The Film Factory: Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents 1896-1939 [1 ed.] 041505298X, 9780415052986

First Published in 1994. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.

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Table of contents :
Copyright Page
General Editor's Preface
Preface to the Paperback Edition
Translator's Note
1896-1921: Introduction
1 Maxim Gorky: The Lumière Cinematograph (Extracts)
2 Leonid Andreyev: First Letter on Theatre (Extracts)
3 Vladimir Mayakovsky: Theatre, Cinema, Futurism
4 Vladimir Mayakovsky: The Destruction of 'Theatre' by Cinema as a Sign of the Resurrection of Theatrical Art
5 Vladimir Mayakovsky: The Relationship Between Contemporary Theatre and Cinema and Art
6 Leonid Andreyev: Second Letter on Theatre (Extract)
7 Vsevolod Meyerhold: On Cinema
8 Lev Kuleshov: The Tasks of the Artist in Cinema
9 Lev Kuleshov: The Art of Cinema
10 Anatoli Lunacharsky: The Tasks of the State Cinema in the RSFSR
11 Vladimir Lenin: Art Belongs to the People. Conversation with Clara Zetkin
1922: Introduction
12 Vladimir Lenin: Directive on Cinema Affairs
13 Anatoli Lunacharsky: Conversation with Lenin. I. Of all the Arts . . .
14 Anatoli Lunacharsky: Conversation with Lenin. II. Newsreel and Fiction Film
15 Grigori Kozintsev, Leonid Trauberg, Sergei Yutkevich and Georgi Kryzhitsky: Eccentrism
16 Alexei Voznesensky: Open Letter to Nemirovich-Danchenko and Stanislavsky
17 Lev Kuleshov: 'Art' Cinema
18 Lev Kuleshov: Cinema as the Fixing of Theatrical Action
19 Alexei Gan: The Cinematograph and Cinema
20 Lev Kuleshov: Art, Contemporary Life and Cinema
21 Dziga Vertov: We. A Version of a Manifesto
22 Lev Kuleshov: Americanism
23 Lev Kuleshov: Chamber Cinema
24 Vladimir Mayakovsky: Cinema and Cinema
25 Alexei Gan: The 'Left Front' and Cinema
26 Alexei Gan: The Thirteenth Experiment
1923: Introduction
27 Alexei Gan: Two Paths
28 Dziga Vertov: The Cine-Pravda
29 Proletkino: Quasi-Theses
30 Sergei Eisenstein: The Montage of Attractions
31 Dziga Vertov: The Cine-Eyes. A Revolution
32 Lev Trotsky: Vodka, the Church and the Cinema
33 Russfilm Script Competition
34 Viktor Shklovsky: Literature and Cinema (Extracts)
1924: Introduction
35 Declaration of the Association of Revolutionary Cinematography
36 Leonid Trauberg: The Red Clown to the Rescue!
37 Alexei Gan: Recognition for the Cine-Eyes
38 Lev Kuleshov: Mr West
39 Anatoli Lunacharsky: Revolutionary Ideology and Cinema -Theses
40 Resolution of Thirteenth Party Congress on Cinema
41 Dziga Vertov: The Cine-Pravda: A Report to the Cine-Eyes
42 Sovnarkom of the RSFSR: Decree on the Establishment of Sovkino
43 Dziga Vertov: Fiction Film Drama and the Cine-Eye
44 Vladimir Blyum: Against the 'Theatre of Fools' - For Cinema
1925: Introduction
45 Anatoli Goldobin: Our Cinema and Its Audience
46 Zhizn iskusstva Editorial: Theatre or Cinema?
47 Abram Room: Cinema and Theatre
48 Dziga Vertov: Cine-Pravda and Radio-Pravda
49 Viktor Shklovsky: The Semantics of Cinema
50 Grigori Boltyansky: Cinema and the Soviet Public
1926: Introduction
51 Adrian Piotrovsky: The Battleship Potemkin
52 Alexei Gvozdev: A New Triumph for Soviet Cinema (The Battleship Potemkin and the 'Theatrical October')
53 Vladimir Kirshon: Literature, Theatre and Cinema (Extract)
54 Bela Balazs: The Future of Film
55 Sergei Eisenstein: Bela Forgets the Scissors
56 Alexander Dubrovsky: The Soviet Cinema in Danger
57 Dziga Vertov: The Factory of Facts
58 Viktor Shklovsky: Where is Dziga Vertov Striding?
59 Esfir Shub: The Manufacture of Facts
60 Viktor Shklovsky: The Cine-Eyes and Intertitles
61 Anatoli Lunacharsky: Cinema - the Greatest of the Arts
1927: Introduction
62 Vladimir Mayakovsky: Help!
63 Viktor Shklovsky: Sergei Eisenstein and 'Non-Played' Film
64 Viktor Shklovsky: The Temperature of Cinema
65 Viktor Pertsov: Literature and Cinema
66 Viktor Shklovsky: The Film Factory (Extracts)
67 Vladimir Mayakovsky: Speech in Debate on 'The Paths and Policy of Sovkino'
68 Vladimir Mayakovsky: On Cinema
69 Kirill Shutko: Preface to Poetics of Cinema
70 Viktor Shklovsky: Poetry and Prose in Cinema
71 Adrian Piotrovsky: The Cinefication of Theatre - Some GeneralPoints
72 Viktor Shklovsky: Mistakes and Inventions
73 Osip Brik: The Fixation of Fact (Extract)
74 Esfir Shub: We Do Not Deny the Element of Mastery
75 Adrian Piotrovsky: Let Us Be Maximalists!
76 Adrian Piotrovsky: 'Ideology' and 'Commerce'
1928: Introduction
77 Nikolai Yakovlev: The Nihilists from ARK
78 Anatoli Lunacharsky: Speech to Film Workers
79 Vsevolod Pudovkin: S. M. Eisenstein (From Potemkin to October)
80 Dziga Vertov: The Eleventh Year
81 Alexei Popov: The Relationships Between Cinema and Theatre
82 To the Party Conference on Cinema From a Group of Film Directors
83 Party Cinema Conference Resolution: The Results of Cinema Construction in the USSR and the Tasks of Soviet Cinema
84 Anatoli Lunacharsky: Review of October
85 Adrian Piotrovsky: October Must Be Re-Edited!
86 Esfir Shub: This Work Cries Out
87 Sergei Eisenstein and Grigori Alexandrov: We Are Waiting!
88 T. Rokotov: Why Is October Difficult?
89 Sergei Eisenstein: For Soviet Cinema
90 The Lef Ring: Comrades! A Clash of Views!
91 Zhizn iskusstva Editorial: October - The Results of the Discussion
92 Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin and Grigori Alexandrov: Statement on Sound
93 Vladimir Messman: Sound Film
94 Viktor Shklovsky: The Soviet School of Acting
95 Adrian Piotrovsky: Is There a Crisis in Soviet Cinema?
96 Sovkino Workers' Conference Resolution: Sovkino's New Course (Extract)
97 Sovetskii ekran Editorial: The Rightist Danger in Cinema
1929: Introduction
98 Leonid Trauberg: An Experiment Intelligible to the Millions
99 Viktor Shklovsky: Beware of Music
100 Party Central Committee Decree: On the Strengthening of Cinema Cadres
101 Sergei Eisenstein and Grigori Alexandrov: An Experiment Intelligible to the Millions
102 Yuri Tynyanov: On FEKS
103 Pavel Petrov-Bytov: We Have No Soviet Cinema
104 Adrian Piotrovsky: Petrov-Bytov's Platform and Soviet Cinema
105 Vsevolod Pudovkin: On the Principle of Sound in Film
106 Adrian Piotrovsky: Westernism in Our Cinema
107 Vsevolod Pudovkin, Leonid Obolensky, Sergei Komarov and Vladimir Fogel: Preface to Kuleshov's Book The Art of Cinema
108 Esfir Shub: The Advent of Sound in Cinema
109 Vsevolod Meyerhold: The Cinefication of Theatre
110 RAPP Resolution on Cinema
111 Vsevolod Pudovkin: Conversation on Sound Film
1930: Introduction
112 'An ARK Member': ARRK Must Be Reorganised
113 Ippolit Sokolov: The Legend of 'Left' Cinema
114 Na literaturnom postu Editorial: For the Reconstruction of Soviet Cinema
115 Nikolai Anoshchenko: Sound Cinema in the Service of the Cultural Revolution
116 Viktor Shklovsky: The Script Laboratory
117 Kino i zhizn Editorial: Film Work and the Mass Audience
118 Dziga Vertov: The Radio-Eye's March
119 Dziga Vertov: Speech to the First All-Union Conference on Sound Cinema
120 Viktor Shklovsky: Sound as a Semantic Sign
121 Ippolit Sokolov: The Second Sound Film Programme
122 Kino i zhizn Editorial: Is There a Soviet Sound Cinema?
123 Viktor Shklovsky: The Film Language of New Babylon
1931-4: Introduction
124 Proletarskoe kino Editorial: What Does 'Proletarian Cinema' Mean?
125 Proletarskoe kino Editorial: We Are Continuing the Struggle
126 Vsevolod Pudovkin, Esfir Shub et al.: To All Creative Workers in Soviet Cinema
127 Party Central Committee Decree: The Reorganisation of Literary and Artistic Organisations
128 Anatoli Lunacharsky: Synopsis of a Report on the Tasks of Dramaturgy (Extract)
129 Vsevolod Pudovkin: The Role of Sound Cinema
130 Sergei Eisenstein: Cinema and the Classics
131 First Congress of Soviet Writers (Extracts)
132 Pravda Editorial: The Whole Country is Watching Chapayev
133 Film-Makers' Letter to Stalin
134 Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg: The Youth of Maxim(Extracts)
135 Vsevolod Pudovkin: The Youth of Maxim
136 Dziga Vertov: More on Mayakovsky (Extract)
1935: Introduction
137 Joseph Stalin: Congratulations to Soviet Cinema on Its Fifteenth Anniversary
138 For a Great Cinema Art: Speeches to the All-Union Creative Conference of Workers in Soviet Cinema (Extracts)
139 Dziga Vertov: My Illness
140 Boris Shumyatsky: A Cinema for the Millions (Extracts)
141 Boris Shumyatsky: The Role of the Producer
Postscript: 1936-41
142 Boris Shumyatsky: Perfecting Our Mastery
143 Dziga Vertov: Diary Entry
144 Boris Shumyatsky: The Film Bezhin Meadow
145 Yuli Raizman: Seminar at VGIK (Extracts)
146 Vsevolod Pudovkin: The Director and the Scriptwriter (Extracts)
147 Vsevolod Pudovkin: Dialogue in Film (Extract)
148 Alexander Dovzhenko: The Artist's Teacher and Friend
149 G. Ermolayev: What Is Holding Up the Development of Soviet Cinema?
150 Iskusstvo kino Editorial: The Fascist Cur Eradicated
151 Alexei Stakhanov: My Suggestion to Soviet Cinema
152 Reactions to Stakhanov's Article (Extracts)
153 Vsevolod Pudovkin: The Internal and the External in an Actor's Training
154 Sergei Eisenstein: My Subject Is Patriotism
Notes to Introduction
Notes to Documents
Table 1: Cinema Installations and Their Distribution in the Russian Empire and USSR, 1914--41
Table 2: Film Production, 1918-41
Appendix 1 Films: Russian and Soviet
Appendix 2 Films: Foreign
Appendix 3 People: Russian and Soviet
Appendix 4 People: Foreign
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The Film Factory Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents 1896-1939

Edited and translated by

Richard Taylor Co-edited with an introduction by

Ian Christie

London and New York

In memory of

Leonid Zakharovich Trauberg (1902-1990) Eccentric elder statesman enfant terrible and enthusiast

First published in 1988 by Routledge Paperback edition published in 1994 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 270 Madison Ave., New York NY 10016 Reprinted 2002 Transferred to Digital Printing 2005

Routledge is an imprint o/the Taylor & Francis Group

© 1988, 1994 Richard Taylor and Ian Christie Typeset in Tunes by Intype, London All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book has been requested ISBN 0-415-05298-X (pbk)

Contents Illustrations


General Editor's Preface




Preface to the Paperback Edition




'll'anslator's Note




1896-1921: Introduction 1896

1 Maxim Gorky: The Lumiere Cinematograph (Extracts)



2 Leonid Andreyev: First Letter on Theatre (Extracts)



3 Vladimir Mayakovsky: Theatre, Cinema, Futurism 4 Vladimir Mayakovsky: The Destruction of 'Theatre' by Cinema as a Sign of the Resurrection of Theatrical Art 5 Vladimir Mayakovsky: The Relationship Between Contemporary Theatre and Cinema and Art 6 Leonid Andreyev: Second Letter on Theatre (Extract)

33 34 35 37


7 Vsevolod Meyerhold: On Cinema



8 Lev Kuleshov: The Tasks of the Artist in Cinema



9 Lev Kuleshov: The Art of Cinema

45 iii


1919 10 Anatoli Lunacharsky: The Tasks of the State Cinema in the RSFSR


1920 11 Vladimir Lenin: Art Belongs to the People. Conversation with Clara Zetkin

1922: Introduction

50 53

12 Vladimir Lenin: Directive on Cinema Affairs 13 Anatoli Lunacharsky: Conversation with Lenin. I. Of all the Arts . . . 14 Anatoli Lunacharsky: Conversation with Lenin. II. Newsreel and Fiction Film 15 Grigori Kozintsev, Leonid Trauberg, Sergei Yutkevich and Georgi Kryzhitsky: Eccentrism 16 Alexei Voznesensky: Open Letter to Nemirovich-Danchenko and Stanislavsky 17 Lev Kuleshov: 'Art' Cinema 18 Lev Kuleshov: Cinema as the Fixing of Theatrical Action 19 Alexei Gan: The Cinematograph and Cinema 20 Lev Kuleshov: Art, Contemporary Life and Cinema 21 Dziga Vertov: We. A Version of a Manifesto 22 Lev Kuleshov: Americanism 23 Lev Kuleshov: Chamber Cinema 24 Vladimir Mayakovsky: Cinema and Cinema 25 Alexei Gan: The 'Left Front' and Cinema 26 Alexei Gan: The Thirteenth Experiment

1923: Introduction

56 56 57

58 64 66

66 67 68 69 72 74 75 75 78


27 Alexei Gan: Two Paths 28 Dziga Vertov: The Cine-Pravda 29 Proletkino: Quasi-Theses 30 Sergei Eisenstein: The Montage of Attractions 31 Dziga Vertov: The Cine-Eyes. A Revolution 32 Lev Trotsky: Vodka, the Church and the Cinema 33 Russfilm Script Competition 34 Viktor Shklovsky: Literature and Cinema (Extracts)

1924: Introduction

83 84 84 87

89 94 97

98 101

35 Declaration of the Association of Revolutionary Cinematography 36 Leonid Trauberg: The R~d Clown to the Rescue! 37 Alexei Gan: Recognition for the Cine-Eyes 38 Lev Kuleshov: Mr West iv

103 104 105 108

CONTENTS 39 Anatoli Lunacharsky: Revolutionary Ideology and Cinema Theses 40 Resolution of Thirteenth Party Congress on Cinema 41 Dziga Vertov: The Cine-Pravda: A Report to the Cine-Eyes 42 Sovnarkom of the RSFSR: Decree on the Establishment of Sovkino 43 Dziga Vertov: Fiction Film Drama and the Cine-Eye 44 Vladimir Blyum: Against the 'Theatre of Fools' - For Cinema

45 46 47 48 49 50

68 69 70 71 72 73

114 115 116

1925: Introduction


Anatoli Goldobin: Our Cinema and Its Audience Zhizn iskusstva Editorial: Theatre or Cinema? Abram Room: Cinema and Theatre Dziga Vertov: Cine-Pravda and Radio-Pravda Viktor Shklovsky: The Semantics of Cinema Grigori Boltyansky: Cinema and the Soviet Public

124 125 128 129 131 134

1926: Introduction


51 Adrian Piotrovsky: The Battleship Potemkin 52 Alexei Gvozdev: A New Triumph for Soviet Cinema (The Battleship Potemkin and the 'Theatrical October') 53 Vladimir Kirshon: Literature, Theatre and Cinema (Extract) 54 Bela Balazs: The Future of Film 55 Sergei Eisenstein: Bela Forgets the Scissors 56 Alexander Dubrovsky: The Soviet Cinema in Danger 57 Dziga Vertov: The Factory of Facts 58 Viktor Shklovsky: Where is Dziga Vertov Striding? 59 Esfir Shub: The Manufacture of Facts 60 Viktor Shklovsky: The Cine-Eyes and Intertitles 61 Anatoli Lunacharsky: Cinema - the Greatest of the Arts

62 63 64 65 66 67

109 111 112

139 140 143 144 145 149 150 151 152 153 154

1927: Introduction


Vladimir Mayakovsky: Help! Viktor Shklovsky: Sergei Eisenstein and 'Non-Played' Film Viktor Shklovsky: The Temperature of Cinema Viktor Pertsov: Literature and Cinema Viktor Shklovsky: The Film Factory (Extracts) Vladimir Mayakovsky: Speech in Debate on 'The Paths and Policy of Sovkino' Vladimir Mayakovsky: On Cinema Kirill Shutko: Preface to Poetics of Cinema Viktor Shklovsky: Poetry and Prose in Cinema Adrian Piotrovsky: The Cinefication of Theatre - Some General Points Viktor Shklovsky: Mistakes and Inventions Osip Brik: The Fixation of Fact (Extract)

160 161 162 164 166


171 174 174 176 178 180 184

CONTENTS 74 Esfir Shub: We Do Not Deny the Element of Mastery 75 Adrian Piotrovsky: Let Us Be Maximalists! 76 Adrian Piotrovsky: 'Ideology' and 'Commerce'

185 187 188 191

1928: Introduction

77 Nikolai Yakovlev: The Nihilists from ARK 78 Anatoli Lunacharsky: Speech to Film Workers 79 Vsevolod Pudovkin: S. M. Eisenstein (From Potemkin to October) 80 Dziga Vertov: The Eleventh Year 81 Alexei Popov: The Relationships Between Cinema and Theatre 82 To the Party Conference on Cinema From a Group of Film Directors 83 Party Cinema Conference Resolution: The Results of Cinema Construction in the USSR and the Tasks of Soviet Cinema 84 Anatoli Lunacharsky: Review of October 85 Adrian Piotrovsky: October Must Be Re-Edited! 86 Esfir Shub: This Work Cries Out 87 Sergei Eisenstein and Grigori Alexandrov: We Are Waiting! 88 T. Rokotov: Why Is October Difficult? 89 Sergei Eisenstein: For Soviet Cinema 90 The Lef Ring: Comrades! A Clash of Views! 91 Zhizn iskusstva Editorial: October - The Results of the Discussion 92 Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin and Grigori Alexandrov: Statement on Sound 93 Vladimir Messman: Sound Film 94 Viktor Shklovsky: The Soviet School of Acting 95 Adrian Piotrovsky: Is There a Crisis in Soviet Cinema? 96 Sovkino Workers' Conference Resolution: Sovkino's New Course (Extract) 97 Sovetskii ekran Editorial: The Rightist Danger in Cinema

