Margarita Barskaja

Sog.: Margarita Barskaja, V. Jadin. Scen.: Margarita Barskaja. F.: Louis Forestier. Scgf.: P. Bejtner, K. Geningson, S. Kuznecov. Mus.: G. Gamburg. Int.: Lev Sverdlin (Pëtr Nikolaevič Volkov), Vasilij Novikov (segretario del comitato del Partito), Mihail Tarchanov, Ol’ga Žizneva, Ženja Volovič, Teodor Vulfovič, bambini da sei mesi a tredici anni. Prod.: Sojuzdetfil’m. 35mm. 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

While a factory director is distracted by production problems, his adolescent son suffers from loneliness. His mother is dead, and the father – a kind man and exemplary communist, winner of a Lenin Prize – is unable to find the time to educate his son, or a way to express his feelings. After an argument, the young boy runs away and, at his own risk, joins a band of criminals. The revolution isn’t just about production quotas, Barskaya seems to be telling us in this fine portrait of men, young and old. While female filmmakers were often assigned as directors of children’s films, the genre’s most brilliant representative chooses to tell the story of a single father. The Meyerhold actor Lev Sverdlin, who made his cinema debut with Boris Barnet’s U samogo sinego morya (By the Bluest of Seas), displays, as ever, a luminous intelligence, but the film’s sensation is the 12-year-old non-professional actor Genya Volovich, a cross between Jean-Pierre Léaud from The 400 Blows and Buster Keaton, who casts a disgruntled look at Stalinist Moscow. As Evgeny Margolit pointed out, if the screenplay does follow the predictable line of didacticism, the film and its protagonist dive into the night and a pervasive atmosphere of anxiety. Barskaya had fallen into disgrace after the arrest of Karl Radek, who had been an advisor for her previous film, Rvanye bashmaki, and suddenly found herself labelled a “close friend of an enemy of the people”. The film was branded as “perverted” and “harmful” by her own colleagues at Soyuzdetfilm. After giving the film a positive reception at initial screenings, they criticised one another for not having been alert enough. In discussions, they reproached Barskaya for having depicted Moscow as “dirty, disagreeable and ugly”, a cesspit. The scene of a worker sleeping in a Party meeting also caused outrage. On 17 June 1937, Barskaya was fired from the studio whose creation she had wished for so fervently. The film underwent much reworking and cutting. The only preserved positive print is incomplete (with two parts of the soundtrack lost, and the second to last reel missing), but “little does it matter, the film is nonetheless splendid” (Peter Bagrov).

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz

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