Vasilij Ordynskij

Scen.: Daniil Chrabrovickij. F.: Vladimir Monachov. Scgf.: Aleksandr Žarenov. Mus.: Andrej Ėšpai. Int.: Vladimir Gribkov (Vikentij Karpovič), Margarita Anastas’eva (Alla Sergeevna), Michail Majorov (Andrej Il’ič), Vladimir Gusev (Aliosha Knjazev), Nikolaj Timofeev (Basmanov), Daniil Netrebin (Krylatkin), Boris Terent’ev (Sarancev), Žanna Suchopol’skaja (Lëlja), Lidija Sucharevskaja (Karpušina), Valentina Beljaeva (Chor’kova). Prod.: Mosfilm. 35mm. D.: 91’. Col.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Vasilij Ordynskij could be considered the sole representative of the Soviet ‘cinema of moral anxiety’ in the 1950s- early 1960s. He was praised (particularly for his first feature, Čelovek rodilsja, A Man is Born, 1956), for his true-to-life portrayal of various social layers. But as excellent and accurate an observer as he was, social matters where not as important to him as existential ones. Perhaps that’s the reason why Četvero was filmed in colour: that seemed almost scandalous for a ‘serious’ Soviet film in the the 50s with their striving for documentary. But this is not the festive colour of the early Thaw, it is deliberately irritating in its irrelevance to the distressing story. The opening shot can explain something in Ordynskij’s cinema. A long take of a man’s room: the camera passes by massive velvet drapes, a table with manuscripts, autographed photos of famous scientists of the past, of a woman in a fin de siècle costume, a glass of tea in a silver holder, a sofa with a heap of pillows and a shepherd dog reclining at ease. By the end of the shot we know everything about the old man, his habits, his past – and we see him for the first and last time, sitting in his armchair, dead.
The film deals with the four pupils of the dead professor, their struggle for a cure for an epidemic fever. The true plot however is a story of four failures, for whom their science might be the only way to feel themselves needed. Soviet film plots, both good and bad ones, are as a rule awfully consistent. But Ordynskij believes neither in logic nor coincidence, and conventional storylines in his films rarely come to a resolution. When one of the characters, desperately trying to impress a girl who despises him, gives himself a deadly injection, nothing is proved to anyone: he is still not a great scientist, only a naïve and ambitious technician. The girl is about to buy the newspaper with his obituary, but her bus comes, and she disappears in a Moscow crowd – turning a melodramatic shot into a documentary one.

Peter Bagrov

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