T. it.: Il villaggio del peccato. T. int.: The Women of Ryazan. Scen.: Ol’ga Višnevskaja, Boris Altschuler. F.: Konstantin Kuznecov. Scgf.: Dmitrij Kulupaev. Int.: Kuz’ma Jastrebickij (Vasilij Šironin), Ol’ga Nabrekova (Matveevna, sua moglie), Raisa Pužnaja (Anna), Emma Cesarskaja (Vasilisa), Georgij Bobynin (Ivan, figlio di Vasilij), Elena Maksimova (Luker’ja), Ivan Savel’ev (Nikolaj, fabbro), E. Safonova (zia Alena), Inna Fedorova, Gulja Koroleva Prod.: Sovkino. Pri. pro.: 13 dicembre 1927. 35mm. L.: 1866 m. D.: 82’ a 20 f/s. Bn.
The Women of Ryazan, an immense success in the 1920s and 1930s, starring three exceptional newcomers (Cesarskaja, Maksimova and Pužnaja), is a violent melodrama about the troubled life of a woman in the Russian countryside. With a linear storyline and acted in the traditional realism associated with the Malyj teatr, the film won over the Soviet public – especially women – loved in both rural and urban areas, at home and abroad. Foreign audiences were attracted by the ethnographic aspects of the film, accurately depicting the traditional customs of Ryazan, the common rituals and daily life in the countryside. However the film ran into its fair share of trouble along the way. As early as during the screenplay stage of development, modifications were demanded: the character of the ‘modern’ woman, Vasilisa, was to be elevated, to the detriment of the representation of the ‘old-school’ woman, Anna. Additionally, the filmic language was simplified, avoiding variations in focus, dissolves and double exposures: the producers believed that rural audiences, the main target of the film, would not understand the use of these techniques. Once shot, the film was also subjected to a review by the artistic committee of Sovkino, that deemed the ending to be counter-revolutionary: the woman’s destiny was tragic, there was not enough done to highlight the effective involvement of the Socialist State in women’s issues and there was no representation of the improvement of rural life, the principle motive for the commissioning of the film in the first place. However The Women of Ryazan was not shelved, mostly because of its enormous cost. Instead it was decided to ideologically reorient the directors and ask the Central Committee to authorize its distribution. As a result the film was released, and broke all records. In 1929 some sound was added; for distribution in rural areas the film continued to be released in its silent form until 1937, when it was suddenly banned entirely in the countryside. A confidential request was submitted that year to the Glavrepertkom (the Central Committee responsible for film censorship): wouldn’t it be appropriate to eliminate the shots in the film where Emma Cesarskaja appears? The response, however, was that they should not be removed, given that Cesarskaja had also appeared in other films. The actress had fallen into disgrace following the arrest (and subsequent execution by firing squad, learned of later) of her husband Max Stanislavskij. In those difficult years Cesarskaja was spared thanks to the support of Michail Šokolov, who helped her obtain a role in Konstantin Judin’s film Devuška s charakterom (1939), marking her return to the screen. Meanwhile her most notable film, The Women of Ryazan, continued to fill the movie houses.