Jolly Cinema > 15:30


Vera Stroeva

Born in Kiev in 1903, Vera Stroyeva studied at the city’s conservatory and then participated in the experimental theatre that later became Moscow Children’s Theatre. There she met her husband and sometimes co-director Grigori Roshal, for whom she would work as a screenwriter for a long time (along with her sister-inlaw Serafima Roshal). Stroyeva made her first films Pravo ottsov (The Right of the Fathers) and Chelovek bez futlyara (The Man Without a Case, both presumed lost) in the 1930s for the Ukrainfilm studio in Odessa. In 1934 she and Roshal had a triumph in Venice with their adaptation Peterburgskaya noch (A Petersburg Night). They inserted Dostoevsky’s short story in another early work, the unfinished novel Netochka Nezvanova, through the character of the violinist Efimov. We can already see Stroyeva’s fondness for music and the subtle and original way she uses it: David Oistrakh’s violin playing was recorded live during the filming. Music was the subject of one of her few documentaries (Yunye muzykanty, Young Musicians, 1945), and it later gave her an access to considerable production resources for two adaptations of Mussorgsky’s operas, Boris Godunov (1954) and Khovanshchina (1959). During the war she was one of the few filmmakers to showcase non-Russian artists, using the Kazakh actors from Alma-Ata (in her medium-length Syn boitsa, Son of a Fighter, 1942 and Batyri stepey, Steppe Warrior, 1942). She did it again with the Maryte (1947), a tribute to a heroine in the anti-Nazi struggle, and the first Lithuanian film in history. If important women filmmakers (Esfir Shub, Elizaveta Svilova, Lidiya Stepanova, Yuliya Solntseva) have left their mark in war documentaries, Stroyeva is, with these three films, the only woman to have contributed to the fiction films about the Soviet war and, like Donskoy, she knew how to combine harsh realism with occasionally emphatic lyricism. Over her long career (from 1930 to 1983) and in her 1936 masterpiece Pokolenie pobediteley (Generation of Victors) as well, she always emonstrated excellence in her direction of actors. She died in Moscow in 1991.

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz


Wednesday 26/08/2020


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

The film starts in 1896, with students who heckle their professor at the St. Petersburg University, and ends with the 1905 revolution. It’s a story of a generation, from the first underground meetings to the armed uprising of Moscow’s working class. Stroyeva, “a strong Soviet filmmaker” as Georges Sadoul called her, was required to adopt a high classical style in 1936, and displays her proficiency in this revolutionary fresco that captivates like an adventure novel. The composition of the shots, the use of architecture and the depth of field are remarkable, as is her sense for musical counterpoint: in one of the final scenes, the revolution, not yet visible on the screen, is heard by one of the protagonists. Grigori Roshal has stated that with this film intended for a mass audience, Stroyeva received even Eisenstein’s praise. The film’s reputation also rests on its performers, borrowed from the Moscow stage: Boris Shchukin, the most famous Lenin impersonator, who was taught by Yevgeny Vakhtangov and became the leader of the troupe after the master’s death, in a role that once more evokes Lenin; Nikolai Khmelyov, a star of the Moscow Art Theatre that he would eventually manage (“the greatest tragedy actor in Europe” said Lion Feuchtwanger); Ksenia Tarasova, who would shine for 30 years at the Maly Theatre; Vera Maretskaya, also trained by Vakhtangov before a great career in theatre and cinema (Boris Barnet’s Dom na Trubnoy, 1928, Fridrikh Ermler’s Ona zashchishchaet rodinu, She Defends the Motherland, 1943, Mark Donskoy’s Selskaya uchitelnitsa, The Village Teacher, 1947); Maria Sinelnikova, another remarkable representative of the Vakhtangov style; and Nikolai Plotnikov, taught by Michael Chekhov at the Moscow Art Theatre and whose 60-year theatrical career cannot be summarised here. Most of them are ‘eminent artists’ of the Soviet Union, awarded with many medals and prizes. Russian spectators, familiar with them, always enjoy seeing them again: young, beautiful, funny and moving. For others, the film offers a chance to discover an ensemble of exceptional actors, giving an insight into the great school of Russian realism.

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz

Cast and Credits

[Generation of Victors]. Scen.: Serafima Rošal’, Vera Stroeva. F.: Leonid Kosmatov. Scgf.: Iosif Špinel’ Aleksandr Žarenov. Mus.: Nikolaj Krjukov. Int.: Boris Ščukin (Aleksandr Michajlov), Nikolaj Chmelev (Evgenij Svetlov), Ksenija Tarasova (Sofija Morozova), Vera Mareckaja (Varvara Postnikova), Nikolaj Plotnikov (Stepan Klimov), Vladimir Kandelaki (Niko Goceridze), Marija Sinel’nikova (Roza Štejn). Prod.: Mosfil’m. 35mm. Bn.