Monday, November 26, 2018

Godovshchina revoliutsii / Anniversary of the Revolution (2018 restoration by Nikolai Izvolov) introduced by Nikolai Izvolov

Godovshchina revoliutsii / Anniversary of the Revolution (1918). Happy days, 28 February 1917, Moscow.

Godovshchina revoliutsii / Anniversary of the Revolution (1918). Title credit frame. Photo from: Nikolai Izvolov.

Godovshchina revoliutsii / Anniversary of the Revolution (1918). Photo from: Nikolai Izvolov.

Godovshchina revoliutsii / Anniversary of the Revolution (1918). V. I. Lenin on the Red Square, 16 October 1918. Photo from: Nikolai Izvolov.

Годовщина революции / Godovshtshina revoljutsii / [Vallankumouksen vuosipäivä]
    RU 1918. PC: Narodny komissariat prosveshtshenija / Film Department. D: Dziga Vertov. Cin: cinematographers of the Skobolev committee and the Foto-Kino Unit of the Moscow Film Committee. ED: Dziga Vertov.
    A documentary film, a compilation of Russian actuality footage from February 1917 until October 1918.
    Featuring: Mikhail Rodzianko, Vladimir Purishkevich, Aleksandr Kerensky, Aleksandr Guchkov, Aleksandr Gruzinov, Pavel Milyukov, Nikolai Nekrasov [the last Governor-General of Finland], Mikhail Stakhovich, Ivan Efremov, Mikhail Yakubovich, Aleksandr Manuilov, Nikolai Chkeidze, Abram Gots, Fedor Dan, Kuzma Gvozdev, Georgi Plekhanov, Irakli Tsereteli, Matvei Skobelev, Aleksei Brusilov, Aleksandr Kolchak, Nikolai Avksentyev, Aleksandr Zarudny, Aleksei Nikitin, Pyotr Yurenev, Anton Kartashev, Ekaterina Breshko-Breshkovskaya [the grandmother of the revolution], Nikolai Kishkin, Fedor Kokoshkin, Leon Trotsky, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Aleksandra Kollontai, Pavel Dybenko, Lokaichuk, Lev Kamenev, Adolf Joffe, Lev Karakhan, Peter Gantchev, Theodor Anastasov, Carl Adolf Maximilian Hoffmann, Prince Leopold of Bavaria, Vladimir Lenin, Vladimir Bonch-Bruyevich, Yakov Sverdlov, Jukums Vacietis, Pokrovsky, Chicherin, Karakhan, Steklov, Radek, Sereda, Stuchka, Tsuryupa, Rykov, Podbelsky, Shlyapnikov, Kamenev, Rakovsky, Krasin, Rogov, Zalezhsky, Pavlovsky-Pavlovich, Sosnovsky, Schlichter, Proshyan, Vladimirsky, Schmidt, Demyan Bedny, Mikh. Tomsky, Karelin, Sklyansky, Podvoysky, Rattel, Zagge, Muralov, Kin, Poznansky, Oplotsin, Mikhalkov, Lev, Volodya Alekseev, Aleksandr Ge, Khvesin, Lindorf, Zhukov, Savin, Antonov, Zakharov, Chapayev [yes, the same one], Ivanov, Kondraty Koganov, Efim Parfyonov, Vasily Ksenzov.
    Premiere: 7.11.1918
    Reconstruction: 2018 – Nikolai Izvolov (Vserossiiski gosudarstvenny institut kinematografii imeni S. A. Gerasimova / VGIK, Moscow) – archival footage: Rossiiski gosudarstvenny arhiv kinofotodokumentov (RGAKFD, Krasnogorsk) – original intertitles discovered by: Svetlana Ishevskaya (Rossiiski gosudarstvenny arhiv literatury i iskusstva  / RGALI, Moscow)
    Premiere of the reconstruction: 20.11.2018, IDFA, Amsterdam.
    119 min
    2K DCP with English subtitles.
    Introduced by Nikolai Izvolov. Event arranged by Birgit Beumers / Alexander Institute.
    Screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Centenary of the Revolution) with Marko Puro at the piano, 26 Nov 2018

Anniversary of the Revolution is the most amazing restoration event of the year.

A film that had been believed lost almost a century ago is now again with us, thanks to Nikolai Izvolov who conducted the reconstruction and Svetlana Ishevskaya who discovered the complete intertitle list which made the reconstruction possible. Thanks to Birgit Beumers, currently at the Alexander Institute, we got the film and Nikolai Izvolov to Helsinki within a week of the IDFA premiere of the reconstruction in Amsterdam.

This film contains a wealth of imagery that I am not familiar with although I have seen most of the surviving legacy of Dziga Vertov, including his Kino-nedelya series. Approximately 20% of this film overlaps with that series. I have seen Esfir Shub's classic compilation films and been under the illusion that the scarce materials of the revolutionary year have been thoroughly mined over and over again. How wrong I have been.