195 195 198 200 204 205 208 216 216. 217 218 219 220 225 232 234 235 237 239 241 245 247

1929: Introduction

98 Leonid Trauberg: An Experiment Intelligible to the Millions 99 Viktor Shklovsky: Beware of Music 100 Party Central Committee Decree: On the Strengthening of Cinema Cadres 101 Sergei Eisenstein and Grigori Alexandrov: An Experiment Intelligible to the Millions 102 Yuri Tynyanov: On FEKS 103 Pavel Petrov-Bytov: We Have No Soviet Cinema 104 Adrian Piotrovsky: Petrov-Bytov's Platform and Soviet Cinema 105 Vsevolod Pudovkin: On the Principle of Sound in Film 106 Adrian Piotrovsky: Westernism in Our Cinema 107 Vsevolod Pudovkin, Leonid Obolensky, Sergei Komarov and Vladimir Fogel: Preface to Kuleshov's Book The Art of Cinema vi

250 251 253 254 257 259 262 264 267 270

CONTENTS 108 109 110 111

Esfir Shub: The Advent of Sound in Cinema Vsevolod Meyerhold: The Cinefication of Theatre RAPP Resolution on Cinema Vsevolod Pudovkin: Conversation on Sound Film

271 271 275 280

1930: Introduction


112 'An ARK Member': ARRK Must Be Reorganised 113 Ippolit Sokolov: The Legend of 'Left' Cinema 114 Na literaturnom postu Editorial: For the Reconstruction of Soviet Cinema 115 Nikolai Anoshchenko: Sound Cinema in the Service of the Cultural Revolution 116 Viktor Shklovsky: The Script Laboratory 117 Kino i zhizn Editorial: Film Work and the Mass Audience 118 Dziga Vertov: The Radio-Eye's March 119 Dziga Vertov: Speech to the First All-Union Conference on Sound Cinema 120 Viktor Shklovsky: Sound as a Semantic Sign 121 Ippolit Sokolov: The Second Sound Film Programme 122 Kino i zhizn Editorial: Is There a Soviet Sound Cinema? 123 Viktor Shklovsky: The Film Language of New Babylon

286 287 290 293 294 297 299 301 305 308 310 311 315

1931-4: Introduction 1931

124 Proletarskoe kino Editorial: What Does 'Proletarian Cinema' Mean?



125 Proletarskoe kino Editorial: We Are Continuing the Struggle 126 Vsevolod Pudovkin, Esfir Shub et al.: To All Creative Workers in Soviet Cinema 127 Party Central Committee Decree: The Reorganisation of Literary and Artistic Organisations

321 322 325


128 Anatoli Lunacharsky: Synopsis of a Report on the Tasks of Dramaturgy (Extract) 129 Vsevolod Pudovkin: The Role of Sound Cinema 130 Sergei Eisenstein: Cinema and the Classics

327 327 329


131 First Congress of Soviet Writers (Extracts) 132 Pravda Editorial: The Whole Country is Watching Chapayev 133 Film-Makers' Letter to Stalin


331 334 335

CONTENTS 134 Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg: The Youth of Maxim (Extracts) 135 Vsevolod Pudovkin: The Youth of Maxim 136 Dziga Vertov: More on Mayakovsky (Extract) 1935: Introduction

338 338 340 345

137 Joseph Stalin: Congratulations to Soviet Cinema on Its Fifteenth Anniversary 138 For a Great Cinema Art: Speeches to the All-Union Creative Conference of Workers in Soviet Cinema (Extracts) 139 Dziga Vertov: My Illness 140 Boris Shumyatsky: A Cinema for the Millions (Extracts) 141 Boris Shumyatsky: The Role of the Producer Postscript: 1936-41

348 348 357 358 369 371

1936 142 Boris Shumyatsky: Perfecting Our Mastery 143 Dziga Vertov: Diary Entry

373 377

1937 144 145 146 147 148

Boris Shumyatsky: The Film Bezhin Meadow Yuli Raizman: Seminar at VGIK (Extracts) Vsevolod Pudovkin: The Director and the Scriptwriter (Extracts) Vsevolod Pudovkin: Dialogue in Film (Extract) Alexander Dovzhenko: The Artist's Teacher and Friend

378 381 381 383 383

1938 149 G. Ermolayev: What Is Holding Up the Development of Soviet Cinema? 150 Iskusstvo kino Editorial: The Fascist Cur Eradicated 151 Alexei Stakhanov: My Suggestion to Soviet Cinema 152 Reactions to Stakhanov's Article (Extracts) 153 Vsevolod Pudovkin: The Internal and the External in an Actor's Training

386 387 389 391 393

1939 154 Sergei Eisenstein: My Subject Is Patriotism Abbreviations Notes to Introduction Notes to Documents Table 1: Cinema Installations and Their Distribution in the Russian Empire and USSR, 1914--41 Table 2: Film Production, 1918-41 viii

398 405 407

416 423 424

CONTENTS Appendices

Appendix Appendix Appendix Appendix

1 2 3 4

Films: Russian and Soviet Films: Foreign People: Russian and Soviet People: Foreign


427 435

437 445




1 Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station

Stenka Razin The Cameraman's Revenge The Queen of Spades The Woman with a Dagger Arsen Dzhordzhiashvili Newspaper advertisements for Cinematographe Lumiere presentations 8 Filming 1812 9 'The Biograph in the 21st Century' 10 Drama in the Futurists' Cabaret No. 13 11 Not Born to be Rich 12 Shackled by Film 13 I and My Conscience 14 The Picture of Dorian Gray 15 A Life for a Life 16 Engineer Prite's Project 17 Lunacharsky and Mayakovsky 18 Overcrowding 19 Poster for Overcrowding 20 Father Sergius 21 Polikushka '22 Cine-Pravda 23 Cover of the manifesto 'Eccentrism' 24 On the Red Front 25 Dziga Vertov 26 Alexei Gan 27 The Palace and the Fortress 28 The Little Red Devils 29 Glumov's Diary (from Enough Simplicity for Every Wise Man) 30 Sergei Eisenstein in 1923 31 Members of the Cine-Eye group 32 The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr West in the Land of the Bolsheviks 33 Aelita 34 Leningrad cinemas repertory poster 35 The Adventures of Oktyabrina 2 3 4 5 6 7


20 20 20 20 20 20 24 24 24 32 32 32 40 40 40 44 44 48 48 48 55 55 70 70 70 76 80 80 86 86 86 100 100 102 106

ILLUSTRAnONS 36 The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr West in the Land of the Bolsheviks 37 Poster for Cine-Eye 38 The Strike 39 His Call 40 A peasant film audience 41 The 'Goz' mobile projector 42 The Bay of Death 43 The Lenin Cine-Pravda 44 Members of the Lef group 45 The Devil's Wheel 46 The Bear's Wedding 47 The Battleship Potemkin 48 The Battleship Potemkin 49 Tisse filming Potemkin 50 Esfir Shub 51 The Mother 52 Women of Ryazan 53 The End of St Petersburg 54 The Little Brother 55 The Poet and the Tsar 56 A Sixth Part of the World 57 The End of St Petersburg 58 Osip Brik 59 The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty 60 Miss Mend 61 October 62 The House on Trubnaya 63 October 64 The Salamander 65 Poster for The Eleventh Year 66 Posters for The Mysterious Hacienda and An Ordinary Story 67 Discarded sequence from October 68 The Man From the Restaurant 69 Moscow in October 70 October 71 October 72 Vladimir Fogel 73 Nato Vachnadze 74 The Ghost That Never Returns 75 Penal Servitude 76 The Man With the Movie Camera 77 A Fragment of Empire 78 Storm Over Asia 79 The General Line 80 The Overcoat 81 New Babylon 82 The Arsenal xi

106 118 122 122 127 127 127 132 132 136 136 142 142 148 148 148 158 158 170 170 181 181 186 186 186 192 192 201 201 202 214 214 222 222 228 228 238 244 244 244 248 248 256 256 260 260 268

ILLUSTRATIONS 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130

Chicago Lev Kuleshov The White Eagle Turksib The Man With the Movie Camera Enthusiasm (The Donbass Symphony) The Earth By the Law Two Days A Simple Case Pavel Tager and Alexander Shorin Poster for Judas Using sound equipment on Enthusiasm Vertov and Svilova On location for New Babylon New Babylon The Path to Life Outskirts Men and Jobs The Great Consoler The Deserter Lieutenant Kizhe Chapayev The Youth of Maxim Alone The Youth of Maxim Three Songs of Lenin Pilots Peasants The 1935 Film-Makers' Conference Counterplan The Youth of Maxim Vertov, Eisenstein and Pudovkin Chapayev Pilots Three Songs of Lenin The Happy Guys We From Kronstadt Volga-Volga Komsomolsk Alexander Nevsky The Vyborg Side Peter the First The Circus Bezhin Meadow Bezhin Meadow The Last Night Shchors xii

268 274 274 274 274 284 284 288 288 296 296 300 300 312 312 312 314 314 324 326 326 336 336 336 342 342 342 344 344 350 350 356 356 362 362 366 366 370 370 370 370 370 370 375 382 382 382 382


131 A Great Citizen 132 Minin and Pozharsky 133 Eisenstein directing Alexander Nevsky 134 Alexander Nevsky 135 Film Companies' trademarks


392 392 399 399 402

General Editor's Preface Cinema has been the predominant popular art form of the first half of the twentieth century, at least in Europe and North America. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the former Soviet Union, where Lenin's remark that 'of all the arts for us cinema is the most important' became a cliche and where cinema attendances were until recently still among the highest in the world. In the age of mass politics Soviet cinema developed from a fragile but effective tool to gain support among the overwhelmingly illiterate peasant masses in the civil war that followed the October 1917 Revolution, through a welter of experimentation, into a mass weapon of propaganda through entertainment that shaped the public image of the Soviet Union - both at home and abroad and for both elite and mass audiences - and latterly into an instrument to expose the weaknesses of the past and present in the twin processes of glasnost and perestroika. Now th~ national cinemas of the successor republics to the old Soviet Union are encountering the same bewildering array of problems, from the trivial to the terminal, as are all the other ex-Soviet institutions. Cinema's central position in Russian and Soviet cultural history and its unique combination of mass medium, art form and entertainment industry, have made it a continuing battlefield for conflicts of broader ideological and artistic significance, not only for Russia and the Soviet Union but also for the world outside. The debates that raged in the 1920s about the relative revolutionary merits of documentary as opposed to fiction film, of cinema as opposed to theatre or painting, or of the proper role of cinema in the forging of post-Revolutionary Soviet culture and the shaping of the new Soviet man, have their echoes in current discussions about the role of cinema vis-a-vis other art forms in effecting the cultural and psychological revolution in human consciousness necessitated by the processes of economic and political transformation of the former Soviet Union into modem democratic and industrial societies and states governed by the rule of law. Cinema's central position has also made it a vital instrument for scrutinising the blank pages of Russian and Soviet history and enabling the present generation to come to terms with its own past. This series of books intends to examine Russian and Soviet films in the context of Russian and Soviet cinema, and Russian and Soviet cinema in the context of the political and cultural history of Russia, the Soviet Union and the world at large. Within that framework the series, drawing its authors from East and West, aims to cover a wide variety of topics and to employ a broad range of methodological approaches and presentational formats. Inevitably this will involve ploughing once again over old ground in order to re-examine received xiv

GENERAL EDITOR'S PREFACE opinions but it principally means increasing the breadth and depth of our knowledge, finding new answers to old questions and, above all, raising new questions for further enquiry and discovering new areas for further research. The Film Factory, which first appeared in hardback in 1988, presented for the first time in English - or, indeed, in any language - a mass of hitherto unavailable documentary material on the history and development of Russian and Soviet cinema from 1896 to 1939. The editors aimed to provide the reader with what they termed 'an open resource - raw material to enable new models and interpretations of Soviet cinema history to be fashioned'. In selecting documents for inclusion, they aimed 'to balance the issues that concerned the makers of Soviet cinema themselves: the aesthetic, the political, the economic, the social and, more often than not, a complex blend of these, together with more personal factors'. Since 1988 events have moved further and faster than could then have been envisaged and the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 has unleashed a wealth of new material, especially material relating to the 1930s on which the editors quite specifically argued that much work still needed to be done. They have, however, resisted the temptation to revise The Film Factory, apart from eradicating some typographical and similar errors. They have taken this decision partly because the warm critical reception for the book suggested that it would remain useful in its present form for years to come, and partly because to do justice to the 1930s and subsequent decades would require a separate volume, a kind of After the Film Factory. The publication of the paperback edition will, we hope, bring the volume within reach of a wider audience concerned with the history of Russian and Soviet cinema and with the issues around which that history revolved. The continuing aim of the series is to situate Russian and Soviet cinema in its proper historical and aesthetic context, both as a major cultural force in Russian history and Soviet politics and as a crucible for experimentation that is of central significance to the development of world cinema culture. Books in the series strive to combine the best of scholarship, past, present and future, with a style of writing that is accessible to a broad readership, whether that readership's primary interest lies in cinema or in Russian and Soviet history. Richard Taylor February 1994



If you want to come to cinema's aid, do not rush to the screen.

Pause to think a hundred times, a thousand times, on the doorstep of the film factory. Best of all: stay in the audience. Cinema needs that more than anything: an audience that does not succumb to cinema psychosis. Viktor Shklovsky It was only in January 1936 that the Soviet film studios became officially known

as such, kinostudii. This set the seal on their new artistic-industrial status under the vigorous leadership of Boris Shumyatsky and was no doubt inspired by his visit in the previous year to European and Hollywood studios. Previously the film studio was known simply as a film factory (kinofabrika), as it had been in pre-Revolutionary Russia, although the Constructivists and 'left' filmmakers of the 1920s were quick to exploit the metaphoric potential of the term in their fight against the 'opium' of film drama. Vertov and Shub called for a 'factory of facts' (see Documents 57 and 59), while Shklovsky summarised his experiences as a screenwriter under the title 'The Film Factory' in 1927 (Document 66), and ironically structured his third volume of autobiography, Third Factory (written while working at the Third Goskino Factory), around this same metaphor of artistic production in the machine age. Our use of Shklovsky's title for this anthology follows in the same metaphoric tradition. It is intended to signal that this collection of documents relates primarily to the making of Soviet cinema, and to the domestic debates that raged around its rapid promotion from a fairground attraction to become the leading cultural industry of the modern Soviet state. As we have pursued our own researches into the Soviet cinema, we have become increasingly conscious of the rigidity of received opinion, which discourages empirical inquiry and fits available information into heavily moralised preconceptions. Drawing on the mass of contemporary documents first accumulated by Richard Taylor during the preparation of his The Politics of the Soviet Cinema 1917-1929, and having the opportunity to test our own evolving views in discussion with Soviet scholars and surviving witnesses of the pre-war era, has made us sceptical of the dominant western historiographical tradition, yet keenly aware of how many questions have still to be asked. We hope that the presentation of these primary sources in translation will help others in various fields of scholarship, as they have helped us; and xvi

PREFACE accordingly we have avoided arranging them in a thematic sequence, so that they remain an open resource - raw material to enable new models and interpretations of Soviet cinema history to be fashioned. The immediate starting-point for the book was a dossier of translations and reviews, FuturismlFormalismlFEKS: 'Eccentrism' and Soviet Cinema 1918-36, edited by Ian Christie and John Gillett, and published by the British Film Institute to accompany a 1978 season at the National Film Theatre, London, 'Russian Eccentrics'. This included a number of Richard Taylor's translations (mistakenly attributed to another), and when its small print run was quickly exhausted, the need for a more permanent collection became apparent. The fact that many of the films were being shown in that season for the first time, after long years of neglect, and have since become more widely available through distribution, has provided the vital stimulus for a new phase of western interest in pre-war Soviet cinema that will, hopefully, pay more attention to the Soviet context than to the preoccupations of western observers. During the years of its preparation, while we have both pursued other more specific researches in Soviet cinema, the book has undergone many changes of plan. In selecting documents for inclusion, we have tried to balance the issqes that concerned the makers of Soviet cinema themselves: the aesthetic, the political, the economic, the social and, more often than not, a complex blend of these, together with more personal factors. As a result, the limits and scale of the anthology have continued to expand, while it remains based on the central tradition of debate that shaped Russian film culture even before the 1917 Revolution. The fulcrum of this debate shifted considerably during the two decades following the Revolution, but we believe it was never reducible to a simple extension of the political command, and instead was constantly animated by the need to reaffirm and reassess the essential elements of cinema specificity, particularly in relation to theatre. There is inevitably a compromise between doing justice to the complexity of the debates and introducing little known texts and authors. We have felt it necessary to include certain key texts that are already available in translation, albeit scattered through many, often ephemeral, publications and in translations of varying adequacy. However, we have tried to shed fresh light on the relatively known positions of Kuleshov, Vertov, Pudovkin and Eisenstein at different points in their careers, and to place these in the context of other contemporary and conflicting views. There remains the familiar problem of those important filmmakers and indeed whole areas of cinema broadly speaking, the narrative tradition as distinct from the montage avantgarde - which attracted little sympathetic contemporary discussion, yet was to be the bedrock on which later Soviet cinema was built. We have included the polemics directed against notorious examples of bad traditional narrative, and drawn extensively on two major critic-theorists who did not ally themselves exclusively with the avant-gardes: Shklovsky and Adrian Piotrovsky. The emergent non-Russian national cinemas receive little coverage, partly due to lack of adequate space and partly because the (Russian) journals of the period devoted scant attention to them. On the other hand, we have treated in some detail the 'proletarian episode' of 1928-31 and included a large number of hitherto inaccessible texts that reflect the bitter controversies of this phase and the underlying shift of priorities that was to produce a new Soviet 'cinema for


PREFACE the millions' under Shumyatsky's baton in the 1930s. But we are conscious that much work still needs to be done on the 1930s to break down the monolithic, and largely dismissive, view of this decade that still prevails in the West. The fact that this collection ends at a point where public debate had been virtually halted may obscure the essential continuity of serious professional debate within Soviet cinema up to the present. But to relate the public to the private, making full use of the wealth of invaluable memoir material now available, which sheds much light on the 1930s, would have been impossible within the limits of a single volume (although some of the many interviews we have conducted during the period of compilation have appeared, or will, elsewhere). The filmographies and biographical notes, covering both Russian and foreign references, are confined to actual references in the documents and introduction.




