T. francese: L’Enfant d’un autre. F.: Fëdor Burgasov. Scfg: Alexandr Lošakov. Int.: Ol’ga Južakova (Ol’ga Bazanova), Nicolaj Rimskij (Boris Lukomskij), Evgenij Gajdarov (Vladimir), Iona Talanov, Andrej Brej. Prod.: Iosif Ermol’ev per Ermolieff-Film. 35mm. L.: 763 m. D.: 37’ a 18 f/s [incomplete]. Bn.
1918-1920 is the most confusing period of Russian film history, the interregnum between private productions made by those who have not yet emigrated and the state productions supported by the new Soviet government. There was practically no film press at the time – so in most cases we hardly know the plots and casts of the films, let alone the information about their artistic quality. Even the surviving masterpieces, such as Ljudi gibnut za etal (People Die for Metal, directed either by Jakov Protazanov and Alexandre Volkoff) had no coverage and thus have no production or box-office records whatsoever.
This also refers to Ditja čužogo – a rather mysterious piece of film in spite of the big names in the credits. It is very likely that it was not released in its native country until 1924 – and by that time it was treated as a foreign picture, for almost the entire cast and crew had emigrated soon after the film was made. The shooting took place in Yalta, not only because of the comfortable climate and the magnificent Crimean landscapes, but also one could always catch a boat to Europe.
Ditja čužogo must be the last film Protazanov did in Russia, but it is neither a statement nor a swan song. The camera is almost static, chiaroscuro is “on the level”, backlighting is applied now and then, there are a few beautiful location shots, the tinting is modest; long takes dominate, but cross-cutting is used in one of the scenes; the acting is rather restrained, particularly considering the subject (betrayal, jealousy, an illegitimate child, a fatal duel and three suicides). In short, it is an average Russian film of the late 1910s. Protazanov was good at this. But he would only go all-out if the subject was of particular interest to him. That rarely happened. When it did, he would make Pikovaja dama (The Queen of Spades), Otec Sergij (Father Sergius) or Gorničnaja Dženni (Chambermaid Jenny), films that would change the face of Russian film. But directing an easy-paced melodrama about a jealous archeologist and his unfaithful painter bride (by the way, neither painting nor archeology has any role in the plot), and doing that in a country stricken by the civil war was not something that would inspire him. Just a few months later he would start L’Angoissante aventure, the filming of which continued throughout his journey to Constantinople and Marseille and which, both in its subject and aesthetics, would become the beginning of a new fascinating chapter, ‘Russian cinema in exile’.