There is a tremendous sense of topicality and energy in the huge epic scenes, intercut with dozens of vivid portrait shots. This film is another salutary reminder of the artificial quality of the depictions in the fictional masterpieces of the heroic era whether classically lyrical (Pudovkin) or mannerist-baroque (Eisenstein). Anniversary of the Revolution is the most vibrant account of its subject that I have seen.

This is the official Bolshevist version of the year 1918 of course, not an objective and balanced account of events. But it is fascinating also as a document of the official approach in the middle of the thunderstorm.

Nobody expected the Bolsheviks to survive, least of all the Bolsheviks themselves. They saw themselves as successors to the Paris Commune, destined to perish gloriously while leaving an undying example. Surrounded from every side by superior enemies they were prepared to fight to a finish. This film documents the revolutionary zeal before the stabilization of the Bolsheviks to a new tyranny.

To a contemporary viewer, one figure is conspicuously missing among the vast cast of characters: Stalin. Mr. Izvolov explained to me that this is how it was in 1918: Stalin was not prominent. The outstanding figure is Trotsky, portrayed here as a military commander constantly on the move.

Lenin is introduced only after the midpoint in a lengthy scene on the Red Square discussing jovially with his personal secretary Vladimir Bonch-Bruyevich. Mr. Izvolov told me that this scene was shot with a hidden camera since Lenin did not like to be filmed. He had just survived one of the assassination attempts against him, and the scene was filmed to prove that he was alive and well.

I was amazed at the high quality of the cinematography. The lighting and composition is often excellent. There are illuminating high angle shots displaying huge and unpredictable crowd movements. The camera is often mobile, and the movement is steady and impeccable. The magnificent panoramic shots are stunning and revealing.

War scenes include tragic images of carnage and ruins. Funeral scenes are deeply moving. The first decree of the Bolsheviks is on peace. The second decree is on land.

Towards the finale we witness how "life begins to surge on the market". A tracking shot from a boat on the Volga takes us to witness desolation among the homeless, the orphans, in temporary shacks, results of the devastation of war.

The audience was amused at the final scenes on collective farming. There is a feeling in the harvest and milking scenes that these people have never tried their hand at farming before. But such scenes also contribute to a certain sense of authenticity in this film. It is a propaganda film but moments of relaxation are still possible.

As for Dziga Vertov, we witness here the 22 year old director learning his craft in conventional, traditional, linear documentary story-telling. He already proves that he has an eye for lively footage and the telling detail plus a fine judgement in structure in a two hour film which never feels boring.

The visual look of this work has had compilation quality since the beginning; it comes with the territory. But if it is possible to replace some scenes from sources of superior visual quality I am convinced that that would do even more justice to Vertov. That is what he would have done, I think.

Anyway this is a thrilling experience, and it would be rewarding for professional historians to see this. It puts things into a different perspective and gives much to think about.


Rekonstruktio Dziga Vertovin kadonneeksi luullusta ensimmäisestä pitkästä elokuvasta, Vallankumouksen vuosipäivä (1918), esitetään erikoisnäytöksessä elokuvateatteri Orionissa pian Amsterdamin dokumenttielokuvafestivaalilla IDFAssa tapahtuneen kantaesityksen jälkeen.

In November 1918 Dziga Vertov presented his first feature-length compilation film, the documentary Anniversary of the Revolution (Godovshchina revoliutsii), which consisted of historical chronicles of the events in Russia from 1917–1918. For many years the film was considered lost; in 1967 some of its parts could be attributed, but the exact content remained unknown. In 2017 the complete list of intertitles for the film was discovered at the Russian State Archive for Literature and Art (RGALI), which made it possible for the researcher Nikolai Izvolov to identify all of the film’s constituent parts and recover Anniversary of the Revolution in full from the material archived at the Russian State Archive of Film- and Photo-Documents (RGAKFD). Dziga Vertov’s debut film has been fully restored and will have its world premier at IDFA in Amsterdam on 20 November 2018, almost exactly a century after its first screening.
    With the support of the Aleksanteri Institute, it will be possible to offer a special screening of Anniversary of the Revolution in Helsinki on 26 November (and before the film will tour other European festivals), presented and introduced by Nikolai Izvolov (Moscow).
    Nikolai Izvolov is Head of the Department of Russian Film History at the Scientific Research Institute for Cinema (NIIK) at the Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK). His publications include the book Fenomen kino. Istoriia i teoriia [The Cinema Phenomenon. History and Theory, 2001] and numerous articles on early Russian and Soviet cinema published both in Russia and abroad. He is particularly renowned for his work in the reconstruction of ‘lost’ films by Aleksandr Medvedkin, Dziga Vertov, Lev Kuleshov and others. Izvolov is the editor of Ruscico’s ‘Academia’ series of classic Russian films on DVD with scholarly commentaries in Hyperkino format.

– Birgit Beumersin mukaan AA 26.11.2018

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