Any list of acknowledgments in a work on the history of Soviet cinema must begin by paying tribute to Jay Leyda's Kino, which has stimulated and informed us as it has so many others. Yet the very intimacy and passion that motivate this book have also tended to impose their own pattern on the understanding of Soviet cinema, especially in the English-speaking world. We have therefore tried to enlarge our focus where Leyda's is narrowest and to provide a more explicit analytical framework in our selection of documents and linking narrative. We would both like to acknowledge the assistance and support of the following institutions in the preparation of this work: the British Film Institute, London; VNIIKI, the All-Union Research Institute for the History of Cinema Art, Moscow; and the Cinematheque Royale de Belgique, Brussels. We are also greatly indebted to the following individuals in Moscow: Professor Evgeni Gromov, who persuaded us to abandon our earlier plan to periodise Soviet cinema's development in the book's arrangement; Naum Kleiman, Curator of the Eisenstein Museum for his invaluable guidance not only on matters relating to Eisenstein; and Leonid Trauberg, who has given us enthusiastic support and encouragement throughout. Richard Taylor would like to thank the staffs of the following libraries for their seemingly endless toil on his behalf: the VNIIKI and Lenin Libraries, Moscow; the University College of Swansea Library and the British Library, both Reference and Lending Divisions; the International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam; the Torsten Lundell collection, Carolina Rediviva University Library, Uppsala; and last, but not least, that marvellous temple of userfriendliness, the Library of Congress, Washington DC, especially the Motion Picture Division. Richard Taylor is also indebted to the Nuffield Foundation, the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies (Washington DC), the British Council (Younger Research Workers' Interchange Scheme), and the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University College of Swansea, for generous financial assistance. He would also like to express profound gratitude to Phyllis Hancock for her unending patience and superhuman efforts at the typewriter, and to Alan Bodger, for his frequent advice on the minutiae of translation and apparently limitless knowledge of matters Russian. Throughout the compilation of the book, Ian Christie has helped to mount a number of events through the British Film Institute which have greatly increased xviii

PREFACE his understanding of Soviet cinema: these include the NFf seasons 'Into the 30s' (July 1982) and 'Love and Conscience: the Films of Yuli Raizman' (October 1984), both organised jointly with John Gillett; and the presentation of New Babylon with its original score by Shostakovich restored and played live, under the baton of Omri Hadari. Many colleagues at the BFI have provided advice and assistance, notably Colin McArthur, John Gillett, Anthony Smith and Veronica Taylor. Charles Cooper and the late Ivor Montagu supplied useful first-hand information about the early career of Soviet films in Britain. Bernard Eisenschitz, Roland Cosandey and Anne Thompson all contributed otherwise unavailable references. Invitations to lecture and commissions to write prompted much of the research that underlies the Introduction. Thanks are thus due to: Charles Barr and the University of East Anglia; David Elliott, Director of the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford; Malcolm Allen, former Film Officer of East Midlands Arts; the Film Department of Bulmershe College; Cordelia Swann and the London Filmmakers' Co-operative; Simon Field and the Collective for Living Cinema, New York; and the editors of Screen and Framework. Film stills and other illustrations have come from a variety of sources, including the Stills Library of the British Film Institute (with special thanks to Markku Salmi) and the Central State Archive of Literature and Art (TsGALI), Moscow. Any work that takes as long to come to fruition as this volume creates a number of personal debts to family and friends that can never be adequately repaid. Some partial recompense may however be made by acknowledgment. Richard Taylor would like to thank his mother, George Boyce, Neil Harding, Emeritus Professor W. H. Greenleaf, Jeffrey Richards and Gareth Evans for their support and encouragement at times when the lights in the auditorium seemed to have been dimmed completely. Ian Christie owes more than he can express to Patsy Nightingale for her forbearance and support over the years; to his colleagues in BFI Distribution for their tolerance, and to his father, Robert Christie, for unstinting support in this, as in all endeavours over the years. This has throughout been a collaborative work and we have both benefited from the cross-fertilisation of ideas that has occurred - all too frequently for our peace of mind. However, Richard Taylor is responsible for the translations, the linking narrative and the information on Russian and Soviet films and people. Ian Christie is responsible for the Introduction, illustrations and the information on foreign films and people. For the overall conception and selection of material, we are jointly responsible. Richard Taylor Ian Christie December 1986


Preface to the Paperback Edition The Film Factory is a product of the last, remarkable decade of the Soviet Union. Access to texts and films and, more important, first-hand contact with Russian historians, critics and veteran filmmakers became steadily easier during the early 198Os, until in 1986-7 the possibility of a fundamental reassessment of Soviet cinema became thinkable. However, most of the frenetic energy of those years was inevitably devoted to revealing the injustices and guilty secrets of the previous twenty years, since these often affected still-living filmmakers. But, even before the era of glasnost and perestroika, radical new perspectives on Soviet cinema were becoming available, although they were not yet publishable. Maya Throvskaya had started to draw attention to ways in which the Soviet film 'market' was routinely manipulated by central control of film print supply and imports, while evidence started to appear of much wider censorship and 'shelving' than was previously realised by many Western historians. The first steps towards that long-delayed study of Soviet cinema as an industry, albeit one operating in a bizarrely distorted monopoly market, had been taken. 1 Subsequent progress has been slow - unsurprisingly in view of the dramatic new priorities forced upon many scholars by the collapse of the Soviet system - but continuing interest in the Mezhrabpom studio and in its leading directors of two generations, Protazanov and Barnet, has shed new light on how Soviet cinema precariously juggled its ideological and entertainment goals.2 In 1989, on the eve of the Soviet Union's demise, a prediction which had been made in The Film Factory and elsewhere was finally realised. Pre-Soviet Russian cinema emerged as a significant body of work deserving study in its own right and as a vital prelude to the early Soviet period.3 Some in the West have openly questioned the cultural merit of this 'Tsarist cinema', thus revealing how strong the Soviet 'myth of origins' remains, although cinema historiography as a whole has welcomed this latest addition to the revisionist canon of early cinema.4 Once again, it is Russian scholars who have set the agenda. Work by Tsivian, Yampolsky and others has focused on the distinctiveness of early Russian cinema culture, especially in its attitudes to language, theatre and acting - and this in tum suggests how the early Soviet period may yet be rethought i11 terms of continuity with, rather than a simplistic opposition to, what preceded it.5 But, however suggestive is the idea of linking 'Russian cinema' before and after the Soviet era, there remains much unfinished historical business concerning Soviet cinema. Two conferences held in Moscow in 1989 indicated how relatively unknown are aspects of both the early Soviet avant-garde and the later 1930s. The tribute to Leonid Thauberg organised by Natasha Nusinova in December xx

PREFACE TO THE PAPERBACK EDmON (shortly before his death in 1990) opened up valuable new perspectives on the FEKS group, which has been persistently marginalised in both Soviet and Western historiography, no doubt because of its eclectic non-conformity.6 Earlier in that same year, Maya Throvskaya organised a retrospective and conference within the framework of the Moscow Film Festival to explore the hitherto taboo comparison between Soviet, German and Italian cinema in 'the era of totalitarianism'.7 Such concerns may not be fashionable in the current climate of 'postideological' economic and social reconstruction. Yet it would be ironic if, at the very moment when political constraint on freedom of research and publication has been relaxed, these and other neglected themes in the history of Soviet cinema should be buried within a rejection of the Soviet era en bloc. For, as the original introduction to The Film Factory argued, this history is a joint product of East-West tension: it is a ghostly presence which long haunted Western cinema, and a quarantine which until recently preserved Soviet cinema from much that has demoralised filmmaking elsewhere. To penetrate its remaining mysteries and reintegrate it into the global history of cinema should remain a high priority as the centenary of moving pictures approaches. The original contents have not been changed for this paperback edition, although many more documents will of course become available. Rather than make minor additions to the pre-1917 and post-1930 sections, these have been left as indicative of the tone and bias of public debate at these tense times. Wholly new accounts of both periods, using the full range of sources now accessible, should be a priority. Meanwhile, within this series the translation of Yuri Tsivian's account of early film reception in Russia opens another unexpected window on Russian cinema which may well have far-reaching consequences for cultural and cinema studies at large.8 Ian Christie February 1994

Notes 1 Preliminary reports of Throvskaya's and E. Khokhlova's work on the Soviet film market and on censorship were given at a 1990 London conference, 'Russian and Soviet Cinema: Continuity and Change', and published in R. Taylor and D. Spring (eds), Stalinism and Soviet Cinema (London 1993). N. Kleiman also drew attention to the suppressed contribution of Jewish filmmakers in his 'Unknown Soviet Cinema' programmes (at the Moscow Film Museum) from 1988. 2 See I. Christie, 'Down to Earth: Aelita Relocated', D. Youngblood, 'The Return of the Native: Yakov Protazanov and Soviet Cinema' and B. Eisenschitz, 'A Fickle Man, or Portrait of Boris Barnet as a

Soviet Director', all in R. Taylor and I. Christie (eds), Inside the Film Factory (London 1991). See also I. Christie and J. Graffy (eds), Protazanov and the Continuity of Russian Cinema (London 1993). D. Youngblood's Movies for the Masses. Popular Cinema and Soviet Cinema in the 1920s (Cambridge and New York 1993) extends the same author's Soviet Cinema in the Silent Era (Ann Arbor, MI 1980) to take a wider 'industrial' view. 3 The Pordenone Silent Film Festival included a major pre-Soviet Russian retrospective in 1989, accompanied by an anthology of texts edited by Y. Tsivian (ed.), Silent Witnesses: Russian Films 1908-1919 (Pordenone and London


PREFACE TO THE PAPERBACK EDITION 1989). A representative selection of these films has been published on video as Early Russian Cinema (10 vols, British Film Institute 1991). See also A. Kherroubi (ed.), Le Cinema russe avant la revolution (paris 1990). 4 For the beginning of this debate, see 'Conference on Russian Cinema, Pordenone 1989', Griffithiana, 1989, no. 37 (December), pp.84-98. 5 See Y. Tsivian, 'Early Russian Cinema: Some Observations' and M. Yampolsky, 'Kuleshov's Experiments and the New Anthropology of the Actor', in Taylor and Christie (eds), Inside the Film Factory, pp.7-50. Also, I. Christie, 'The Kingdom of the

Shadows', in the Hayward Gallery exhibition catalogue Twilight of the Tsars (London 1991). 6 Proceedings of the conference appeared in Kinovedcheskie zapiski, 1990, no. 7; and Nusinova has since edited a booklet, FEKS: La Jeunesse de Trauberg et Kozintsev (1992), since republished as Uonide Trauberg et l'Excentrisme (Paris 1993). 7 M. Throvskaya et al., Kino totalitarnoi epokhi 1933-451Filme der totalitiiren Epoche 1933-45 (Moscow 1989). 8 Y. Tsivian, Early Cinema in Russia and its Cultural Reception (London 1994).


Introduction Soviet cinema: a heritage and its history Say Potemkin and it appears that the whole British Army will go down one after another like ninepins. Bryherl We have not analysed our success in the West. Leonid Trauberg2

I The history of the early Soviet cinema has become a prisoner of its own mythology. When western historians and critics speak of 'Soviet revolutionary cinema' , they are invoking a very specific construct which, together with German Expressionism and Italian Neo-Realism, constitutes a cornerstone of the artcinema tradition. 3 But the issue at stake is more than the adequacy of a movement's definition or periodisation. It opens on to the wider question of the western preoccupation with early Soviet 'modern art' , and the extent to which this actually stems from an underlying anti-Sovietism. For it is axiomatic in most western views of Soviet culture that the revolutionary modernism which flourished in the 1920s was a short-lived phenomenon, soon crushed by the imposition of a doctrinaire 'socialist realism' in the 1930s. 4 But the 'left' avant-garde of Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Vertov and Dovzhenko - which probably attracted more enthusiastic and less qualified support abroad than at home - was never a unified movement. Nor did it have a monopoly on innovation, or on creative responses to the manifold challenges facing the infant Soviet cinema. Yet the continuing western preoccupation with a small group of 'masters' and their early work in the silent period, together with what seems like a wilful ignorance of their less famous contemporaries and of the furious debates that raged around Soviet cinema's policy direction throughout the decade before 1935 - these suggest that the actual history of Russian and early Soviet cinema has long been the victim of a selfconfirming diagnosis, now enshrined in a persuasive mythology. It is as if the broken and frustrated careers of the Soviet pioneers symbolise the inevitable destruction of a doomed enterprise - the 'experiment intelligible to the millions'S - by a tyranny intrinsic to the Bolshevik Revolution. And so an ambient anti-communism is focused around the supposed 'intervention from above' of the mid-1930s, which also conveniently fits the larger mythology of heroic modernism, validating avant-garde opposition to realism or mass media 1

INTRODUCTION populism.6 Within this ideological framework, it is scarcely surprising that Soviet cinema scholarship should have become, literally, scholastic - limiting itself to increasingly refined and elaborate exegesis of a rigid canon of exemplary films and filmmakers. 7 Within this framework, biography becomes hagiography, or martyrology:8 and critical analysis takes the form of partisan polemic. 9 There are, however, quite specific reasons why the study of Soviet cinema should have remained so fixated on its earliest examples and on what had already been identified in the Soviet Union by 1929 as a 'legend of "left" cinema. '10 Films were the first and certainly most effective propaganda for the new Soviet regime to reach an outside world avid for news from 'the land of the Bolsheviks', however hostile the stance of its governments. ll Recent research has emphasised that the period of acclaim for the revolutionary epics of Eisenstein and Pudovkin was preceded by a more instrumental, but no less effective, use of film by Soviet support groups in .the West to appeal for funds and portray the needs of the Revolution. 12 Such information and agitational uses of film continued into the 1930s,13 but from 1926 The Battleship Potemkin, The Mother and their successors conveyed a more euphoric vision of tyranny overthrown and the revolutionary transformation of both a society and its art. Now the success of the Revolution, against all odds, was being demonstrated by the sheer impact of its art. In the absence of other accessible evidence, these early films assumed a quasidocumentary status - an imaginary newsreel of the Revolution's course 14 - and the clumsy efforts of western authorities to obstruct their circulation only served to enhance their appeal. 15 Yet it was also this wave of popularity which laid the basis for a reaction, in which the confusion between political and aesthetic issues, between fiction and historical authenticity, and the ambiguity of the Soviet state's precise role in sponsoring and controlling its cinema led to Soviet films of the 1930s becoming targets for anti-Stalinist attack.16 The origins and full extent of Stalin's personal involvement in cinema have still to be fully investigated; and it may be that here, as elsewhere, there is a need to probe the mythology.n What are we to make, for instance, of Alexandrov's retrospective claim that he and Eisenstein were told by Stalin as early as 1929 that: 'abroad they all watch Soviet films with attention and they all understand them. You filmmakers can't imagine what important work is in your hands'?18 What can be said is that Lenin may hav(! recognised the potential importance of cinema to the Soviet state, but it fell to Stalin to make this a reality. In 1930, after more than a decade of organisational and industrial confusion,19 he appointed Shumyatsky to head a revised central body, Soyuzkino, which would bring all aspects of film activity under a single authority.2O The negative consequences of this move have become an integral part of the western 'myth' of Soviet cinema - particularly the antagonism between Shumyatsky and Eisenstein which led to Bezhin Meadow being shelved. 21 But any more objective assessment of the momentous changes that were thrust upon the Soviet cinema in the early 1930s would have to consider how successful Shumyatsky was in managing the traumatic transition to sound production,22 and in winning new resources and prestige for filmmakers and for Soviet cinema as a whole.23 With the benefit of hindsight , it is all too easy to map the Shumyatsky/Soyuzkino 2

INTRODUCTION initiative on to a complex series of political, aesthetic and technical changes which took place between 1928 and 1935, to create the appearance of a decisive watershed between the 'free 20s' and the 'shackled 30s'. But although Soviet cinema undoubtedly did change direction in the course of the 1930s, so too did the attitudes of its foreign supporters. The dramatic reversal of prestige which began in the late 1930s, and has continued with minor fluctuations to the present, appears to have as much to do with a changed context of perception as with the actual shifts in Soviet production. Soviet cinema, as we shall see, was first constructed as an 'idealised other' in relation to its western counterpart. And when that opposition was made redundant by the sweeping changes in western cinema after the introduction of sound, the still struggling 'industrialised' Soviet cinema of the mid-1930s was rejected as inferior to both Hollywood and the emerging documentary movements of Britain and America. Thus a new interpretative model emerged: that of a state propaganda machine, ruthlessly subordinating artistry and non-conformity to its philistine needs. Essentially this remains the dominant western model, continuing to colour the perception of contemporary Soviet cinema.24 The purpose of this introduction, however, is not to launch a comprehensive new interpretation of the course of Soviet cinema, even up to World War Two. Its aim, rather, is to consider what has deformed the western understanding of Soviet cinema, and thus make possible a more objective reading of the documents that follow. It may also stimulate a wider desire to see many more Soviet films of the 1920s and 1930s than the traditional canon admits. Compared with the renewed vitality of studies in the early Soviet visual arts25 and literature,26 it seems particularly ironic that the medium which first excited widespread western enthusiasm for 'the Soviet example' should have attracted such scant scholarly reassessment and clarification since the early 1930s. The first chroniclers had little choice but to rely on travellers' tales and chance viewings to substantiate their enthusiasm for the new Soviet cinema, yet a remarkably small amount of first-hand research and verification has been attempted in nearly fifty years. We must therefore begin by considering the legacy of that first dramatic period of discovery.

