[Il principe ereditario della repubblica] Scen.: Rafail Muzykant, Boris Čirskov. F.: Georgij Filatov. Scgf.: Pavel Betaki. Int.: Pëtr Kirillov (il marito), Evgenija Pyrjalova (la moglie), Andrej Apsolon (Andrej), Georgij Žžënov, Georgij Orlov, Sergej Ponačevnyj (architetti), Nikolaj Urvancev (il vecchio), Elena Volynceva (la vecchia), Konstantin Egorov (‘Principe ereditario della repubblica’), Aleksandr Mel’nikov (l’ispettore degli alloggi), Nikolaj Čerkasov (il cameriere). Prod.: Lenfilm. 35mm. D.: 68’. Bn.
Forgotten for many decades, this charming comedy was rediscovered fifteen years ago and quickly became a classic film in Russia and an important page in Soviet film history. One of the few silents released in 1934, Naslednyj princ respubliki managed to compete very successfully with the talkies and was screened regularly until the early 1940s.
Four bachelors raising a baby is a perfect subject for slapstick. And there is a bit of slapstick in this film. As well as the grotesque and the absurd (one scholar even suspected the influence of the Marx Brothers whose films, though, never reached the USSR until the 1940s). But what marks Ėduard Ioganson’s films is their unusually subtle and lyrical flavour – something one could rarely find in Soviet cinema with its splendor, bravado and pathos. Ioganson’s role in Leningrad could be compared to that of Boris Barnet in Moscow, adjusted for the specifics of Leningrad/St. Petersburg, of course, with its European, highbrow, restrained geometrical beauty. Ioganson, who was indeed a restrained, well-mannered man from a middle-class family of German origin, may also be the only leading director in Leningrad who was actually born in the city. So instead of showing monuments (which should be a prerogative of a tourist or a newcomer), he portrayed an entirely different Leningrad – with romantic white nights, sunny streets and a never-ending sense of being in love.
Having successfully directed a couple of sound shorts Ioganson deliberately turned back to silent cinema. The Soviet sound equipment in the first half of the 1930s was so imperfect that the actors were forced to declaim their lines. Whereas in some of the late silents – and Naslednyj princ respubliki may be the best example – full-fledged psychological acting wasn’t crushed either by extensive editing or by pathetic recitation. Besides, Ioganson did not see any difference between acting in drama or comedy: the situations were funny enough in themselves, and this comicality was to be motivated rather than enhanced. This led to an entirely new acting style, looking ahead to the fifties or early sixties.