Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni > 21:30


Evgenij Bauer
Piano accompaniment by

John Sweeney


Friday 01/07/2016


Original version with simultaneous translation through headphones


Film Notes

The film adaptation of Aleksandr Amfiteatrov’s simple prose, a typical early twentieth-century text on the relationship between master and servant, is a kind of variation of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie. Strindberg was very popular in Russia, so much so that just a year before Jakov Protazanov had already directed a version of Miss Julie (Plebej, 1915).
Frustrated Nelli Rainceva attends a party organized by some servants and begins a relationship with her father’s clerk. Her life soon precipitates into an abyss of suffering with death being the only way out. The film opens next to the lead character’s coffin and is structured as a flashback: a maid finds the diary of her deceased mistress. The story turns to a fever pitch instead of revealing itself: the viewer does not wait for the ending, which he already knows, but gets caught up in the plot. Not only is the narrative structure unusual for Evgenij Bauer but so is his treatment of the lead character, who is never secondary to the decorative background: medium shots and close-ups of Zoja Barancevič as Nelli shift the focus from the external circumstances to her inner vicissitudes. A student of theater director Konstantin Mardžanov, Zoja Barancevič was very young when she signed a three year contract with the Chanžonkov production company. Performing in twelve films a year, she quickly became the star of pre-revolutionary cinema with her solid acting skills (which Vera Cholodnaja did not have) and photogenic qualities (often missing in theatrically trained actors).
In Nelli Rainceva Evgenij Bauer used the chiaroscuro techniques that dominate his films. Even the subtitle underscores his directorial intentions: the Russian term dvigopis, a calque of the French cinématographe, alludes to the concept of the ‘writing’ of motion. With brushstrokes of light, Bauer tried to challenge the flatness of the screen and create a composition with depth, especially apparent in the scene of the servants’ dance.

Alisa Nasrtdinova

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Aleksandr Amfiteatrov. F.: Boris Zavelev. Int.: Zoja Barancevič (Nelli Rainceva), Ol’ga Rachmanova (madre di Nelli), Aleksandr Cheruvimov (padre di Nelli), Konstantin Zubov (impiegato Petrov), Vera Pavlova (Tanja), Janina Mirato (Koreckaja), Michail Stal’skij (Leonid Andreev). Prod.: Aleksandr Chanžonkov. 35mm. L.: 714 m. D.: 39’ a 16 f/s. Bn.


Film Notes

Cvety zapozdalye, based on a short story by Čechov, is an illustration of primal conflicts. Marusja Priklonskaja, a young woman from an aristocratic family resigned to her fate, honors her mother, tolerates the weaknesses of her unruly brother Egoruška, and secretly loves Dr. Toporkov, a former serf. The death of her mother, her sorrow for the behavior of her brother and his mistress, poverty and emotional pain (Toporkov marries the daughter of a wealthy merchant) all lead to a fatal illness. The film has only partially survived: only the second half remains, depicting Marusja’s illness and hard life.
According to its contemporaries, the dramatic construction of the film was not entirely successful, but “despite some slow scenes in the first two parts of the screenplay and some very hurried scenes in the final two parts” Cvety zapozdalye was practically the only cinematographic adaptation able to convey Čechov’s mood. This was in large part thanks to the actors of the Moscow Art Theatre: Ol’ga Baklanova, Lidija Dejkun, Aleksandr Gejrot, Marija Uspenskaja. The scenes with Geirot in the role of Yegorushka were filmed in a naturalistic way, and Baclanova’s performance (the actress later emigrated and performed in Tod Browning’s Freaks and Joseph von Sternberg’s The Docks of New York) is full of nuance and detail: her reactions are influenced by the psychology of the protagonist and cannot be reduced to a single feeling, gesture or look. Long walks, the waiting and general slowness of the action serve to convey the pressure of the environment and everyday life in which the protagonist lives.
Boris Suškevič – director and actor at the Moscow Art Theatre – distanced himself from theatrical techniques more than many filmmakers, almost giving up on the pursuit of an effect, both in acting and filming: there is a notable absence of “looking in the camera, diaphragms, backlighting and beautiful tinting”. For the most part it is often impossible to judge the tinting of pre-revolutionary films, simply because the tinted copies have not survived; Cvety zapodalye, however, is a rare exception. In the Gosfilmofond archives there are two positive prints of the film with different tinting, sometimes radically different. It should be noted though that the best scene in the film, where Marusya walks the streets in the dark, remains in black and white.

Alisa Nasrtdinova

Cast and Credits

T. alt.: Doktor Toporkov. Sog.: dal racconto Fiori tardivi di Anton Čechov. F.: Aleksandr Stanke. Scgf.: Sergej Kozlovskij. Int.: Ol’ga Baklanova (Marusja), Aleksej Bondyrev (il servo), Lidija Dejkun (madre di Marusja), Aleksandr Gejrot (Egoruška), Marija Uspenskaja (sensale di matrimoni), Boris Suškevič (dott. Toporkov). Prod.: Vladimir Vengerov e Vladimir Gardin. DCP. Tinted.