II Why were Soviet avant-garde films so rapturously received abroad in the late 1920s? One reason has already been indicated: they appeared as 'news from nowhere', or rather as evidence of the new order and priorities that the Bolshevik Revolution had created, which included a more vital and important role for art than under capitalism. The earliest eye-witness reports by western visitors Huntly Carter, Marchand and Weinstein, Moussinac27 - stressed the educational and sociai mission of the new Soviet cinema: the great importance attached to non-fiction films; screenings in workers' clubs and mobile cinema expeditions to remote regions; the attention paid to feedback from worker-correspondents and youth groups. The fact that film training schools were being established, even in conditions of extreme material privation, made a deep impression on sympathetic observers, encouraging them to overlook how much the Soviet cinema economy 3

INTRODUCTION still depended on both domestic and imported potboilers, and to overestimate the penetration of the avant-garde. 28 For western intellectuals committed to the social and aesthetic revolution implicit in modernist movements such as Futurism, Dada, Constructivism and the design philosophies of Le Corbusier and the Bauhaus, the new Soviet cinema offered the welcome spectacle of an art of the machine age belatedly shaking off its early subservience to nineteenth-century popular entertainment values. Alfred Barr, future director of the Museum of Modem Art in New York, was moved by seeing Potemkin and The Mother on the same day in Moscow in 1927 to reflect that: the essential unimportance of most American films, their vulgarity and trivial sentiment was brought home by Mat (The Mother). In the kino at least the revolution has produced great art even when more or less infected by propaganda. Here at last is a popular art; why, one wonders, does the soviet bother with painters?29 The rhetoric of science and engineering which the Soviet filmmaker-theorists espoused matched ideally the 'new objectivity' of progressive art movements, bringing art and science closer together than at any time since the Renaissance. For Walter Benjamin, this was a prime reason for asserting that: 'To demonstrate the identity of the artistic and scientific uses of photography which heretofore usually were separated will be one of the revolutionary uses of the film. '30 Benjamin also saw in the Soviet cinema, as distinct from its western counterpart, an acceleration of the process whereby the absolute separation of artist and audience is eroded in the age of mechanical reproduction. In the Soviet Union work itself is given a voice .... Some of the players whom we meet in Russian films are not actors in our sense but people who portray themselves . ... In Western Europe the capitalistic exploitation of the film denies consideration to modem man's legitimate claim to being reproduced [represented].31 Cinema as a new mode of vision, a new means of social representation, a new definition of popular art, embodying new relations of production and consumption - all these aspirations found confirmation in the films and declarations of Eisenstein, Pudovkin and Vertov. 32 And when both Einstein and Joyce, the symbolic heroes of modern science and literature, paid tribute to Eisenstein's genius, the reputation of Soviet cinema as a veritable wonder of the modern world seemed secure. 33 But as well as considering why, it is important to realise how and when Soviet cinema made its dramatic impact on the world's screens. Although the triumphant Berlin run of Potemkin in July 1926 is usually cited as its starting point, the screening of films from and about Soviet Russia actually began in 1921 through the Berlin-based Internationale Arbeiterhilfe, or Workers' International Relief - which was also responsible for the vast public success of Potemkin in Germany that undoubtedly helped to create its subsequent reputation. 34 WIR was started by Willi Miinzenberg to raise money abroad for the relief of famine in Russia after the Civil War and to help build the Soviet economy when all foreign aid was being denied. From the beginning, film played a leading part in 4

INTRODUCTION the work of fundraising and it has been estimated that the organisation helped to produce and distribute some twenty documentaries and newsreels between 1922 and 1924, which they claimed were seen by 25 million viewers throughout Europe, the Americas and the Far East. 35 WIR revenues were soon diverted from famine relief to supporting the infant Soviet film industry, supplying its raw stock, equipment and imported films for exhibition. In 1924, WIR's public corporation Aufbau joined the privately-owned Russian film company Rus to create an ambitious new production and releasing operation, which would continue to grow throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, and was responsible for many of the Soviet cinema's most acclaimed successes, both at home and abroad. 36 Through its other German-based partnerships, Prometheus and Weltfilm, WIR effectively ensured that an increasing number of Soviet films were successfully launched and released through the network of Workers' Film Societies which it helped to support in many countries. Thus it was Prometheus, jointly owned by the German Communist Party, which negotiated with the German censor to open Potemkin publicly (with only 100 metres cut) and commissioned the accompanying orchestral score by Meisel that reputedly brought audiences to their feet in ecstatic identification with the film's message of revolt. 37 Without Miinzenberg's internationalist vision and entrepreneurial skills, it seems doubtful, to say the least, that Soviet cinema would have achieved its fame and outreach in the 1920s, faced with obstacles both commercial and political on all sides. 38 Yet it must be admitted that the climate in which Douglas Fairbanks, one of the most popular film stars of the period, could hail Potemkin as 'the greatest cinema of modern times'39 was also unusually receptive to innovation and novelty. In the aftermath of the First World War, American cinema interests had steadily increased their share of the world market, forcing other national industries to compete for their own domestic audiences against a background of declining attendance and rising production costS.40 The resulting trend towards superproductions, combining prestigious subjects with elaborate scenography - typified by Lang's Nibelung diptych and his Metropolis, Murnau's Faust, Gance's Napoleon, L'Herbier's L'Argent - gambled on reviving public interest by intensifying the scale and spectacle of cinema. By 1929, it became clear that Europe had lost the gamble and control of much of its production and distribution passed into American hands, while its leading film-makers were eagerly acquired by Hollywood studios anxious to maintain their monopoly on talent. 41 This was the context in which a junior executive at MGM wrote to his superior in October 1926, soon after seeing Potemkin at a private screening: It possesses a technique entirely new to the screen, and I therefore suggest

that it might be very advantageous to have the organisation view it in the same way that a group of artists might view and study a Rubens or a Raphael. ... (The firm might well consider securing the man responsible for it, a young Russian director named Eisenstein. )42 Three years later, several Hollywood studios competed to contract Eisenstein for projects as improbable as adaptations of Zola, Wells and Shaw. At no other time (until the late 1960s) has the commercial film industry been so susceptible to cultural ambition, albeit for obvious commercial reasons - Selznick's memo, 5

INTRODUCTION quoted above, noted the extreme economy by which Potemkin achieves its undeniable impact - and this perhaps helps to account for the extraordinary breadth of the Soviet films' appeal. In December of the same year, the American National Board of Review of Motion Pictures published one of the first extended responses to Potemkin's hitherto clandestine reputation. Besides reinforcing the myth of the film's historical authenticity, and quoting Max Reinhardt in support of its contention that Potemkin definitively superseded the limitations of theatre, this review included an interesting speculation: One wonders what would have been the history of pictures if the first directors, instead of going in for trick effects and photographing train robberies, had set out to photograph simply what they saw, had allowed the camera to lead them into its virgin field of new wonders instead of harnessing it to the treadmill of jaded drama. Perhaps Potemkin indicates that the motion picture will have to go back to this age of innocence, that it must, like the Romantic Movement of the early nineteenth century, recapture its innocence if it is to avoid the same death which is gradually stiffening the theatre. 43 The equation between early Soviet cinema and a lost, or recaptured, 'age of innocence' recurs regularly in American film journalism of the 1930s and 1940s. One reason, probably, was the brief interval between Potemkin's New York debut and the unexpected rapidity of the 'talkie' revolution after the premiere of The Jazz Singer in October 1927 - a result of the same search for novelty which had originally attracted even Hollywood's attention to Soviet cinema. 44 But the immediate demand for synchronised sound led to a new production regime and virtually abolished the scope that had existed for experimental work within the commercial industry. 45 Soviet montage cinema - widely regarded as the essence of silent, visual film - became an almost immediate anachronism. As the British critic C. A. Lejeune wrote in 1930: It is one of the movie's little ironies that the most important development

in film-making - the revolutionary work of the Soviet cinema - should have taken place at the precise moment when the coming of sound made it temporarily invalid; that the one theory which might have saved the silent cinema from destruction arrived just as the silent cinema had drawn its last breath. 46 With the publication of Eisenstein, Pudovkin and Alexandrov's Statement on sound cinema in the avant-garde journal Close Up in 1928,47 the Soviet pioneers were effectively conscripted into a western rearguard defence of the aesthetics of a silent art cinema: We are able to safely feel that the future of pure cinema is safe in Soviet filmmakers' hands, that the excrescent and reactionary strivings of talking and talking colour films need not unduly disturb US. 48 While western opponents of sound cinema took comfort in the apparent Soviet hostility to sound (in reality due more to technical backwardness and apprehension than principled opposition, except perhaps among a small elite), 49 western critics closer to the mainstream reacted against the automatic veneration 6

INTRODUCTION of Soviet films. This was not merely the philistine or 'red scare' response that Close Up deplored;50 it marked a new level of sophistication in comparing Soviet cinema with the undoubted achievements of Hollywood. Thus Otis Ferguson, a trenchant founder of the American journalistic tradition, writing in 1934, brushed aside the technical shortcomings of a poor sound version of The Mother to praise Pudovkin's 'special genius' and the film's demonstration of 'the artistic possibilities more and more being realised in this medium. '51 Yet six months later, he mentioned Three Songs of Lenin only to complain: that it has gone the way of many foreign films in its reception here, and got its most honourable citation on the grounds of its being pure cinema . . . . Three Songs about Lenin may have been attacked with a new attack, may be an awesome experiment. My point is that it is not a good picture, and my quarrel with movie criticism is simply that if it was, those who thought so have not done one thing to show why .... 52 Close Up had long recognised the need to 'give reasons' why Soviet cinema seemed to represent 'the arrow point of cinema progress',53 but by the early 1930s it and the other specialist magazines had effectively consigned Soviet cinema to an aestheticised limbo, shrouded in the mysteries of 'montage' and shorn of its political urgency. America had now surpassed Germany as recipient of the largest number of Soviet films. It has been calculated that a total of 184 features were imported in the decade between 1926 and 1936, of which 91 were silent and 93 soundY This represents a significant sample of the approximately 900 films produced by Soviet studios between 1918 and 1935;55 and certainly a much larger proportion of the total output than was seen in, for instance, Britain, where no more than about ten of the forty or so Soviet films known to have been imported up to 1939 were ever certificated for public exhibition. 56 The existence of large Russian-speaking communities in various parts of the United States clearly helped to sustain the high level of importation; as did the network of socialist groups and, from 1930 to 1935, the Workers' Film and Photo League.57 Indeed it was the inspiration provided by the first Soviet revolutionary films, together with the draconian censorship they provoked, that helped create left-wing distribution-production agencies such as the American and British Film and Photo Leagues, the French Amis de Spartacus and the Dutch Filmliga. 58 But the rate of Soviet film imports into the US began to decline after 1935 which marked something of a peak, with four Soviet sound films appearing in the trade paper Film Daily's 'Ten Best' poll - and the relative unpopularity of Soviet sound films was cited as one of the reasons for their main importer, Amkino, going into liquidation in 1940. 59 Many other factors contributed to the declining numbers, and prestige, of Soviet films in the West, among which must be included the disbandment of the Workers' International Relief and its Soviet studio Mezhrabpom in 1935, as part of the Comintern's new Popular Front strategy.60 However, two influential verdicts of the period invite closer scrutiny, as the forerunners of so many later second-hand opinions. John Grierson's reputation now rests principally on his promotion of the concept of documentary cinema, and his founding of the British and Canadian documentary movements. But his early career owed much to the fact that he 7

INTRODUCTION happened to be working in New York when the task of preparing an American release version of Potemkin came his way in 1926. 61 As a result, he claimed to know the film 'cut by cut'62 and soon put the experience to practical use in preparing an English-language version of the less provocative Soviet documentary Turksib,63 and in editing his own Drifters in modest emulation of montage style. 64 (Eisenstein was to joke that the latter had stolen Potemkin's thunder when they were shown together at The Film Society in London in 1929.)65 But behind his bluff, pragmatic public face, Grierson was a complex and often ambivalent figure, capable on the one hand of exploiting Potemkin's notoriety by showing it secretly to members of Baldwin's cabinet in support of his campaign for a British statesponsored film unit,66 and also eloquently susceptible to the cinematic virtuosity of Vertov's The Man with the Movie Camera and Enthusiasm: 'By sheer variety of observation - there never was such variety before - he turns a plain process into a fairy tale of exciting happening'. 67 His conclusion on the value of 'the Russian example' was marked with evident aesthetic regret: There is, I believe, only Turin and Turksib which, for all its patches of really bad articulation, is the single job which takes into the future. Turksib is an affair of economics, which is the only sort of affair worth one's time or patience. 68 Grierson's freelance journalism throughout the early 1930s increasingly came to focus on his ambitions for a cinema of 'public affairs'. He willingly played upon the prestige of Soviet cinema, at a time when all its masterpieces were banned from public exhibition in Britain, in arguing that 'to produce anything comparable with the Russian films' there would need to be in Britain a similar 'grouping of directors ... and a grouping of dramatic loyalties' .69 But he also prudently warned that 'it would take a giant in such circumstances' to achieve work of the same calibre. 70 As his vision began to be realised through the Empire Marketing Board and GPO film units, so his criticism of the Soviet pioneers became more impatient, though no less discriminating. The General Line he judged an over-aestheticised failure - 'and the Russians, I know, will take my point.'71 Pudovkin and Dovzhenko, he believed, had lost their direction amid the new imperatives of industrialisation and collectivisation. Only in Ermler's A Fragment of Empire and Counterplan, and in Macheret's otherwise neglected Men and Jobs did 'the future seem assured' to Grierson in 1935.72 His diagnosis was that the Soviet directors had 'suffered greatly from the freedom given to artists in a first uncritical moment of revolutionary enthusiasm, for they have tended to isolate themselves more and more in private impression and private performance. '73 When it came to the testing time following the first Five Year Plan, Grierson's conclusion was that 'the Russian talent faded' .74 We can now see that Grierson's judgment agreed with many doubts being expressed as early as 1928 even by critical supporters of the 'left' cinema movement within the Soviet Union,75 and largely coincided with the harsh criticisms levelled at the 'masters' during the 1935 Moscow Conference. But many in the West were ready to pass harsher verdicts on very different grounds in the late 1930s, inspired as much by the mounting evidence of Stalin's despotism as by disappointment at the trend in Soviet sound cinema. In a watershed series of


INTRODUCTION articles for Partisan Review in 1938-9, another member of that generation which had been deeply influenced by its first contact with Soviet cinema recalled: the years when we went to the 'little' movie houses which showed Russian films, as one might visit a celebrated cathedral or museum - reverently, expectantly. One joined a congregation of avant-garde illuminati, sharing an exhilarating consciousness of experiencing a new art form.76 Dwight McDonald's purpose, however (which may have accounted for his sentimental hyperbole), was to contrast this idyllic period unfavourably with the recent products of the 'Stalin school', which he judged to differ from those of Hollywood 'only in being technically less competent'.77 The films mentioned by McDonald are indeed less striking or innovative than those that had first impressed his generation;78 and it is easy to understand how they must have disappointed and frustrated many former admirers of the montage school whose hostility to Hollywood prevented them from taking a more sympathetic view of the convergence. 79 But if the main thrust of these influential articles was to identify the new direction in Soviet sound cinema with Stalin and to explain its 'decline' in terms of his policies, McDonald was also challenging any use of sound by Soviet film-makers, other than the radically disjunctive tactics proposed by Eisenstein and Pudovkin in 1928. Hence the dismissive and inaccurate characterisations of such varied early sound films as Alone ('a conventional talkie'), Enthusiasm ('just a silent film, with realistic "sound effects" and a canned musical accompaniment') and The Path to Life ('a 100-per cent all-talking film').80 The Soviet cinema's failure to implement its leading theorists' highly speculative 'contrapuntal' sound programme here looms as large as any condemnation of Stalin; and this charge has continued to figure in subsequent accounts of its fall from grace, with scant attention paid to the astonishing variety and intelligence of early Soviet sound experiments. 8I Even more pervasive in later literature is the echo of McDonald's sweeping assertion: 'In the 20s, the Soviet cinema drew its very breath of life from a close connection with the Soviet state. In the 30s, this integration has poisoned it. '82 It is this highly misleading assumption, even more than the malign shadow of Stalin, that has inhibited the continuing study of Soviet cinema. As Richard Taylor has demonstrated, it would be more accurate to say that the filmmakers of the 1920s achieved what they did regardless of the state's intermittent and largely ineffectual efforts.83 Yet it would be equally misleading to endorse the now-common revisionist view that recasts the same basic contrast between the 1920s and 1930s in terms of freedom from, followed by imposition of, state control of the cinema. Ben Brewster has argued that: the situation in the later 30s is better characterised as one of artistic freedom, or rather artistic privilege, a privilege obtained from the state in exchange for the acceptance of self-control, i.e. control by professional artistic bodies .... 84 While this may tend too far in the opposite direction, implying an illusory 'freedom', it provides a much better basis for interpreting the complex politics of the Soviet cinema in relation to the state. The conflicts between different factions, perhaps more sharply defined in cinema than in the other arts (as the 9

INTRODUCfION documents of 1927 to 1930 in this collection show), were initially of far greater importance than any coherent state policy, quite simply because there was none. Even later, as Brewster notes, 'the state always attempted to minimise its role in strictly artistic matters'. 85 What recent studies of cultural, academic and social life during the years 1929 to 1932 suggest is an ill-prepared leadership provoked by the widespread disruption of the 'cultural revolution' and the polemical zeal of elements within it into ad hoc interventions, which then paved the way for new forms of state regulation and patronage. 86 The subsequent evidence of Stalin's paranoia should not lead us to impose in retrospect a master strategy on these turbulent transitional years, any more than McDonald's intemperate and impressionistic denunciation can stand as an objective account of the trajectory of pre-war Soviet cinema.

