wolkoff, Michael Linsky – based on the tale Hadji Murat by Leo Tolstoy (published posthumously 1912). DP: Curt Courant, Nikolai Toporkoff. AD: Vladimir Meingard; Alexandere Loschakoff; Wladimir von Meinhardt. Cost: Boris Bilinsky. M: Michel Michelet, Willy Schmidt-Gentner, Marc Roland, Michael Lewin, Michael Glinka. M excerpts: The Swan Lake (Tchaikovsky), "Valse triste" (Sibelius), Rimsky-Korsakov. S: Dr. Fritz Seidel, Walter Rühland. Loc: The Alps in South France, Grenoble, Switzerland, Nizza, Leningrad (opera, castle, easter parade). Cast: Ivan Mosjoukine (Hadji Murat), Lil Dagover (Nelidova), Betty Amann (Saira), Fritz Alberti (Czar Nicholas I), Acha Chakatouny (Shamil), George Seroff (Ryabov), Alexander Murski (General Vorontsov), Kenneth Rive (Hadji Murat's son Jusuf), Bobby Burns (child), Serge Jaroff and His Don Cossack Choir. 103 min. A fine print from Filmmuseum Berlin / Deutsche Kinemathek, electronic subtitles in Finnish by AA, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Leo Tolstoy), 8 April 2010.

Revisited one of Ivan Mosjoukine's most magnificent films and one of the best Leo Tolstoy film adaptations. Mosjoukine is charismatic and fearsome as a mounted Caucasian warlord and he projects also an appealing tenderness and compassion. This unique scope of Hadji Murat's character is true to Tolstoy.

Remarks:
1. Leo Tolstoy's taut story has been transformed into romantic mainstream entertainment. The film follows the conventions of the swashbuckler genre.
2. The film is based on the same tragic conflict as Tolstoy's story. Hadji Murat is persecuted by Imam Shamil but he cannot join the Russians. He is caught in an impossible situation between the enemies.
3. The hero is a Chechen warlord who wages a holy war against the Christian world.
4. In Tolstoy's story, Hadji Murat has many wives. In the film, he is a widower who wants to find a new mother to his beloved son Jusuf. The character of the dancing Chechen maid Saida (Betty Amann) is an invention of the film-makers. Towards the end, Murat and Saida are wed. Finding the new mother is a major plot.
5. In Tolstoy's story, Hadji Murat stays in Chechenia and Dagestan. In the film he is taken to the capital, St. Petersburg.
6. As in Tolstoy's story, Czar Nicholas I appears as a slightly ridiculous character, and his affairs with young girls are highlighted. In Tolstoy's story, the young lady surrenders willingly and is amply rewarded. In the film, the ballerina is Saida, and Hadji Murat saves her from the arms of the Czar at the hunting lodge in Petergof.
7. In Tolstoy's story, the Russian military escort to Hadji Murat is a highly intelligent man who writes down Murat's autobiography. In the film he's an idiot.
8. As in Tolstoy's story, montage technique is used to portray Hadji Murat's final moments, but Tolstoy's story is more cinematic than the film itself.

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