Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni > 10:15


Jakov Protazanov
Piano accompaniment by

Stephen Horne


Thursday 30/06/2016


Original version with simultaneous translation through headphones


Film Notes

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.

Alisa Nasrtdinova

Cast and Credits

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.


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.