III We have seen how, between 1926 and 1939, a revelation became a cult, and eventually a lost cause. It is the paradoxical legacy of that period of discovery and disillusion that those who first responded enthusiastically to the Soviet challenge became, in almost every western country, the first historians, theorists, archivists and 'activists' of cinema. 87 Yet it was the conservative, and in many cases embittered, response to the utopian promise of Soviet silent film-making that entered the received history of cinema, to be carried forward through the Cold War88 and the 'thaw' - when Khrushchev singled out Stalin's self-glorification and selfdelusion through cinema in his celebrated speech to the 20th Congress of the CPSU89 - into the present. The problem of developing a coherent perspective on Soviet film history in the West was first illustrated after the Second World War by the curiously schizophrenic structure of the British Film Academy's Soviet Cinema, with its 'silent' and 'sound' sections obviously written from quite different standpoints by Thorold Dickinson and Catherine De la Roche. 90 The former's contribution faithfully restates a 'Film Society' view of the silent period, classifying directors as 'conservative', 'naturalistic' or 'progressive'; linking the introduction of sound with the condemnation of 'formalism'; and expressing thinly-veiled hostility towards 'the new policy, known as "socialist realism" .'91 De la Roche then takes up the narrative with a classic Soviet definition of socialist realism as a synthesis of the earlier 'dominant realist trends' to be found in Eisenstein, Pudovkin and Dovzhenko,92 shorn of the 'formalistic or naturalistic' minor trends that had emerged at the end of the silent period. Her account proceeds to recast the subsequent fifteen years in similar teleological fashion, thus providing the first post-war western version of what had been adopted as official Soviet historiography. By merely juxtaposing two homogenizing orthodoxies, Soviet Cinema enshrined the dislocated view of its subject that had become commonplace in the West before Jay Leyda's intervention. Leyda's monumental Kino, the fruit of unique personal contacts and over twenty years' intermittent research, appeared in 1960. 93 During his stay in Moscow as a student at VGIK between 1933 and 1936, Leyda claimed to have seen 'all films released from Soviet studios (and a few unreleased)', an experience 10

INTRODUCTION which opened his eyes to the ratio between triumphs and 'shocking mistakes'. 94 Apart from its wealth of informed can dour and discreet avoidance of the routine banalities of pro- and anti-Soviet generalisations, the main historiographical novelty of Kino is the attention paid to pre-Revolutionary Russian cinema which, as Leyda noted, had been ignored for nearly thirty years in Soviet histories. But Leyda also warned 'the historian who will some day prepare a less personal history [that] certain large research possibilities have not been explored': relying mainly on western sources, he admitted to 'only indirect aid from the basic archives at Moscow'.95 This is not the occasion for a detailed analysis of Leyda's remarkable achievement; but the problem it poses is that an avowedly personal and selective chronicle has faute de mieux assumed the status of a definitive history, with the author's own participant-observer stance largely ignored. Its very fluency in combining insider information with objective narrative, and Leyda's telling use of direct quotation from hitherto unavailable sources, has tended to short-circuit more analytical investigations undertaken from different standpoints. Having seen relatively little pre-revolutionary and early Soviet work, Leyda was unable to trace the important continuities that contributed to the great diversity of production throughout the NEP period. Lacking clear (or explicit) perspectives on the development of audiences and of the political machinery of the state during the later 1920s, his account of the transitional period of 1927-33 largely ignores the extent of the 'cultural revolution' upheaval and the corresponding politicisation of all areas of Soviet life. At other points, Leyda appears to underestimate the role of the Workers' International Relief and Aufbau in supporting Soviet productions intended for an international audience, and at the same time to overestimate the success of Sovkino in reaching this audience. 96 Industrial, political and theoretical issues receive only passing attention as they bear upon the central 'artistic' narrative; and, perhaps inevitably, it is the tradition of the protean artist-filmmakers of the 1920s that preoccupies Leyda, so that figures such as Protazanov, Barnet, Room and Raizman receive disproportionately scant discussion, while producers, writers and critics receive virtually none. Any present-day critique of Kino is, of course, the beneficiary of hindsight over twenty-five years - and, more precisely, of a second 'discovery' of Soviet cinema, which radiated outwards from France at the end of the 1960s and in doing so established both a new canon and a new agenda for the study of Soviet cinema. Although French enthusiasts had taken an early lead in investigating the new Soviet cinema at first hand in the 1920s,97 this momentum was not sustained, other than through the French Communist Party's cultural machinery, with the result that Soviet scholarship in France remained highly orthodox until the 1960s. In retrospect, two otherwise very different anthologies of the mid-1960s can be seen as precursors of the dramatic revival of interest which followed the 'events' of May 1968. Le Cinema sovietique par ceux qui l'ont fait 98 brought together interviews with and autobiographical writings by a wide range of the Soviet pioneers, which vividly evoked the excitement and confusion of the pre-war period, and also effectively challenged any simplistic notion of a 'break' by continuing their recollections beyond the 1930s with equal candour. 99 Theorie de La litterature,lOO published in the previous year, made available in French translation the founding texts of the Formalist critics and theorists, many of whom had been actively involved with cinema in the 1920s,101 long before their influence 11

INTRODUCTION came to bear on western literary and cultural theory. Neither of these collections promoted an explicit thesis on pre-war Soviet culture, but by putting into circulation many of the 'deviant' (in orthodox terms) and neglected products of that culture, they helped to pave the way for a wave of appropriation - verging on identification - that followed in the wake of the student-led demonstrations of 1968. On the literary front, Russian Formalism was to become a vital catalyst for the theorisation of 'textuality' by the Tel Quel group.!02 Meanwhile, the film journal that had been most closely associated with the French 'New Wave' of the early 1960s (and thus with the American popular cinema rather than the montage tradition),103 Cahiers du cinema, began publishing a series oftranslations of Eisenstein's theoretical writings in 1969, which culminated in an elaborate special issue devoted to Soviet culture of the 1920s in the following year.!04 Alongside this exercise in polemical archaeology, the editors of Cahiers initiated a series of reflections on the ideological effects of cinema which was to play an important part in the oppositional film culture of the 1970s on both sides of the Atlantic. lOS The politicisation of culture in France in the period immediately after 1968 evoked for many the experiments and debates of the early Soviet period. Indeed scholarship and militancy became inextricably mixed for a time, with Jean-Luc Godard proclaiming his new stance as a collectivist filmmaker under the emblematic nom de guerre of 'Groupe Dziga Vertov';I06 while Chris Marker's SLON group launched Medvedkin's previously unknown 1934 film Happiness, together with a specially made documentary on Medvedkin's experience of the 1930s 'film train' experiment. 107 The intense controversies of early Soviet culture began to reproduce themselves in debates over the strategies and 'lessons' of that period, and in passionate espousal of its leading polemicists - above all, Vertov and Mayakovsky.108 A fierce controversy between Cahiers du cinema and its militant rival Cinethique turned precisely upon the contemporary political significance of such revivalism. On behalf of Cinethique, Marcelin Pleynet sarcastically compared the bourgeois intellectuals of Cahiers grasping at 'analogical models which happen to be around at the time' with the intellectuals of the 1920s seeing the post-revolutionary situation as a testing ground for their theories, rather than addressing the most basic needs of the illiterate masses. Hl9 Criticising Cahiers' abstraction of Eisenstein's theory from its context - and indeed that theory in its own time - Pleynet invoked Lenin's (and even Zhdanov's) warnings against Formalism and Futurism in their unreconstructed forms. uo The montage principle, as Pleynet and others observed, was itself the hybrid product of a montage of influences, none of them intrinsically Marxist (or Leninist). It drew upon Cubist and Futurist traditions in the pre-revolutionary Russian avant-garde, upon theories of language and enthusiasm for (especially American) popular culture, and expressed a fundamental desire to fuse art and political action in a functionalist creative 'engineering'. The rediscovery of Russian Constructivism,ll1 along with Meyerhold's 'biomechanics', Mayakovsky's 'production art' poetics, Vertov's 'factography' and Eisenstein's synoptic aesthetics,1l2 established a new and eclectic series of alliances with non-Soviet currents of modernism. Where Potemkin had been the guiding motif of the first western discovery of the Soviet example, The Man with the Movie Camera became all things to many latter-day modernists.!13 Vertov's rejection by the 12

INTRODUCTION Soviet cinema authorities of the 1930s replaced Eisenstein's 'duel' with Shumyatsky over Bezhin Meadow as the reef on which Western sympathy with the trajectory of Soviet revolutionary culture foundered; and the new strictures on Chapayev and institutionalised 'socialist realism' were as vehement as anything in the late 1930s. 114 Yet even as this familiar identification between 'realism' and 'Stalinism' reasserted itself, the seeds of a more informed and sophisticated scholarship also began to bear fruit, with concepts drawn from the history of Russian poetics acquiring a new currency in post-1968 Western film culture.ll5 Equally important, the pantheon of early Soviet 'masters' known to the West was also enlarged for the first time since the early 1930s, with a series of important publications on Kozintsev and Trauberg (the FEKS group),1l6 Kuleshov,117 Shub118 and Brik,119 and with an expanding documentation in translation of the literary and visual arts context in which they worked. 120 The Soviet response to this renewed interest in its still controversial early culture has been predictably cautious.121 One recent popular history, prepared specially for western distribution, refers disparagingly to the "'New Left" film critics' seeking 'to shore up their own destructive, nihilist aesthetics through reference to Soviet cinema'.122 But it is a function of East-West antagonism that symmetrical and opposed orthodoxies are maintained in this, as in many other fields of study. Behind the persistent Soviet complaint of Western misappropriation lies a prior Soviet rehabilitation, which began in the 1960s with a series of major editions of the writings of Eisenstein,l23 Vertov 124 and Dovzhenko. 125 Medvedkin's Happiness and the reconstructed palimpsest of Bezhin Meadow were only available for Western 'discovery' because they had already been revived by Soviet scholars.126 The steady stream of Soviet research and publications on previously 'censored' personalities and topics has continued apace, still underestimated by Western historians;127 and, without the Soviet archives' cooperation, few of the notable western explorations and reassessments of recent years could have taken place. 128 What can now be contemplated, despite all the powerful historical and political inhibitions that continue to keep both cultures apart, is a convergence between the new demythologising currents of scholarship in both West and East in a reciprocal study of the reality of early Soviet cinema.

IV This anthology makes available in extenso one important category of source material which has hitherto only been accessible to non-readers of Russian in fragmentary form: the articles, speeches and proclamations that constitute the Soviet cinema's distinctive tradition of debate. A handful of these items are already well known - Lenin's reported remarks on cinema, Vertov's 'Cine-Eye' manifestos, the Eisenstein-Pudovkin-Alexandrov 'Statement' on sound129 - but their very familiarity, like stepping stones on a well-worn path, should underline the urgent need to understand their actual impact and consequences, as well as their place in a wider context of shifting, polemical debate. Thus, the succession of passionate, sarcastic and ultimately despondent interventions by Vertov, together with the arguments of his influential supporters, reveal how much his position depended on political skills that were ideally suited 13

INTRODUCTION to the climate of the 1920s, but could not prevail amid the even more violent and decisive polemics of the 'proletarian episode', leading to his exclusion from the emerging consensus of the early 1930s. On the other hand, the celebrated 'Statement' can be seen more as a strategic move, entirely characteristic of the factional struggles of the late 1920s, when Eisenstein and Pudovkin were beginning to be challenged by new attitudes among their peers 130 and by the younger 'realists'.131 A first corrective principle of selection, therefore, has been to include some representative sampling of the many contributors to the debates who were not themselves directors - such as Lunacharsky, Piotrovsky, Shklovsky, Mayakovsky and Shumyatsky - but who were undoubtedly influential, in some cases decisive, in their intervention. The authors of the Soviet history cited above claim, perhaps more tellingly than they realise, that: it is difficult for the foreign researcher to understand the nature of the heated arguments, discussions and polemics in newspapers and journals at this period, articles which had a very definite influence on filmmakers and on filmmaking as a whole. It must be admitted that some of these problems are still not fully illuminated ... .132 The main criterion of selection is thus to trace the development of a series of linked and often overlapping debates which stem from the two pre-Revolutionary themes that were common to early reflection on the new medium in many cultures: namely, the relationship between cinema and theatre and the consequent need to establish a definition of the 'essence', or specificity of film.133 Out of the latter, there emerged in the early post-revolutionary period three contemporaneous, and highly controversial, positions: the 'Americanism' often identified with Kuleshov, but also espoused at times by FEKS and by Mayakovsky and Shklovsky among the Let group;134 the theory of 'montage' as a defining method for Soviet cinema, variously advanced by Kuleshov, Vertov, FEKS, Pudovkin and Eisenstein;135 and Vertov's advocacy of 'unplayed' against all 'played' or fictional cinema. After the dramatic international success of Potemkin, a general opposition developed between 'revolutionary' montage and 'bourgeois' narrative, which included more specific debates on 'effectivity', form versus content and the stratification of audiences.l 36 The rising chorus of criticism directed against the state's organisational provision for cinema became a demand for both coherent state policy and for the enforcement of ideological principle. 137 However, when the Party first began to articulate its concept of mass intelligibility, this only served to intensify the clamour of rival hegemonic claims,l38 and to encourage mounting criticism of an avant-gardism that was more appreciated abroad than amid the priorities demanded by the 'cultural revolution' and the first Five Year Plan.139 Indeed the Plan's central themes of industrialisation, self-sufficiency and agricultural collectivisation clearly inspired many artists and intellectuals to a new social dedication, which in turn led them to reconsider questions of address to the mass audience before this became in any sense an official requirement. l40 The delayed arrival of sound technology further added to the confusion, by encouraging theoretical positions to be taken up before practical experience was possible and, more generally, by shifting the ground on which battle lines had hitherto been drawn between 'left' and 'traditional' filmmakers. 141 14

INTRODucnON The end of the first Plan saw factional feuding abruptly halted by decree, and the ensuing spate of self-criticism and recantation has been too readily rationalised by western commentators as the price of self-preservation, or as opportunism. 142 Personal rivalries no doubt played an important part, but those of a younger generation, impatient to challenge the dominance of the 1920s 'masters' , may have been more significant than the celebrated antipathy between Shumyatsky and Eisenstein. Despite the apparent foreclosure of debate, the new rhetoric of unanimity and the sharp drop in production, it is important to realise that there continued to be almost as many different prescriptions for the 'cinema of the millions' as there had been competing models during the NEP period a decade before. The period 1930-5 saw a remarkable variety of responses to the new challenge of sound, not only from established innovators like Pudovkin, Vertov and Dovzhenko, but from Protazanov, Barnet, Raizman, Macheret, Fainzimmer, Savchenko and many others 143 - a transition, indeed, that has no equal in its diversity, except perhaps the similarly protracted Japanese instance.144 As in the West, this was also a time of industrial consolidation, with the Soviet cinema facing the unique task of ending its dependence on imported materials and catering fully for an increasingly sophisticated domestic audience. New genres emerged in response to both social transformation and technical innovation.145 These included the 'construction' cycle of Counterplan, Ivan and Men and Jobs; films dealing with rural life and remote communities, like Peasants, Alone, The Thaw, Aerograd; musicals as varied as Accordion, The Happy Guys, The Girlfriends, and By the Bluest of Seas; new treatments of revolutionary history in the Maxim and Gorky trilogies,146 The Lone White Sail, The Last Night, Peter the First, as well as in such 'exemplary' works as Chapayev, We From Kronstadt and Alexander Nevsky; and a number of unclassifiable experiments like The House of the Dead, Lieutenant Kizhe and A Severe Young ManY7 To offer evidence of variety is not, of course, to argue that all of these were of equal value - or even that any achieved the same startling originality which seemed characteristic of the late 1920s. But compared with the output of other film industries during this period, the most cursory investigation of Soviet cinema yields a prima facie case for revaluation. 148 This process will first have to set aside the heavily prejudiced reading of the most celebrated public debate of the decade, the 1935 All-Union Creative Conference of Workers in Soviet Cinema, which has passed into Western 'received' historiography as an elaborate snub to Eisenstein, Kuleshov and Vertov. 149 In the light of nearly eight years of intensive debate preceeding it, the doubts voiced as to whether 'successes in the West' had not been achieved at the price of attention to domestic priorities, require more serious consideration. The dilemma articulated by almost all participants in the 1935 Conference stemmed less from an external demand for 'socialist realism' or even mass intelligibility, than from the challenge offered by a radically new status that cinema had achieved by the end of the first Five Year Plan. Soviet filmmakers, for the first time, faced the task of meeting all their domestic audiences' and leadership's needs. Stalin's drive towards self-sufficiency not only made it imperative to replace the films which were no longer being imported, but made available the resources to do SO.150 Film-makers were accorded new prestige by a leadership increasingly anxious to have them mediate its ideology and create a popular national consensus.l51 The changeover to sound production not only 15

INTRODUCTION privileged domestic production, because of the difficulty of adapting foreign 'talkies' for general release; it stimulated a new enthusiasm among audiences, which was reflected in the genuine popular appeal of such films as Chapayev, the Maxim trilogylS2 and Alexander Nevsky, not to mention the comedies of Arnshtam, Alexandrov and Pyriev. To argue that these films did not continue the tradition of high artistic and revolutionary seriousness established in the late 1920s is to ignore the fact that Soviet cinema had entered an almost wholly new phase of responsibility and legitimacy - and that its stylistic changes were very similar to those of most other national cinemas at this period. ls3 Similarly, to focus attention on the frustrations experienced by Eisenstein, Vertov and Kuleshov in the later 1930s, however grievous and wasteful these appear, is to distract from the larger observation that no filmmakers suffered the degree of persecution experienced by artists in other fields during this period. If there is a point at which state pressure - and Stalin's personal interference in film projects - proved disastrously inhibiting to the course of Soviet cinema, this would indeed be more plausibly located in the late 1940s. ls4 But until the actual history of the 1930s, and the still virtually unknown war period, have been more objectively explored, the dominant western verdict of 'failure' or 'betrayal' must be resisted as dangerously self-confirming. lSS The tradition of vigorous, polemical debate on cinema as a vital popular art began long before 1917, as this anthology seeks to demonstrate, and has substantially continued to the present day, despite periods of restriction (some extreme) and self-censorship. To restore the continuity and complexity of this tradition, beyond the privileged periods that loom large in Western historiography is, ironically, to do no more than has already been embarked upon with greater historical rigour in respect of parallel debates in literature and the visual and performing arts. IS6 But for all the insight this offers on policies and personalities, there remain many other issues, all requiring first-hand archival and critical research, without which our understanding of pre-World War Two Soviet cinema will continue to be seriously deficient. Perhaps the most urgent is the task of reinstating those major film-makers who neither wrote, nor were extensively written about in their time. The sheer volume (and brilliance) of writing by the early Soviet avant-garde has created a strong presumption in favour of the articulate, to the lasting detriment of such vital figures as Protazanov, Barnet, Room, Ermler and Raizman - to name only the most obvious. Until recently, all of these were automatically classed as 'conservative' or, implicitly, secondrank, because they fitted into neither the 'left' -montage hagiography, nor the martyrology that has dominated Western views of Soviet culture.lS7 Yet future historians may judge that two of these in particular - Barnet and Raizman were among the most important in helping Soviet cinema, through two decades of relative orthodoxy, maintain its links with early irreverence and develop more sophisticated 'realisms' than official definitions would imply.lss Still to be widely recognised in the West (and indeed adequately documented in the Soviet Union) is Protazanov's seminal work in developing screen acting out of theatrical prototypes and his responsibility, together with Barnet, for establishing a distinctive genre of Soviet comedy.ls9 Equally, Ermler's pioneering of the 'social problem' genre has still to be explored. l60 Apart from these major lacunae, which a collection such as this may inadver-


INTRODUCTION tently perpetuate rather than redress, there are many other instances of unexamined assumptions carried forward from the first phase of western discovery (and reiterated during the second, in some cases). The existence of a distinctive Russian pre-Revolutionary cinema has been recognised at least since Leyda's preliminary account in Kino, but has still to be evaluated critically, especially in relation to the early post-Revolutionary period, with its fascinating array of experimental hybrids. 161 Both Western and early Soviet historians were understandably inclined to minimise the popular Russian elements which the film avantgarde appropriated, just as earlier avant-garde movements defined themselves in terms of a rejection of tradition. Thus we know much about the breadth of Eisenstein's international culture, but almost nothing of his immense debt to ikon painting and the popular lubok tradition;162 and similarly, it may flatter western susceptibilities to believe that Kozintsev and Trauberg were inspired more by Hollywood slapstick and German 'Expressionist' cinema than by Gogol and the continuity of Russian 'Eccentrism', as they always maintained. 163 The years since 1968, when Soviet cinema again served as a powerful stimulus to western film culture, by regenerating its agitational and theoretical impulse, have seen the rise of a new empirically-based treatment of cinema as industry and 'cultural apparatus'. Yet while the two-way determination of industry and ideology has been explored in relation to many episodes in western cinema and notably to that once-exotic 'model of difference', the Japanese cinemal64 the study of Soviet cinema remains tied to 'great artists' and symptomatic readings. The very conception of Soviet cinema as an industry has scarcely been broached,165 let alone such issues as its generic structures, star system, meaning for Soviet audiences and domestic theorisation. A crude propagandistic model continues to underlie even sophisticated approaches and, by a supreme irony, the methods of analysis which were first developed in the early Soviet context have been least of all applied to Soviet cinema as a whole. l66 A new agenda for the study of Soviet cinema must begin by coming to terms with the history of its appropriation in the West, and by dismantling the complacent mythology that continues to block empirical research. So long as western historians continue to overestimate the effectiveness of centralised state control and propaganda intent, and to underestimate the degrees of improvisation and relative autonomy that have governed its development, they will continue to reproduce a frozen legacy of theory and example.l 67 By seeking to understand the trajectory of Soviet cinema, rather than to change it to fit our preconceptions, we may yet discover how it has indeed fulfilled Lenin's prediction as 'the most important art' of the Soviet era, both mirroring and criticising that society, as well as helping to shape its self-image.l 68


Translator's Note

Transliteration from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet is a perennial problem for writers on Russian subjects. We have opted for a dual system: in the text we have transliterated in a way that will, we hope, render Russian names and terms more accessible to the non-specialist while in the scholarly apparatus we have adhered to a more accurate system for the specialist. Accepted English spellings of Russian names have been used wherever possible and Russian names of Germanic origin have been returned to their roots. The translation of film titles poses problems as Russian does not have either an indefinite or a definite article. We have preferred to insert an article in English where appropriate: hence The Battleship Potemkin, The Arsenal, etc. The convention by which Soviet films are known by bald titles like Earth, Mother, Strike is itself arbitrary: consider, for example, how Chekhov's plays have become known in English as The Seagull, The Cherry Orchard, but Three Sisters.


