Jolly Cinema > 11:00


Rouben Mamoulian
Introduced by

Ehsan Khoshbakht


Tuesday 27/06/2023


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Kenji Mizoguchi said: “All melodrama is based on Tolstoy’s Resurrection.” For this first sound adaptation of Tolstoy’s final novel, Mamoulian, who spoke Russian as a second language growing up in Tbilisi, elaborated on the melodramatic tendencies that surfaced in his first feature film, but approached them with an objectivity that was not melodramatic.
Set in 1875 Russia, Prince Dmitri Ivanovich (Fredric March), a young and idealistic Czarist officer, falls for the peasant Katusha (Anna Sten) on a visit to his feudal family manor. He impregnates her, then abandons her for a decadent life in Moscow until seven years later, he finds himself sitting on the jury trying the same woman, now a prostitute, for murder.
Some heavyweight writers, including Maxwell Anderson and Preston Sturges, are credited on the script. Thornton Wilder contributed too, though uncredited. Mamoulian, who liked Sturges and was influenced by him in Rings on Her Fingers, claimed that the final script was by Sturges, but the late Donald Spoto rejects that notion in his biography of Sturges. Whoever wrote it, the novel’s criticism of the church was left out and its observations on deep social injustice were reduced to platitudes so that the transformation of Dmitri and his final act of sacrifice, visually arresting as they are, remain dramatically unconvincing. Shot by Gregg Toland, the compositions are rich and painterly. The opening scenes clearly  display the influence of Soviet masters of the 1920s, notably Alexander Dovzhenko. The décor is by Russian painter and designer Sergei Sudeikin, who had worked on the sets of Mamoulian’s 1935 stage version of Porgy and Bess. Mamoulian pours his heart into ceremonial details (the Christ has arisen chant followed by three ritual kisses on the cheek) and laments the collapse of a world which can still hide the scars of class friction under a cloak of faith. One of the most poignant scenes in the film takes place when the repentant Dmitri meets Katusha in a torture chamber – the only peaceful corner they can find  in  the  overcrowded  prison. It ends in the labour camps of Siberia where their spiritual belief renders the lovers immune to cold and brutality. They live again, even in death.

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Cast and Credits

Sog.: from the novel Resurrection (1899) by Lev Tolstoj. Scen.: Maxwell Anderson, Leonard Praskins, Preston Sturges, Thornton Wilder. F.: Gregg Toland. M.: Otho Lovering. Scgf.: Richard Day, Sergej Sudejkin. Int.: Anna Sten (Katusha Maslova), Fredric March (principe Dmitri Ivanovich Nekhlyudov), Jane Baxter (Missy Kortchagin), C. Aubrey Smith (principe Kortchagin), Sam Jaffe (Grigory Simonson), Ethel Griffies (zia Marie), Gwendolyn Logan (zia Sophia), Jessie Ralph (Matrona Pavlovna). Prod.: Samuel Goldwyn per Samuel Goldwyn, Inc., Rouben Mamoulian Production. 35 mm. D.: 85’. Bn.