WIDE-GAUGE FILMS FROM THE MUTOSCOPE & BIOGRAPH COMPANY 1897-1902
The Biograph group of companies was a remarkable venture in the formative years of moving pictures. Its unique selling point was the quality of its sharp and steady images provided by the large 68mm format, motorised camera and high frame rate. Biograph set up a company in London and from there, other European cities so guaranteeing the supply of films to its premiere venues in each of the countries. W.K.L. Dickson, one of the Company’s founders, travelled back to England in 1897 after his long career in the US to establish these links but despite being an engineer focused very much on the supply of content, rather than hardware, for the big screen and for its individual viewer, the Mutoscope. The chosen venue for the American Biograph, as it was always known, was London’s Palace Theatre of Varieties where it had an exclusive residency till 1902 for its premiere product. Dickson’s films were characterised by an international outlook with an interest in celebrity, royalty and entertainers, travel, sporting fixtures and industrial and military demonstrations. A European tour took Dickson to Italy in 1898 to film Pope Leo XIII and in 1899 to South Africa to report directly from the Boer war.
A collection of 68mm Biograph films was acquired by the BFI – National Archive in 1969 from the widow of Dr Rolf S. Schultze, formerly curator of the Kodak Museum in Harrow. Another cache of Biographs were discovered in the offices of a newspaper in the Hague in 1948 and is now held at the EYE Filmmuseum.
A first restoration project in the 1990s led by the Dutch archive at Haghefilm lab transferred the 68mm films onto 35mm. In 2018, BFI – National Archive, again in collaboration with Eye Filmmuseum and Haghefilm, undertook the digital restoration of the BFI’s Biograph films and a selection of British made titles held at EYE. The size of the nitrate copies and their lack of transportation perforations, made rostrum shooting the best method of image capture of each individual frame by a digital camera at 8K.
The Red Army leaves the city. Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee Serhii Kargal’skij asks his wife Nadja to stay and hide a secret package with documents. As soon as the White Army enters the city, they come to search Nadja’s apartment. Even though they do not find the package, Nadja is arrested. A White Army counterintelligence officer holds a lengthy interrogation with her in their headquarters. Nadja resolves to say nothing and does her best not to reveal the location of the package despite the blackmail and threats to her son, her husband and even her sanity.
Inspired by a dramatic life story of an anti-imperialist revolutionary Egor Sozonov, Order na aresht is the first Soviet Ukrainian film that thematises the traditional silence of the woman in patriarchal culture. Nadja is forced to speak yet thanks to her ability to keep silent, she manages to resist the rational world of men and war.
Order na aresht is one of the first successful films made by All-Ukrainian Photo-Cinema administration (VUFKU), which was established in 1922 as a modern state monopoly that controlled film production, distribution and exhibition in Ukraine. VUFKU successfully operated on the international market, selling its films to France, Germany, UK, USA and Canada, signing contracts with Kodak, Pathé, Agfa, Artkino. Moreover, VUFKU managed to create an inter-disciplinary cultural platform and engage many progressive Kulturträgers of that time (German cameraman Josef Rona, Russian poet Vladimir Majakovskij, constructivist sculptor Ivan Kavaleridze, photographer Danilo Demuc’kij, theatrical director Les Kurbas, artist Aleksandr Dovženko and the Kaufman brothers).
Order na aresht was made by Heorhii Tasin (the head of the Odessa Film Studio, a big admirer of German expressionism and the director of the first Soviet ‘eastern’ Alim about the life and struggle of Crimean Tatars) in collaboration with German DOP Albert Kyun and famous Crimean theatrical actor Chajri Ėmir-Zade.
As a result, despite its narrative thrills of cloak-and-dagger transformations, psychological torture and the romance of revolutionary committees, Order na aresht is also a reflection on the emancipation of women and their role in the historical and social processes of civil wars. Moreover, the interrogation of Nadja Kargal’ska turns into a Soviet foreshadowing of the trial from The Passion of Joan of Arc, which Carl Th. Dreyer would make two years after Tasin’s film.
Cast and Credits
Scen.: Solomon Lazurin. F.: Albert Kyun. Scgf.: Volodimir Balljuzek. Int.: Vira Vareckaja (Nadja), Chajri Ėmir-Zade (Serhii Kargal’skij), Nikolai Kutuzov (Valeriy), Nikolaj Panov, Alik Litoveckij. Prod.: VUFKU. DCP. D.: 84’. Bn.
Charge of the Carabineers, Aldershot
Four Warships in Rough Seas
Warships at Sunset
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