1896·1921: Introduction

The Lumiere brothers' cinematograph, developed from earlier forms such as the diorama, the zoetrope and the kinetoscope, first came to Russia in May 1896 as a novel turn in the interval of an operetta performance in St Petersburg. Later that year the cinematograph entertained audiences at the annual Nizhny Novgorod Fair and it was there that Maxim Gorky first encountered what he called the 'kingdom of the shadows' (Document no. 1). His account of the effect of cinema on an early audience echoes right through to the 1930s wherever people saw a film for the first time. The early years of cinema in Russia, as elsewhere, were largely associated with the music-hall turn, the variety or cabaret act and the fairground attraction, and the new invention was regarded first and foremost as a means of making money, first by recruiting an audience and then by retaining it primarily through entertainment. The early short films, mostly imported from France, were shown by travelling exhibitors but, as the audience grew and its expectations increased, these gave way to the first permanent cinema theatres and to the first indigenous production. The first Russian film studios were established in 1907, although French firms maintained their dominance of the Russian market until the outbreak of the First World War interrupted supplies. The commercial ethos of what was after all an industry and the sensationalism deployed by the more flamboyant producers, such as Drankov, to attract and retain their audiences confirmed the rather murky reputation that cinema had in some people's eyes. In 1910 the writer Kornei Chukovsky referred disparagingly to cinema as 'that collective creation of those very Kaffirs and Hottentots who live below'.1 For him cinema was synonymous with philistinism and this view was shared by the Tsar, Nicholas II, who remarked in 1913 that 'cinema is an empty, totally useless and even harmful form of entertainment'.2 This was not, however, a universally held view. There were those within the industry who wished the new medium to be taken more seriously, either as an educational tool or as an art form. The tension between the three corners of the triangle: entertainment/industry, art, and education/propaganda informs many of the debates covered in this collection. One of the central strands of discussion concerned the proper relationship between cinema and theatre. If cinema was to be an independent art form, this relationship had to be clearly defined. Leonid Andreyev's 'First Letter on Theatre' of 1911 (Document no. 2) argued that cinema's advantage lay in its scope for action and movement. Cinema was a mirror but, developing Gorky's notion of a 'kingdom of the shadows', Andreyev 19

1 2 3 4 5 6

(top left) Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station (1895), Lumiere Brothers. (top right) Stenka Razin (1908) Vladimir Romashkov. (centre left) The Cameraman's Revenge (1911) Wladyslaw Starewicz. (centre right) The Queen of Spades (1910) Pyotr Chardynin. (bottom left) The Woman With a Dagger (1916) Yakov Protazanov. (bottom right) Arsen Dzhordzhiashvili (1921) Ivan Perestiani.


1896-1921 maintained that 'what is reflected in the mirror is neither dead nor alive: it is a second life, an enigmatic existence, like that of a spectre or a hallucination.' Andreyev felt that cinema would eventually help to regenerate theatre but in his 'Second Letter on Theatre' of 1913 (Document no. 6) he foresaw the dangers that sound would involve for the autonomy of cinema as an art form: 'The word will merely drive cinema from its unique artistic path and direct it towards the well-trodden, well-rutted and well-worn path of theatre.' Andreyev's reservations did not, however, deflect the entrepreneurial energies of others from attempts to develop mechanical methods of accompanying films with sound or from commissioning musical scores from 'serious' composers. The Russian Futurists, like their Italian counterparts, embraced cinema wholeheartedly precisely because it was associated with the music-hall, the cabaret, the fairground and the other popular forms of 'low' art which they were using to attack the hegemony of 'high' art. After all, by the outbreak of the First World War, the audience for cinema outnumbered the total audience for all other forms of entertainment in the towns and cities of the Russian Empire. In 1913 Vladimir Mayakovsky echoed Andreyev's view of cinema's advantages over theatre: cinema liberated the actor from the restrictions imposed upon him by the theatre stage, the props, etc., because 'cinema harmoniously fixes the movements of the real' (Document no. 5). Like Andreyev, Mayakovsky at this stage thought that cinema would lead to theatre's renewal, to its 'resurrection' rather than to its replacement. Cinema, by fixing 'a copy of the great moments of creativity', he wrote, 'forces us to think about the theatre of tomorrow, about the new art of the actor'. For him cinema was not yet an art form but an instrument like a typewriter or a telescope: 'cinema can be either a successful or an unsuccessful multiplier of images .... Cinema and art are phenomena of a different order.' For a Futurist that was as much a compliment as a criticism. Vsevolod Meyerhold was more hesitant. He recognised that theatre and cinema were distinct, that 'special actors are required for cinema' but felt nonetheless that, 'It is still too early to say whether cinema will be an independent art or subsidiary to theatre' (Document no. 7). But both Mayakovsky and Meyerhold did make films. Meyerhold's The Picture of Dorian Gray was made in 1915. Mayakovsky wrote his first film script in 1913 and appeared in three films in 1918: The Lady and the Hooligan, Not Born To Be Rich and Shackled by Film. But, in a pattern that was to become familiar in future years, the films that people like them made were not the films that audiences went to see in large numbers. Audiences in Russia, as elsewhere, went to cinemas to be entertained: they were keen to see serials like Cabiria, Maciste, Fant6mas and similar Russian films and their desire for escapism was immeasurably increased by the outbreak of the First World War. The war also largely cut Russia offfrom the world film market and indigenous film production expanded to fill the gap. By 1917 Russian film producers dominated the home market but they were beginning to run short of film stock, equipment and, in some cases, ideas as well. But it was within this commercially-orientated cinema that a first generation of leading filmmakers was beginning to emerge with men like Vladimir Gardin, Yakov Protazanov and Evgeni Bauer, from whom Lev Kuleshov received his training. Kuleshov, like Andreyev, Mayakovsky and Meyerhold, addressed himself 21

1896-1921 to the central question of cinema specificity, especially in relation to theatre. In 1917, before the October Revolution, he argued that, because cinema produced 'an exclusively visual impression', the 'essence of cinema art lies in the creativity of the director and the artist: everything is based on composition' (Document no. 8). By March 1918 his ideas had developed to the point where, for the first time, he was to identify the central importance of montage, 'the rhythmical replacement of individual still frames or short sequences conveying movement': 'Montage is to cinema what colour composition is to painting or a harmonic sequence of sounds is to music' (Document no. 9). The October Revolution had no immediate political effect on cinema: despite repeatedly expressed fears the industry was neither seized overnight nor suddenly nationalised. The effect was rather one of longer term disruption and continuing deterioration, caused mainly by the effects of the ensuing Civil War of 1918-21 and by fears of sequestration and nationalisation. There was a drain of much-needed talent and expertise first of all to the Crimea, still held by the Whites, and then in some cases abroad. Protazanov, for example, went to France although he was to return to the Soviet Union in 1923. Generally speaking, the whole Civil War period in cinema, as elsewhere, can be characterised in a single word: shortage - shortage of film stock, equipment, electricity, skilled technicians and talented artistes and, above all, a shortage of money. Although some private firms, such as the Neptune company that had financed the Mayakovsky films, did continue to make films, production was not enough and not systematic enough to meet demands. The haphazard nature of things is illustrated by the fact that a print of Intolerance, discovered by accident, was shown to raise money for the victims of the famine. In the end, many cinemas were forced to close their doors.3 The new Soviet government paid little more than nominal attention to cinema matters. This is hardly surprising as for most of this period it was fighting for its life. Anatoli Lunacharsky, the People's Commissar for Enlightenment, was given overall responsibility for cinema and the other arts. As a selfproclaimed 'liberal among the Bolsheviks' he preferred a gradualist approach to the reorientation of cinema towards primarily revolutionary rather than commercial ends. The decree nationalising cinema enterprises was signed by Lenin in August 1919 although there is ample evidence that it took many months to put into effect. Lunacharsky preferred cooperation to confrontation: although embryonic Soviet film organisations were beginning to emerge in Petrograd and Moscow, private firms were paid to produce agitation and propaganda films for the central government and local authorities. Most of these films were conventional in their artistic form but revolutionary in their political content, and they presupposed a relatively sophisticated audience of urban cinema-goers. But some, the agitki proper, aimed at both new form and content. The shortages largely dictated a brevity and economy of style while political requirements - a need for films that would be intelligible to relatively backward remote and illiterate rural audiences - dictated simplicity. These films were shown at the front and in the countryside by a fleet of agit-trains, ships and lorries, directly controlled by the central Party organisations,4 and involving film-makers such as Kuleshov and Dziga Vertov. The more conventional cinema audience in the towns and cities declined as the shortages worsened. The old Russian cinema would not become an effectively 22

1896-1921 Soviet cinema until it had the resources to produce the films that would attract the audiences to generate the revenue that would in turn provide the resources necessary for further development. It was a vicious circle that had to be broken at a time when state resources were scarce and the demands on them enormous: the Soviet government had to concern itself with securing its own continued existence and protecting the population against famine and disease. Nonetheless the first steps on the road to recovery were being taken: in 1919 the State Film School was established, with Vladimir Gardin, who was also now directing agitfilms, in charge. Kuleshov established his own Workshop there in 1920: the shortages forced his students to practise their ideas making 'films without film'. The School- and indeed the Workshop - were to train a whole new generation of filmmakers. In 1919 the People's Commissariat for Enlightenment published a collection of essays on various aspects of cinema, its characteristics and its future role. In his introduction Lunacharsky argued that: The state cinema in Russia forces quite unusual tasks. It is not simply a matter of nationalising production and film distribution and the direct control of cinemas. It is a matter of fostering a completely new spirit in this branch of art and education. By the end of the Civil War a start had, however, been made.


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7 (top) Newspaper advertisements for the first Cinematographe Lumiere presentations in St Petersburg (top) and Moscow, 1896. 8 (centre) Filming 1812 in 1912. Khanzhonkov's spectacular co-production with Pathe recreated famous paintings of Napoleon's campaign to mark the centenary of the Battle of Borodino. 9 (left) 'The Biograph in the 21st Century' (1913) . Caricature by I. Stepanov.




Maxim Gorky: The Lumiere Cinematograph (Extracts) Source: '10M. Pacatus', 'Beglye zametki. Sinematograf Lyum'era', Nizhegorodskii listok, 4 July 1896. pedestrians crossing the street, picking their way among the carriages. It is all moving, all alive, all speeding about. It all moves into the foreground and then disappears somewhere. All this happens in a strange silence in which you cannot hear the rumble of wheels, the sound of footsteps or of speech. There is nothing: not a single note of the intricate symphony that usually accompanies people's movements. Silently the ash-grey foliage of the trees sways in the wind and the grey silhouettes of the people glide silently along the grey ground as if condemned to eternal silence and cruelly punished by being deprived of all life's colours. Their smiles are lifeless, although their movements are full of living energy and are so swift as to be almost imperceptible. Their laughter is silent, although you see the muscles contracting in their grey faces. Before you a life surges, a life devoid of words and shorn of the living spectrum of colours, a grey, silent, bleak and dismal life. It is terrifying to watch but it is the movement of shadows, mere shadows. Curses and ghosts, evil spirits that have cast whole cities into eternal sleep come to mind and you feel as though Merlin's vicious trick is being played out before you. It is as if he had cast a spell over the entire street, compressing its multi-storied buildings from their roof-tops to their foundations to minute size. He has compressed the people to correspond, depriving them of the power of speech and merging all the colours of the earth and the sky into a monotonous grey. In this disguise he has pushed his grotesque

Yesterday I was in the kingdom of the shadows. If only you knew how strange it is to be there. There are no sounds, no colours. There, everything - the earth, the trees, the people, the water, the air - is tinted in a grey monotone: in a grey sky there are grey rays of sunlight; in grey faces, grey eyes, and the leaves of the trees are grey like ashes. This is not life but the shadow of life and this is not movement but the soundless shadow of movement. I must explain, lest I be suspected of symbolism or madness. I was at Aumont's cafe and I was watching the Lumieres' cinematograph - moving photographs. The impression it produced was so unusual, so original and complex, that I can hardly convey it in all its nuances, but I can attempt to convey its essence. When the lights go out in the room in which the Lumieres' invention is being shown, a large grey picture suddenly appears on the screen: 5 it is 'A Paris Street', the shadow of a bad engraving. As you gaze at it, you see carriages, buildings and people in various poses, all of them frozen into immobility. All this is in grey, and the sky above is also grey. You do not expect anything new in this all too familiar scene because you have seen pictures of Paris streets many times. But suddenly a strange flicker passes across the screen and the picture comes to life. Carriages come from the back of the picture towards you, straight towards you, into the darkness where you are sitting. From somewhere in the distance people appear, looming larger as they approach you. In the foreground there are children playing with a dog, cyclists rushing around and 25

1896 creation into a niche in the dark room of a restaurant. Suddenly there is a click, everything vanishes and a railway train appears on the screen. It darts like an arrow straight towards you - watch out! It seems as though it is about to rush into the darkness where you are sitting

and reduce you to a mangled sack of skin, full of crumpled flesh and splintered bones, and destroy this hall and this building, so full of wine, women, music and vice, and transform it into fragments and into dust. But this, too, is merely a train of shadows.




Leonid Andreyev: First Letter on Theatre (Extracts)

Source: L. Andreev, 'Pis'mo 0 teatre', Po/noe sobranie sochinenii (St Petersburg, 1913), vol. 8, pp. 305-16. Date: 10 November 1911 . . . Almost no other invention has been greeted with such great mistrust and even scorn as the cinematograph, or living photography. Whereas the man in the street throughout the world and the lower strata of the intelligentsia have surrendered enthusiastically and ecstatically to the power of 'cinema', the upper echelons viewed it with coldness and animosity. It has already become impossible to disregard the innumerable evening lights that cinemas are decorated with on the outside, to ignore the motley crowd that willingly rushes to its doors, and yet everyone has kept quiet about it, pretending that they had not noticed, or sincerely believing that it is one of those empty entertainments like the skating-rink that from time to time attract the fickle and empty-headed man in the street. One or two hesitant articles in the thick journals, the magnificent but undervalued and largely ignored article by Mr Chukovsky, 6 dark rumours of some protests in Germany against growing usurpation by cinema that is practically all there has been here so far to mark the start in life of our marvellous guest. Two or three years ago when I spoke for the first time to some of our writers about the enormous and still unrecognised significance of the cinematograph, about the prominent role it was destined to play in resolving the problem of theatre, I could only provoke a smile and a reproach for my needless fantasising. It was all the more surprising that theatre, which had an essential interest in cinema and was linked to it by ties of blood relationship, appeared not to notice its rich and vulgar American cousin at all. It did not even notice it at that tragic moment when, under pressure from cinema,

theatre itself went on to the streets and occupied a place right next to the green and red evening lights under the name of the 'theatre of miniatures' . It seems that this relationship has altered somewhat: people are already endeavouring to talk seriously about cinema. But recently I happened quite by chance to hear a number of writers and artistes talking about cinema-theatre and I became convinced that by its very essence cinema continues to remain the same old unfamiliar stranger, licentious and somewhat repellent to people who have had an aesthetic and academic education. An artistic Apache, an aesthetic hooligan, an idle and predatory accessory on the wheel of true art - that characterises the attitude of the majority of those who spoke about this marvellous guest. They even posed questions like: was it proper for a selfrespecting actor to appear in cinema? I even heard such pathetic cries as: however much you sing the praises of your cinema it will never kill off theatre just as colour photography will never kill off painting! ... Nobody, not even those who were speaking in defence of cinema-theatre, made reference to the very great probability that it is precisely cinema, that is now an aesthetic Apache and hooligan, which is destined to emancipate theatre from the great burden of unnecessary things, of the attendant and the alien, whose weight is killing and will kill the contemporary stage, infect dramatists and undermine and weaken the once powerful and regal word of the high tribunes. . . . The genius has gone from drama - its vast scope could not be contained in this cramped and 27


cheerless stage! When it contemplates spreading its wings a little wider it always fatefully transpires that the most profound and most inspired things are the least 'theatrical' ... just remember Brand. But it is not just the genius. Even mediocre talents are beginning to find the contemporary stage too cramped and they have to squat and babble childishly so that something theatrical emerges. Because, in line with its need for action, contemporary theatre wants to provide a spectacle. To the question - should contemporary theatre provide a spectacle? - I shall equally decisively permit myself to answer no. This answer is merely consistent. In so far as action is visible and there is a spectacle, they should together leave the stage, leaving room for the invisible human soul and for its greatest riches that are invisible to our carnal and limited eyes. Then the smartly dressed Benvenuto Cellini with his splendour and the variety of his surroundings will yield his place to Nietzsche's black frock-coat, to the immobility of the toneless and monotonous rooms, to the quiet and the dark of the bedroom and the study. Now it is only the commercial traveller who walks in the daylight while Lev Tolstoy and his drama of worldwide importance have sat immobile for a quarter of a century. Once people start pelting even our prophets and heroes with pages of manuscript or typescript rather than with stones that will be the place for a spectacle! Even there of course sly old Maeterlinck tries to find ways: if he wants to say 'life', he writes 'sea', thereby putting theatre in an impossible position. If a painter paints something real for the stage like the sea, the sea is all that will result .... Yet everyone knows that it is not the sea but life. If he paints a nasty sea he will simply get a bad sea, he will not get any life at all! There is no limit to the deceptions that the talented dramatist cramped by the contemporary stage will resort to! There are all those devilish sets in Hauptmann's The Drowned Bell, Naidenov's7 modest and quite unnecessary Imatra with our ever-present samovar - it may be a samovar but it is also a spectacle with a poor ending. The samovar is also, however, action: when they bring it on, when they pour from it, when they take it away, the audience is distracted and refreshed. Would it mean forcing an already open door

