Ol’ga Preobraženskaja, Ivan Pravov

[Il ragazzo della Taiga] T. int.: The Lad from the Taiga. Scen.: Alksandr Filimonov, Vadim Distler. F.: Aleksej Solodkov. Scgf.: Viktor Ivanov. Ass. regia: G. Namoradze. Tichij Don 227 Mus.: Aleksandr Varlamov. Su.: Vladimir Bogdankevič. Autore dei testi delle canzoni: Boris Laskin. Int.: Ivan Pereversev (Stepan Potanin), Vladimir Gardin (Fëdor Potanin), Alla Kazanskaja (ingegner Polevaja), Ljudmila Zankovskaja (Njurka), Rostislav Pljatt (Vas’ka Ščerbak), Michail Deržavin (direttore della miniera), Aleksandr Čeban (segretario del comitato distrettuale), Pavel Geraga (Prochor), Pëtr Repnin (attore), Nikolaj Čindorin (guardiano), Viktor Tret’jakov (ingegner Kol’cevator), Alksandr Duletov (Kolymčanin), Michail Vorob’ëv (Solomatin), Vladimir Ural’skij (Frol), Georgij Svetlani (cameriere), Nikolaj Chrjaščikov (ingegnere). Prod.: Mosfil’m. Pri. pro.: 12 maggio 1941. 35mm. D.: 100’. 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

The Lad from the Taiga is the last film collaboration by Preobraženskaja and Pravov (apart from the lost short film Putevaja obchodcˇica). It’s a confused and eclectic work, but in its way also quite moving as an effort by the directors to defend the last vestiges of their film world. The taiga, named in the title, is the forest where the action takes place, and a good deal of the film is shot in exteriors. By 1941 Soviet cinema had closed itself in studios. The characters, constructed to satisfy the requirements of socialist realism and the laws of ‘optimistic drama’ (maybe the main if dubious contribution of the Thirties to the international system of genres) could not stand up against the forces of nature. As a result the studio would only be justified by narrative needs, or ‘abstracted’ formalistically. The filmmakers opted to do both and moved the key dramatic scenes into interior locations. In the rural trilogy passion trumped all: men, animals, rivers. The Lad from the Taiga is the last installment of another trilogy, begun with Bright Town and followed by Odna radost’ (Grain). It’s a intimate chamber drama of passions. Though the transposition only involves two or three characters, the confined space renders everything more intense. The film is built on juxtapositions, and the actors were chosen as they were as a consequence. The gallery of old lions from the days of Preobraženskaja and Pravov is best symbolized by the casting of the individualistic gold miner, played impressively by the ex-husband and mentor of Preobraženskaja, Vladimir Gardin. The old gold miner however transforms into a sort of imitation of Stakhanov, mutating his own character and nature, and it turns out that Pereversev’s robustness is due to his wearing four waistcoats one on top of the other… The impetuous Cesarskaja is replaced by the young theater actress Ljudmila Zankovskaja, who would not appear on the screen again. And as for the heroine destined for slaughter, a necessary counterweight in silent film, in the place of Rajsa Pužna, we find the charmless, masculine confidence of Alla Kazanskaja, who explicitly states: “I’m not a woman, I’m an engineer”. The elements of ‘estrangement’ on the other hand contributed the jazz soundtrack, a surprising choice set against the landscape of the taiga forest, and entirely unusual in pre-war Soviet film. Preobraženskaja and Pravov were the ones who originally led composer Aleksandr Varlamov, director of a famed jazz orchestra, into doing music for film: he composed the score for their first sound film (which was banned) Odna radost’ (1933). The jazz score confers a sense of irony to the drama: but as the film moves toward the ending, the jazz, and the passions give way to dialogue that exalts the intense work deep inside the taiga, in scenes that alternate between realism and artifice.

                                                                                                                                             Pëtr Bagrov

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