Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni > 10:15


Evgenij Bauer
Introduced by

Peter Bagrov and Alisa Nasrtdinova (Gosfilmofond)

Piano accompaniment by

John Sweeney


Monday 27/06/2016


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

The screenplay of Umirajuščij lebed’, tailor made for Bolšoj star Vera Karalli, was written by Zoja Barancevič, an actress for Aleksandr Chanžonkov’s company and – like many actors of the pre-revolution period – occasionally a screenwriter. The film tells the story of mute ballerina Gizella Raccio who becomes famous on the international stage but suffers from a broken heart. Glinskij, a painter obsessed with death, is struck by her melancholic and poignant style. In the painter’s mind, the portrait of Gizella should depict death itself. With the return of her beloved, however, the ballerina’s happiness is renewed, and a smile brightens her face. The painter kills Gizella to fulfill his work.
Shot during Chanžonkov’s work trip in the south, this movie launched the commercial success of films set in Crimea and the Caucasus. The director Evgenij Bauer worked outdoors, dispelling the myth that he only shot films in studios. The film’s movement, visionary quality, the story built around a ‘silent’ beauty branded for death: Bauer drew upon all symbolist influences used in cinema and lavished them on his film. A decade later cameraman Boris Zavelev, who shot Zvenigora with Aleksandr Dovženko in 1927, said that his work with Bauer was the high point of professionalism in film.
The press praised Karalli’s dancing, the swan song of Moscow’s classical ballet. As Chanžonkov confirmed in his memoir, Karalli was the people’s darling, and there was not a Russian village where her films were not awaited with excitement. Even if imperial theater actors were forbidden from appearing in film, Vera Karalli continued to work with movie studios “confident that it was the Moscow ballet that needed her, and not the other way around”.
Alisa Nasrtdinova

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Zoja Barancevič. F.: Boris Zavelev. Int.: Vera Karalli (Gizella), Aleksandr Cheruvimov (padre di Gizella), Vitol’d Polonskij (Viktor Krasovskij), Andrej Gromov (Valerij Glinskij), Ivan Perestiani (amico di Glinskij). Prod.: Aleksandr Chanžonkov. 35 mm. L.: 1019 m. D.: 55’ a 16 f/s. Bn