to prove to what extent the contemporary theatre and its public have surrendered to spectacle, how, like a sacrifice to an idol, they quite often murder the very sense of a work, sacrificing its soul for the body they do not need? It is ridiculous: in order to provide space for dances or give the actor the chance to execute a few superfluous steps on stage, they make cuts, i.e. they quietly and gently cut off the author's tongue, supposing that the amputation is quite enough to make an impression. Ponder this and you will realise where this long series of failures that accompanies our most valuable and interesting productions originates and why the worst works meet with success while the best either fail or do not even reach the stage, why our dramatists fall into ever greater decline, why only the dumb do not bemoan the impoverishment of dramatic literature .... It is not only theatre that is dying: the public too is dying (I mean the theatre public which knows how to perceive theatrical effects). Which is dragging which into the pit: theatre the public, or vice versa? It is difficult to say and, in this particular instance, it is unimportant. Let us say that it will be a reciprocal action. What is important is the fact that the contemporary 'audience' (as it is called), although it persists in going to the theatre, has to the point of absurdity already got out of the habit and is quite unable to manage or cope with the impressions that derive from the stage. As I do not have the opportunity to linger over its extremely interesting psychology which deserves a separate investigation, I shall remark on only a few aspects. Never before have so many demands been made on theatre, never before has it had so many demands to satisfy as now. I am a lady and I want to know what to wear. I go to the theatre and learn from the actress and the other ladies. I am weighed down by my thoughts and want to think them over, so I go to the theatre. My eyes are tired of our colourless rooms, our monotonous and boring streets: I'd like to travel, feast my eyes on the spectacle of the sky, the sea, alien and everlasting sights but there is nowhere I can go, I have no money, and, without thinking, I go to the theatre to provide my eyes with colour and joy. Whether I want laughter or melancholy, anxiety or peace of mind, I go to the theatre for everything, I demand everything from theatre, 28


curse theatre for everything. Hence: how absurd our usual audience is with its ridiculous and wildly mixed membership! How many varied and contradictory currents flow from the audience on to the stage and knock down and torment the actors! The man of sense has only just begun to listen while twenty fools have been gaping and blowing their noses. The fools are satisfied but the man of sense is beginning to work his way out of his unbearable melancholy . . . for there is no greater sadness for a man of sense than the joy of fools. Much drama takes offence at searching for peace and 'entertainment'; not much drama takes offence at wanting excitement. One person knows how to listen and likes listening while another, who is a scribbler and a windbag, is depressed by any coherent speech. One person understands everything and complains that there is little in it, no food for thought, while another understands precisely nothing but also complains - that it is rubbish! Certainly all theatres voluntarily, and the majority involuntarily, try to select their 'own audience', to create a certain constant, stable and harmonious audience, but that in itself is a particularly powerful comment on the bankruptcy of serious contemporary drama. For the lower theatre is in the artistic and moral sense the more people will not 'care a fig' about it and the more correct and reliable the selection will be, and vice versa. In the full meaning of the phrase the cafechantant and the operetta have their 'own audience'; Suvorin's theatre of horrors has its 'own audience', as does Korsh, but beyond that audiences begin to be less certain and more varied. If there are dozens of theatre-goers, some of whom prefer to go to the Art Theatre and some to the Maly, then further down the line there exist thousands and tens of thousands of people who similarly go to two, three or four theatres and set out with similar interest to see Hamsun's Drama of Life and ... what hateful names! The more impassioned and the more tormented the theatre's search is - and nowadays every serious theatre has to search - the less its belief in its audience and its lasting success. Plays of differing spirit and mood battle with one another, enfeebling the actor, throwing him from the extremes of realism to the extremes of Symbolism, the one rewarding him with flesh and blood and the other depriving him even of his

shadow, like the unfortunate Shlemil. While shattering the actor, these different plays also shake the audience, which becomes a question mark before each new production. In all this where can you select an audience, a public both wellordered and well-rehearsed, when theatre is tearing itself to pieces internally? Some authors and some individual plays still select their audience but there is little consolation for theatre in this: look at the plays that are put on a hundred and one times and you will satisfy yourself that they are by no means the most powerful works, merely the more accessible ones and hence the most primitive, straightforward, unintelligent and empty. Very often they have the appearance and taste of quite 'good' plays but this is an unintentional self-deception: selected, sympathetic actors who are well-rehearsed and certain of success, well-disposed audiences (because they know what they are going to) create in the theatre a special atmosphere in which the shortcomings go unnoticed while the minor merits grow and in general everything flourishes. Any play that has had a dozen performances creates a small select audience: but, in contrast, how terrible, how ridiculous, what an utter condemnation of the whole system of present-day theatre are first nights! A few people make a conscious decision to go to the theatre but the majority are like a flock of sheep: they go because they have to. But even those who go on purpose have not the faintest idea nor notion of what awaits them: on the whole they have been promised something unexpected (someone or other is producing the sets or the spectacle; someone or other has composed the music; someone or other is directing ... it's always someone or other) but nobody knows' whether it is a pleasure or a torment. But theatres still deliberately exaggerate the secret . . . not realising that the darker the secret the more it will attract people's unwanted and unhealthy interest. How many serious people have stopped going to the theatre completely? Now imagine cinema - not the cinema we have now with its deathly black photographed figures twitching flatly on a flat white wall but the cinema that is to come ... soon. The might of technology will have eliminated the flickering by increasing the sensitivity of the film-stock, given objects their natural shade and restored authentic



perspective. What will this cinema be like? It will be a mirror across the whole of a ten-metre wall, a mirror that will show reflections, but not of you. What will this be - technology? No, because a mirror is not technology: a mirror is a second reflected life. Will it be dead? No, because what is reflected in the mirror is neither dead nor alive: it is a second life, an enigmatic existence, like that of a spectre or a hallucination. The curtain is pulled back. It seems as if a fourth wall has dropped down, ten metres across. As if in a colossal window, living pictures of the world appear. Clouds cross a blue sky, rye sways and the sweltering distance looms. You can see everything and everyone, what and whom you want: Endor's magic lantern sells its miracles by the metre. You want to see yourself as a child, as a young man? You want to run through your whole life? You want to see people who have died? Here they are: they enter obediently, look, smile and, with you - that is, you - entering through the same door, they sit down at the table. But I will not start talking here about the revolution in psychology, in the very foundations of thought that the future Cinema will bring about. Let us return to theatre. Imagine now that some performance intended for theatre was put on in front of this mirror, that the mirror was positioned in front of the stage of some famous and great theatre with famous actors - it will return everything so fully, it will repeat everything, reproduce everything and reproduce it endlessly. It will return everything except words. It will be neither 'technology' nor dead figures: it will be a second, reflected enigmatic life. When cinema has become this kind of magician it will calmly deprive theatre of its action and its 'spectacle'. There will not even be any resistance to speak of. If theatre wants to fight with the hands of a painter who creates some special and very wonderful sets, cinema will steal the sets in their entirety. On the other hand, however, apart from the sets it can even produce something that is authentic, which theatre does not have the power to do. As far as action is concerned the advantages of Cinema in this field are indisputable and obvious: it has at its command the entire world which it can reincarnate instantly, it is a master capable at any moment of summoning to action thousands of people, motor cars, aeroplanes, mountains and oceans. Wherever an action occurs, whatever

form it takes and however unusual, Cinema can catch up with it anywhere and capture it for its magic screen. There is more to it than that. However much theatre strives for action, it is constrained, it can produce action only in the most limited forms; however much theatre strives for movement, it can produce it only within the confines of those sixty feet allotted to it on stage. But because, besides theatre, we do not have and have not had another teacher of action, we are not acquainted with the whole field of actions that are, for instance, connected with personal participation in some desperate expedition. Some novels (even if they are by Jack London) are filled with the description of these kinds of actions but we do not see them and we do not know them. Cinema is destined to open up this new area, to broaden our idea of action to new and unforeseen limits. I shall fantasise further. There will be no limits to the freedom of an author creating action, his imagination will have been enriched - and new cinema dramatists, as yet unknown talents and geniuses, will emerge. A Cinema Shakespeare, after abandoning the inconvenience of words, will deepen and broaden action to such an extent, will find such new and unexpected combinations for it, that it will become as expressive as speech and at the same time it will convince with the incomparable conviction that is inherent only in the visible and the tangible. Simultaneously with the Cinema Shakespeare we shall witness the emergence of a few vast and fearfully rich theatres where new actors will work, geniuses of external representation, of the mimic, and plastic arts, of pretence who have studied and recalled the old prehistoric art of expressing everything through the face and through movement. On a par with these Cinema Shakespeares, the instigators of the new cinema drama, and these Cinema art theatres, the executive geniuses of the author's new freedom, throughout the world, in its darkest and most secret corners, millions of stages are dispersed, the present-day cinema sheds whose essential equipment consists of a few pennies and three men with a suitcase full of a film. The miraculous Cinema! . . . If the highest and most sacred aim of art is to instigate contact between people and their individual souls, then what an enormous, unimaginable socio-psychological role is destined to be played by this artistic 30


Apache of the present! What is there to compare with it: aerial flight, the telegraph and the telephone, even the press itself? It is portable and can be packed in a box: it is sent all over the world through the post like an ordinary newspaper. Having no language, being equally intelligible to the savages of St. Petersburg and the savages of Calcutta, it truly becomes the genius of international contact, brings the ends of the earth and the spheres of souls nearer and gathers the whole of quivering humanity into a single stream. The great Cinema! ... It copes with everything, conquers everything, conveys everything. There is only one thing that it does not convey and that is words, and there lies the limit to its power, the boundary of its might. Poor great Cinema Shakespeare - he is destined to found his

own family of Tantaluses. What then will remain of contemporary theatre, which will have had action and spectacle, the very foundations of its existence, taken from it and without which any dramatic substance seems unthinkable? Will it not die out completely, being unable to get the better of the new cinema-theatre or of itself through its own laws, its own canon established in days of yore? I hope to talk about this in my next letter and I ask permission to end this one with a joke. Whether theatre survives or not remains dubious but it is a fact that caJes-chantants and 'strip-tease' theatres will survive intact for ever. Because no spectator in that kind of establishment will ever be satisfied with a woman who appears only on the screen and cannot go out to dinner with him.




) 10 (top left) Drama in the Futurists' Cabaret No . 13 (1914) directed by Vladimir Kasyanov, included in its cast the painters Larionov and Goncharova. II (top right) 'Cinema forces us to think about the art of tomorrow.' Five years after his first articles on cinema, Mayakovsky played a popular Futurist poet in his semi-autobiographical adaptation of a Jack London story, Not Born to be Rich (1918), the first of three films which he wrote and appeared in for the privately-owned Neptune company. 12 (bottom) 'The really great achievement of the artist, changing life in his own image and likeness.' The third of his 1918 Neptune films, Shackled by Film, allowed Mayakovsky to act out with Lily Brik an elaborate fantasy based on their offscreen relationship.



3 Source:


Vladimir Mayakovsky: Theatre, Cinema, Futurism V. Mayakovskii, 'Teatr, kinematograf, futurizm', Kine-Zhurnal, 27 July 1913.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The great break that we have initiated in all fields of beauty in the name of the art of the future, the art of the Futurists, will not come to a halt - cannot come to a halt - before the portals of theatre. A hatred for the art of yesteryear, for the neurasthenia cultivated in painting, in verse and on the stage, by the unproven necessity of exposing the minute experiences of dying people, compels me to advance as proof of the need to admit to our ideas not lyrical pathos but exact science, the investigation of the relationships between art and life. A contempt for existing 'art journals' like, for instance, Apollon or Maski, in which obscure foreign terms float around like grease spots on a grey background of senselessness, compels me to get real pleasure from placing my speech in a specialised technical film journal. Today I am raising two issues,

But, if the division of labour has brought into being an isolated group of workers in beauty; if, for instance, an artist, abandoning his paintings of the 'charms of drunken mistresses', goes over to a broad-based democratic art, he must give society an answer to the question: in what circumstances does his work cease to be individually necessary and become socially useful? A painter who has proclaimed the dictatorship of the eye has a right to exist. In emphasising colour, line and form as self-sufficient values, painting has found the eternal path of development. Those who have realised that the word, its inscription, its phonetic aspect, all determine the flowering of poetry, have a right to exist. They are the ones who have found the path to the eternal blossoming of the poet's verse. But does theatre, which until our arrival served only as an artificial cover for all kinds of art, have a right to a separate existence under the garland of a particular art? Contemporary theatre is situational but are its situations the product of the decorative work of the painter who has merely forgotten his freedom and lowered himself to a utilitarian view of art? Consequently theatre, from this point of view, can emerge only as an uncultured oppressor of art. The second half of theatre is the 'word'. But even here the advent of the aesthetic moment is conditional not on the internal development of the word itself but on its use as a means of expressing moral or political ideas that are incidental to art. 8

1) Is the contemporary theatre an art? and 2) Can the contemporary theatre compete with cinema? The city, supplying machines with thousands of horse-power, provided for the first time the opportunity of satisfying the material demands of the world in some 6-7 hours of work a day, but the intensity, the tension of contemporary life has provoked an enormous need for that free play of cognition that is art. This explains contemporary man's powerful interest in art.



Here the contemporary theatre emerges merely as oppressor of both the word and the poet. This means that until we arrived theatre did not exist as an independent art. But can we find any traces in history of the possibility of affirming its existence? Yes, of course! The Shakespearean theatre had no sets. Ignorant critics have explained that this was due to a lack of familiarity with the decorative arts. In fact this period marked an enormous development in pictorial realism. And the theatre at Oberammergau certainly does not bind its words with the shackles of written lines. All these phenomena can only be explained as a presentiment of the particular art of the actor, where the intonation of a word that does not even have a specific meaning and the move-

ments of the human body, premeditated but rhythmically free, express the very greatest internal experiences. This will be the new free art of the actor. At present theatre, by conveying a photographic representation of life, is falling into the following contradiction: The actor's art, essentially dynamic, is shackled by the dead backdrop of scenery. This striking contradiction is being destroyed by the cinema, which harmoniously fixes the movements of the real. Theatre has brought itself to ruin and must bequeath its inheritance to cinema. But cinema, which has made naive realism and artistic quality into a branch of industry like Chekhov and Gorky, is opening the way to the theatre of the future, the unshackled art of the actor.

4 Vladimir Mayakovsky: The Destruction of 'Theatre' by Cinema as a Sign of the Resurrection of Theatrical Art Source: V.V. Mayakovskii, 'Unichtozhenie kinematografom "teatra" kak priznak vozrozhdeniya teatral'nogo iskusstva', Kine-Zhurna/, 24 August 1913. Ladies and Gentlemen, In my last speech I contended that: the victory of cinema has been assured because it is the logical consequence of the whole of contemporary theatrical art which has pushed to an extreme the situational realism of naive dramatists. Today I must reply to a new question that has been put to me: 'How can I, as an artist, welcome the accession of a soulless machine to a position where yesterday the "quivering hand of the artist still waved?" , My enemies certainly say: 'Cinema brings flashing, tasteless cliches to the places where we artists, now displaced, had brought the soul of beauty.' I shall examine which strand is dominant in this cry: the fear of the death of art or a cowardly selfish question. We must view phenomena like cinema, the gramophone or photography as the application of the machine in the field of art, instead of less productive manual labour. But in every kind of industry where the machine has taken over the technical functions reduced by the division of labour to their utmost simplicity it has not destroyed man but only clearly defined the limit

between the inspirer, the organiser of labour and his dull, common or garden worker. Let us, for instance, start with painting. There has always been a demand for it. As long as this demand had a narrow base, the artist serviced a limited circle of beings, popes, patrons, satisfying their elementary need to own a 'family' portrait or a sleek and 'beautiful' landscape that resembled the original. This kind of painting was developed to the highest perfection and to absolute simplicity. But, when painting became more democratic and the desire to own simple paintings became general there arose the need (the minimum of payment) and the opportunity (the maximum of simplicity) to place the realistic portrait or landscape in the hands of a machine - photography. Did this revolution sound like the 'death of the artist'? Not at all. Those very same works of Raphael or Velazquez became models for photography and the ideal was to approximate to them. Did this mean that art was in decline? No. Here are some examples of the equation between photography and the painting of yester34

1913 year: a complete identity with a Carriere portrait is achieved by placing a thin cloth in front of the lens; David Burlyuk9 projected two portraits on to a screen and the public was unable to tell which had been produced by the brush of Konstantin Somov lO and which by the 'hand' of a photographer. Such facility in the depiction of nature has not destroyed the desire to search for beauty but has merely given the artist a jolt towards realising that art is not just a copy of nature or the task of 'distorting' nature so that it is fixed in a different consciousness. The practical result is the diversion of legions of 'copiers' to more productive tasks. But the true artist is still a leader. All the following theses are also true for an examination of the role of cinema. Only one question arises: 'The artist was concerned with copying nature. Was theatre guilty of that?' Yes. Look at the work of the Art Theatre. Choosing plays on the whole that have an everyday character it tries to transfer directly to the stage an unembellished street. It slavishly imitates nature in everything, from the monotonous chirping of the cricket to the curtain blowing in the wind. But now, alongside this, fatal contradictions arise, a perspective emerges that has been conceived on the basis of muslin curtains or the crumpled sheets of the sea. This is all very well if you have to stage some ancient opera with a single horse and twenty extras but who will stage (if we go beyond the reality of the transfer) skyscrapers a mile high or the eerie flashing of cars. Any attempt to renew theatre merely by


changing the actors or by voyaging into uncharted territory, as Mardzhanov ll is now doing for his 'Free' Theatre, is, of course, doomed to failure. This is where cinema sneaks up: 'If your task is solely to copy nature, why do you need all these complicated theatrical props when on ten yards of canvas you can show both the ocean in its "natural" size and the movement of millions of people in the city?' 'But man' , you will say with feeling, '- where is he, what is his role?' But is it really cinema, and not theatre, that has killed man, subjecting the movement of the individual to the will of the director? If artists rehearse their roles hundreds of times merely in order then to walk across the stage just like ordinary real people, why do we not match this simple process directly in the street and, on the other hand, if you want a complicated piece of acting why, instead of a talented artist, give the role to some mediocrity, why despatch to the provinces hundreds of living but untalented Zadunayevs and Dneprovskys, when thousands of films could print exactly every moment of the striking performance of an actor? The artist remains the leader, cinema merely displaces the rank and file stage actors, taking with it what is admittedly a copy but a copy of the great moments of creativity. By reducing the activity of the contemporary theatre to mechanical production, simple and cheap, cinema forces us to think about the theatre of tomorrow, about the new art of the actor. This is the cultural role of cinema in the general history of art.

