The History of Early Russian Cinema

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The History of Early Russian Film (1907 To 1977): Seventy Years of Russian Film

The History of Russia: 1861 to Present Day
Dr. Sola-Corbacho

February 19, 2012

The History of Early Russian Film (1907 To 1977): Seventy Years of Russian Film

The beginning of the twentieth century was an exiting time for this business that we call show. The film industry had not restricted itself to Hollywood. The film industry had spread its wings round the world at a fantastic rate. This term paper focuses on the early years of Russian cinema, the films that were made, and the directors that pushed the boundaries of Russian entertainment. We will trace a path through history; from the beginning of the silent era, the introduction of sound, and the sound of drums which heralded the beginning of a second great war. This paper will touch upon such pre-revolutionary Russian films as Seaside Walk, The Gadfly and the Ant, Christmas Eve, Kliuchischastia, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Queen of Spades. We fill find the fall of Nicolas II will not be an end to the Russian film industry. The industry will continue. We will also look at such films as Chelovek s kino-apparatom, The Battleship Potemkin, Novyy Vavilon, and Putevka v zhizn. The path we will take with this paper will lead us from 1907 to 1977; through the Russian revolution, the Great War and the beyond the Second World War. Even though French film companies dominated the Russian Empire film market up until the beginning of the First World War, Russian companies started appearing as early as 1907. The Russian Empire had a fledging film industry waiting to bust out on to the world stage. The beginnings of which can be seen in the film Seaside Walk. Seaside Walk was originally titled Dəniz kənarında gəzinti, one of the earliest examples of Russian film known to still exist. Directed by Vasil Amashukeli, Seaside Walk was filmed in 1908. Amashukeli not only directed Seaside Walk, but is also credited as being the person that wrote and produced the film. Seaside Walk was made with shot 33mm film. By today’s standards, Seaside Walk is considered a short film. Amashukeli wrote, produced and directed several other short films in 1907; working in Baku, primarily making films of oil production and extraction in and around the capital. These films included Oil Extraction and Transportation of Oil. These titles really speak for themselves. The films Amashukeli made were documentary based. This type of film was pretty much the order of the day. The entertainment industry only recently started to expand its wings at this point. The difference between the films made in 1907 and 1912 is as plain as day. Wladyslaw Starewicz who will eventually change his name to Ladislas Starevich started to make a name for himself as a gifted director of animated films. Starewicz had directed several short animations by the time he choose to create a drawn animation. Starewicz adapted Krylov’s fable The Gadfly and the Ant into what is now considered to be one the best examples of “Russian animated cartoons.” It was this animation that elevated Starewicz out of obscurity and subsequently introduced his work to the international entertainment industry. Gaining foreign success may have been the goal for some filmmakers but not was necessarily for either Starewicz or Aleksandr Khanzhonkov. However, the added bonus that foreign fame brought to their careers did not go unwanted. Starewicz went on to direct an adaption of Nikolai Gogol’s Noch pered Rozhdestvom (Christmas Eve). Starevich's adaption of Nikolai Gogol’s book ran for approximately 41-minutes. Unlike the majority of the films Starevich directed, Christmas Eve is for the most part live-action. The film is considered to be one of the finest examples of early Russian cinema. Christmas Eve is what we would now consider to be a black comedy. The film has a satanic subject matter with various comedic folkloric twists. Christmas Eve is set in a Cossack...
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