Sog.: dal racconto La dama di picche di Aleksandr Puškin. Scen.: Fëdor Ocep, Jakov Protazanov. F.: Evgenij Slavinskij. Scgf.: Vladimir Balljuzek, S. Lilienberg, Valerij Pšibytnevskij. Int.: Ivan Mozžuchin (Germann), Vera Orlova (Liza), Elizaveta Šebueva (la contessa), Tamara Duvan (la contessa da giovane), Polikarp Pavlov (il conte), Nikolaj Panov (il conte di Saint- Germain), Georgij Azagarov (Tomskij). Prod.: Iosif Ermol’ev. 35 mm. L.: 1142 m. D.: 55’ a 18 f/s. Bn.
Pikovaya dama is the monumental film version of Puškin’s story about a young man of modest means who is intrigued by the tale of an old countess and her secret for winning at gambling and goes out of his mind. The film was supposed to be the most ambitious work by Ermol’ev’s production company. Its creators expected it to triumph, and they were right: the preview earned the praise of fellow filmmakers, which was followed by winning over audiences and critics. The picture went beyond mere illustration, demonstrating the potential of cinema in transposing literary works to the screen.
Director Jakov Protazanov put not limits on the creativity of the set designers, actors and cinematographer: each was considered a co-creator in his or her own right. Cameraman Evgenij Slavinskij managed to show the passing of time without having to use intertitles: he just exploited changes in the light coming through the windows. Art director Vladimir Balljuzek moved external shots to the studio to prevent chance from interfering with framing and to enhance their artistic composition. Travellings taken from behind were used for moments of emotional turmoil and attest to the early use of subjective camera in prerevolutionary film. With his gestures and head and body movement, the Germann played by Ivan Mozžuchin cuts a rapacious figure reminiscent of Napoleon, whom the story’s protagonist was inspired by. Basically it is the visual development of this dominant characteristic that drives Germann to madness.
There were two movies that critics of the era viewed as the highest achievement of Russian cinema: Portret Doriana Greja (The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1915) by the great theater director Vsevolod Mejerchol’d and this Pikovaja dama. While both works are recognized for their excellence, Protazanov’s film is considered superior: the director had, in fact, managed to instill in it the spirit of cinema and transform it into an experience to the viewer’s benefit.