Vladimir Gardin, Jakov Protazanov

Int. tit.: The Keys to Happiness. Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Anastasija Verbickaja. Scen.: Anastasija Verbickaja, V. Toddi [Vladimir Vol’berg]. F.: Georges Meyer, Aleksandr Levickij, Giovanni Vitrotti [riprese in Italia]. Scgf.: Česlav Sabinskij. Int.: Vladimir Maksimov (baron Steinbach), Ol’ga Preobraženskaja (Manja El’cova), M. Trojanov (Nelidov), Aleksandr Volkov (poet Harald), Kojranskij (Jan), Vladimir Šaternikov (Steinbach’s uncle, insane Jewish), Jasmine (Sonja Gorlenko), Evgenija Uvarova (Manja’s mother), Vladimir Gardin (Manja’s uncle), Tokarskij (Manja’s brother). Prod.: Società P. Timan e F. Reinhardt. Pri. pro.: 7 ottobre 1913. 35mm. L.: 75 m (frammento). D.: 4’ a 18 f/s. Bn.

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

Adapted from the popular 1909 novel of the same name by Anastasija Verbickaja about a sexually and creatively independent woman, the film came out four years following the book and fell just short of being the biggest hit ever in pre-revolutionary Russian cinema. The Keys to Happiness marked the film debut for theater actress Ol’ga Preobraženskaja in the role of the Nietzschian ‘new woman’. Vladimir Gardin (who also acts in the film) directs here for the first time; the film is co-directed with Jakov Protazanov, a name by then respected for his work with TimanReinhardt. From this first film Gardin applies his methods with actors, holding back their emotions before any explosions of ecstasy, and his theories play out successfully in his work with Preobraženskaja. A student of Stanislavskij, the actress is masterful “dominating her feelings, allowing us to read in her face what is happening inside the soul of the heroine”, and in the culminating scene of Manja El’cova’s suicide, she succumbs so deeply to the moment that she falls into a state of semi-consciousness. This film debut by Preobraženskaja and Gardin was an enormous success and the premiere brought lavish earnings: it even surpassed Quo Vadis? by Enrico Guazzoni at the box office. The film, which includes scenes shot in Italy by Giovanni Vitrotti, was hugely expensive for a film of the era. Thanks to the financial success however, the producers not only recouped their costs, but were able to entirely renovate their film studios. Distributors even went to theater owners and stated: “If you want more rubles that meters of film in your theaters’ coffers hurry up and get in line for Nel 2011, mentre ero alla ricerca di film muti colorati, i colleghi del NFA di Praga mi hanno mostrato Kaštanka, precisando che i film sovietici imbibiti sono una rarità. È stato l’incontro con un grande film di una regista della quale non avevo mai sentito il nome: Ol’ga Preobraženskaja. Nell’estate 2012, grazie a Vladimir Bossenko, ho potuto visionare tutti i film di Ol’ga Preobraženskaja e Ivan Pravov della collezione del Gosfilmofond per preparare questa rassegna. Baby rjazanskie (Il villaggio del peccato) e Tichij Don (Il placido Don) vennero distribuiti all’epoca nell’Europa occidentale e negli USA: copie di questi due film sono infatti presenti in alcuni archivi europei. Per tutti gli altri titoli, questa rassegna è probabilmente la prima occasione in cui vengono programmati e possono essere visti fuori della Russia. Mariann Lewinsky In 2011, while viewing films for the section Silent Colour in NFA, the colleagues in Prague showed me Kaštanka, remarking that though not particularly rich in colour it was interesting, since tinted prints of Sovjet films are very rare. This was my first meeting with a great silent film by a director whose name was totally unknown to me: Ol’ga Preobraženskaja. A year later, thanks to Vladimir Bossenko, I could view all films by her and Ivan Pravov in Gosfilmofond in order to prepare this retrospective. The Women of Ryazan and The Quiet Don were distributed in Western Europe and in the USA and as a result of this prints of these two films found their way into european film archives. Other films in this programme have probably never been screened and seen outside of Russia. Mariann Lewinsky 215 The Keys to Happiness by A. Verbickaja, which is five thousand meters long”. The magazine “Cine-phono” (n. 27, 1913) described the film as a masterpiece that inaugurated a new era of Russian cinema. The film had been thought to be lost until 2007, when a short clip was discovered in the Lenfil’m film studios, edited into a 1940 homage to Vladimir Gardin on the anniversary of his birth, and it was immediately entrusted to the Gosfilmofond.

Natal’ja Nusinova

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