Vladimir Mayakovsky: The Relationship Between Contemporary Theatre and Cinema and Art Source: V.V. Mayakovskii, 'Otnoshenie segodnyashnego teatra i kinematografa k iskusstvu', Kine-Zhurna/, 8 September 1913.


Two questions have scared our dear man in the street to death:


1) 'How can you say that theatre, which existed last year and before that, and where I had a box with Peter Ivanovich and Maria Petrovna, does not exist?'

Ladies and gentlemen, Today I must define clearly the place occupied by the cinema and theatre of yesteryear in the general field of art.




2) 'If the contemporary theatre is so simple and empty that it could be replaced by cinema, without any harm whatsoever being done to art, and if the history of the theatre of the future will only begin with the first Futurist production, then sho~ us what you have that is valuable and unhke everything else.'

With pleasure. The people who come out against us, and against all extreme innovators in general, arm themselves with the only weapon common to all philistines - 'common sense'. However strange it is to see conten;tpor~ry man in such antediluvian armour, travelhng hke a boomerang towards a fighting soldier, we must look at how this influences the human psyche. The lucky man who possesses common sense has an enormous advantage over other people: he is intelligible at all times and to everyon~ .. This can be attributed to two, almost mSIgnificant facts: The limitation of the level of knowledge within the same bounds that limit the knowledge of your neighbour. (In these conditions what can we say that is unintelligible?) . And the capacity of a tired and weak bram, busy with tedious hard work, to perceive only the most striking and incidental features of the new phenomenon. When you turn to a gentleman like that and ask him: 'Do you know what Futurism is?', he replies pompously: 'Well, yes, I know. It's something large and loud. Somebody walking around in a yellow tie ... .' And cinema? 'Well, yes, I know. It costs 15 or 45 kopeks to go in. It's dark at first but then jerking people start to run about to a waltz.' When one of these gentlemen stumbled over the word 'science' in my article he understood it in the following way: 'Science? Ah yes, I know. It's when people sit at books, arithmetic and chemistry, then they grow up and come out with university degrees.' And he howled, 'You talk about art and cinema. But where are physics and technology?' . . Young man! The history of art, If only. It were capable of being a science, would be a socIal science.

Taking a fact from the sphere of aesthe~ics the history of art is interested not in the techmcal method of its realisation but in the social currents that give rise to the need for its emergenc.e and in the revolution that very fact provokes m the psychology of the masses. Thus for instance, when a picture that a painter h~s finished is shown, I am not inte.rested in the chemical composition of the pamt or whether it is cadmium yellow or emerald green. Similarly, this is of little interest to the artist himself. If it were otherwise, then our 'connoisseurs' and manufacturers of paint, Dosekin and FriedHinder, would be both the greatest artists and critics in the world of painting. It is from this point of view that I shall examine the relationship between cinema and theatre and art. The first and most important question. Can cinema be an independent art form? Obviously not. . There is no beauty in nature. Only the artIst can create it. Was it really possible to contemplate the beauty of drinking taverns, offices, street rubbish or city noise before Verhaeren came along? . Only the artist evokes from real l~fe the images of art, while cinema can be eIther a successful or an unsuccessful multiplier of his images. That is why I do not, and indeed cannot, come out against its emergence. Cinema and art are phenomena of a different order. Art produces elevated images while cin.e~a, like the printing press for the book, multlphes and distributes them to the most remote and distant parts of the world. It cannot become a specific art form but to smash it would be as absurd as smashing a typewriter or a telescope just because these things have no im~ediate relationship either to theatre or to FutUrism. Next question. Can cinema provide aesthetic enjoyment? Yes. When cinema copies some scrap of a particular, albeit characteristic, life, th~ re~ults of its labours may present at best only sCIentIfic or, more accurately, descriptive interest. Until our arrival, however, both artists and performers were engaged in these exercises. Vereshchagin12 was one. His pictures are only of interest to someone



who has never seen the patterned palaces of Asia. Is not his catching of the fleas in front of the fancifully painted gates, which is in the Tretyakov Gallery, just as comic and interesting as an advertisement for the cinema in one of the tales of the Satyricon or the (scientific) "flea-catching in Norway'? All these people like Somov, Bakst, Saryan and Dobuzhinsky, 13 who wander from one part of the world to another, are really repeating the same tired work of the craftsmen copiers. Until our arrival theatre was doing the same. It was so amusing, during the performance of Gorky's The Lower Depths at the Art Theatre, to hear the joyful remarks of the audience: 'It's just like the real thing, just like the Khitrov market. The directors and the actors have followed everything there down to the minutest detail and they've produced an exact copy in this amazing production.' Yes. But nature is only the raw material that the artist is free to work with, as he wishes, on only one condition: he must study the character of life and mould it into forms that, until his arrival, were known to no one. If, however, the work of the artist and the work of the machine (cinema and photography, for instance), which were begun in different ways, correspond in their results, then it would be logical to select from these two modes of production the one that uses the least social energy.


Hence the success of cinema's competition with theatre. That is why I say that theatre, as an art, did not exist before we arrived. Theatre was merely the three-dimensional photography of real life. The only distinction between it and cinema silence - has been removed by Edison with his latest invention. Until we came along, theatre and cinema, in as far as they were independent, only duplicated life, but the really great achievement of the artist, changing life in his own image and likeness, follows a different path. We come with a new word in all fields of art. But nowadays the new can be not some object that is still unknown to everyone in our grey-haired world but a change in looking at the relationships between objects that long ago altered their appearance under the influence of the great and really new life of the city. That is why one of the 'fathers' pauses in bewilderment at the results of the labours of those who hymn the new life. The theatre of yesteryear cannot sustain competition with cinema because, in copying one and the same moment of life, it exposes it significantly less effectively. In the theatre of the future cinema will be just as useful in changing the view of the props or sets, not competing with them as with an art that is concerned with phenomena of a completely different order.

Leonid Andreyev: Second Letter on Theatre (Extract) Date: 21 October 1913. Source: L. Andreev: 'Pis'mo 0 teatre', Shipovnik, vol.22 (1914), pp.245-7. to remove the shoes in which they furiously trampled on the upstart Cinema and yet they are already serving it and their portraits decorate its gaping advertisements. The thoroughbred Varlamov has acted in Cinema, Yureneva, Roshchina-Insarova, Yuryev and' many of our other famous artistes have performed. But the change in Germany is even more startling. Barely a year ago meetings were being held to protest against cinema and actors who had decided to appear on the screen were deprived of their livelihood but

In the comparatively short time that has elapsed since my first letter was printed, cinema has taken a desperate leap forward. What speed! It does not move at a decent pace like other inventions: it gallops along, flying through the air, spreading irrepressibly like the plague, and no artistic quarantine is any longer strong enough to halt its advance. It seems as if people have already stopped trying and have quietly surrendered to the conqueror's will. Even actors have not had time 37


now Basserman himself flashes across the same screen, famous writers are producing scripts (Hugo von Hofmannsthal) and, to crown it all, Max Reinhardt, the magician, the wizard and greatest German authority on theatre, himself wrote and produced a magnificent film poem based on the life of gods and mortals, The Island of Bliss. What about the public? Theatre is barely tolerated, theatre is half abandoned and everyone is going to the cinema. In that same Berlin it is film premieres rather than theatrical first nights that have become the fashion - and that is by no means a joke! However mixed the first night audience, it does create the climate for theatre: and the storm clouds are gathering over theatre more and more. Recently Edison's 'Kinetophone' - a miraculous combination of picture and sound - was demonstrated in St. Petersburg and it achieved an enormous success. I shall permit myself to transpose the syllables and call this thing 'von Cinema' ,14 a cinema for the gentry, penetrating the high-born aristocracy, the sphere of the word. Many people, seeing cinema talking and laughing for the first time, were afraid: genuinely anxious voices were heard in the newspapers, predicting the demise of 'theatre'. I do not share this delight at talking cinema. The word is its weakness rather than its strength. The word will merely drive cinema from its unique artistic path and direct it towards the well-trodden, well-rutted and wellworn path of theatre. The sluggish word will finally destroy the incomparable frantic rhythm of action that constitutes the principal fascination

of frenzied cinema. To impose the word upon it is almost like harnessing a horse to a motor-car: the horse will be no better off and the car will be wasted. Of course, in certain cases the Kinetophone will render indispensable service to art and life, preserving and recording the personality of an artist or musician and particularly important moments of artistic creation, but this will be a mere service. Subjugated to the word, Cinema can only be a servant, never a master. In terms of cinema's general development the addition of the word to spectacle and action is not only nonproductive, it merely, I repeat, diverts cinema from its true aims. Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. The task of the present moment is to distinguish cinema from theatre, to determine precisely the basic creative elements of each and thus to set each on its own true path. Thus it transpired that the old theatre and the new cinema became confused. Their realm is one and the same: action, spectacle and acting, and the young cinema will devour its father and one day sit on his throne. But there is something in the old theatre, and in the theatre that is emerging, that cinema will never possess and it is the task of those of us who love theatre to select, define and strengthen the particular characteristic that can belong only to living theatre and that will breathe new and generous life into it. For me as I understand it the new theatre will be exclusively a theatre of panpsychism . ...




Vsevolod Meyerhold: On Cinema Source: 'V.E. Meierkhol'd 0 kinematografe', Teatral'naya gazeta, Moscow, no. 22, 31 May 1915, p. 7.

Technique in cinema is worth a great deal more than those who participate in it. My task is to search out this possibly unutilised technique. First I want to study and analyse the element of movement in cinema. Special actors are required for cinema. We often see that fine artists of the drama and ballet are completely unsuitable for cinema. The measure of their movement is either too broad or too short and their gestures are exaggerated to extremes. On the other hand, however, Harrison, who had no special training as an actor, captured the technique that is inherent in cinema and mastered it. To me this technique is still terra incognita. The cinema must be divided into two parts: 1) moving photography - shots of nature and so on and 2) staged productions into which artists should instil an element of art. I consider the transfer to the screen of productions that we see

in the theatre or the opera to be a great mistake.

If colour is absent a new artistic problem emerges

in which none of the old methods will be of use. I have my own theoretical methods of approach to this question and I intend to put them into practice but it is still too early to talk about them. My attitude towards the existing cinema is extremely negative. My immediate task is to investigate the methods of cinema that have not been used but that undoubtedly lie concealed within it. In a week's time I shall start shooting The Picture of Dorian Gray. I myself wrote a special kind of script: everything in it is divided into distinct spheres - dialogue for the actor, instructions for the director, the designer and the lighting technician. This kind of score is essential and I shall publish my work as a model script. It is still too early to say whether cinema will be an independent art or subsidiary to theatre.


13 (top left) 'Special actors are required for cinema' (Meyerhold). Ivan Mosjoukine, seen here in Protazanov's I and My Conscience (1915), was the leading star of pre-Revolutionary Russian cinema. 14 (top right) Meyerhold played Lord Henry Wotton (right) in his own film of Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1915), now lost. 15 (bottom) A Life for a Life (1916) directed by Kuleshov's mentor, Evgeni Bauer, for Khanzhonkov.




Lev Kuleshov: The Tasks of the Artist in Cinema

Source: (i) L.V. Kuleshov, '0 zadachakh khudozhnika v kinematografe', Vestnik kinematografii, 1917, no. 126, pp. 15-16 (ii) L.V. Kuleshov, 'Zadachi khudozhnika v kinematografe', Vestnik kinematografii, 1917, no. 127, pp.37-38. these separate moments into a more advantageous, integral and rhythmical sequence, just as a child constructs a whole word or phrase from separate scattered blocks of letters. It is not the purpose of our article to examine this primitive notion of the composition or montage of a picture or to investigate this aspect of the director's work. The work of the artist is, as previously mentioned, also completely subordinate to the laws of composition and juxtaposition, but in two different directions: 1. The artist must take account of the rhythmical order of appearance of the action shots on the background he has set them against because it is very important to make some things clear immediately: black or white, poor or rich, to surprise people at first with an enormous room and then show a minute corner or several large sets straight away. To achieve these effects both collaboration with the director and an understanding of the purposes of montage are essential. 2. In creating sets [the artist] must once and for all forget and renounce oil painting and pencil or charcoal drawing. The cinema artist paints with objects, flats (walls) and light (collaboration with the cameraman). His canvas is the film camera's 35 degree angle of perception, like a triangle on a plane. On the screen what is important is not what is in the frame but how the objects are distributed, how they are composed on the plane. This is their principal task, which artists who have


The art of cinema, as a phenomenon perceived solely by the eye and producing an exclusively visual impression, should without doubt be according the artist a greater place than he has hitherto occupied in it. The perception of visual sensations is closest of all to the creator of exteriors, the creator of appearances, rather than to the psychological conjurer or artist of the word. There were certainly many reasons for the persistent exclusion of the artist from cinema and for this we must also blame the masters (and often even the apprentices) of the brush, while bearing in mind at the same time the conditions in which the new element had to work in the confined atmosphere of the film studios. The unsuitability of artists for cinema consists mainly in their inelasticity, their inflexibility and their unwillingness to renounce the rules and conventions of easel and stage-set painting that have been formulated once and for all. Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that artists did not come to work with enough honesty or faith in the sphere of a new but great art (if cinema is an art then there is no doubt that it is great for there are no such things as minor arts). The essence of cinema art lies in the creativity of the director and the artist: everything is based on composition. To make a picture the director must compose the separate filmed fragments, disordered and disjointed, into a single whole and juxtapose 41

1917 inappropriateness of white spots on a dark background, because these are elementary, logical and simple, although they are understood only after long and close practical observations. But the artist's work must not be limited to set decoration: of this I shall say more in the next issue.

come from the stage or from a painter's studio find difficult to appreciate. There is a great difference between the perception of the place of action by a theatre audience and by the film camera. The theatre public sees the stage from many points in the auditorium but the camera sees it only from the single point of the lens. The film camera fixes space only within an angle of 35 degrees (sometimes a little more) whereas the theatre audience can at a glance take in a much wider stage. For this reason the application of theatrical methods of building sets is technically impossible in cinema. One of the failings of living photography* is its non-stereoscopic quality - a severe foreshortening of depth and perspective on a fiat and colourless screen - and for this reason it is necessary either to build sets with an exaggerated perspective or to create the impression of perspective and the desired depth of the sets through deception. There are several methods of building sets and two main ones. [The first is to build] cumbersome architectural structures with as many different planes and breaks in the walls as possible to create more effective lighting and thereby achieve greater depth and stereoscopic quality (the Bauer method).15 For these kinds of sets it is best to count on a large number of scenes and best of all not to repeat an old background in each separate shot, but to do this you have to arrange the set so that you can photograph it from various places and quite different independent points. The building of complex architectural structures is attended by a significant waste of time, space and resources but principally of time (and in cinema everything is very fast, everything impromptu). A second, simplified kind of set may be used. The idea of this construction is based on the foreground on which the symbol, the spirit, of the set is concentrated. In this kind of set the secondary planes are no longer important: they are replaced by velvet or simply left dark. But this method also has its drawbacks. A simplified set can only be photographed from one place. What can you do if you have to make several scenes using the same set? There is a simple way out: you build several parts of the same room quite separately. This will not create any difficulties because the simplified set is quickly and simply arranged. I shall not quote a series of elementary rules of colour and its changes in photography, the


In the last issue we examined the work of the cinema artist solely in relation to sets and the method of their arrangement. Very large areas of the making of a picture, which are logically not the artist's concern, have hitherto been within the province of the director or the actor. The costumes, for instance, are in theatre created exclusively by the artist. In cinema it would of course be very difficult to make special costumes for every picture but the artist can always be given control over them. Even if individual artistes are very tastefully dressed the variety and individuality of each personality translated into the character of their costumes will not create the overall integrity or style of the picture as a whole. Apart from that, the actor cannot be expected to understand fully the effect of different colours in photography: after all, every set requires particular characteristics of the costumes. I know of a case where an insignificant white cap on a maid's hair-do spoiled a whole set based on black velvet and destroyed the impression made by the acting. The artist needs to be consulted on make-up just as much as on costume. Surely the characteristics of a stage type, the delicacy of a woman's hair-do, should be created by the artist, the creator of appearances? Until now there has been a conviction that the staging, the composition of groups of characters, was a matter purely for the director. But who, apart from the artist, will come to the aid of the director, even if only for the initial disposition of the characters within the frame? The most important task for the artist-painter in his pictures is the composition of the people and objects painted, the beautiful curves and the disposition of the figures. The beauty and expressiveness of the individual lines of a figure are very often more convincing than a complex psychological game.


1917 I know what people will say: what then should be the director's role in making a film? If the director is not himself an artist he cannot make a film, a true work of cinema art. I do not mean to say that, if an artist is working with a director, the latter will have nothing to do: no, but it is only when this collaboration is of no use to the artist that he will be able to make a film on his own. Let me give some examples. Why is Bauer such a fine director? Why do directors who are not artists not make really fine films even when they are collaborating with those creators of externals and appearances? It is true that we very often see films that have not been made by an artist but that leave a pleasing impression, yet this is exactly the same as a mediocre love song performed by some Ivan Ivanovich or Maria Stepanovna in a comfortable domestic setting after tea. If you had to listen to a likeable Ivan Ivanovich on the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre then I can assure you that you would not waste your valuable time listening to singers who have no voice. Apart from his purely technical cinematic tasks the artist must view cinema as the finest, most widespread and powerful of the arts, which the artist can use to realise new paths, new achievements that are impracticable in the field of pure painting, sculpture or architecture.

The coloration or 'tone' of a film has similarly never been the artist's responsibility. Nevertheless it is a very complex and interesting field which requires the direct attention of a person who is very well acquainted with colouring and the interrelationships between colours and that person is also the artist. Coloration is also subject to the law of composition, i.e. the montage of a picture, and you can create characteristic and convincing contrasts with tones just as you can with sets. The general consecutive replacement of individual colours in the course of a film many miles in length has its own pictorial laws and particularities. In matters of light and lighting a fight with the cameraman is inevitable but, as already mentioned in the last issue, because light is for the cinema artist a form of 'colour', he must be consulted on matters of lighting. The cameraman registers a visible, external image on film but the symbols of appearance and externality are surely close to the artist. The psychological experiences of the actor, the expression on his face, are also accessible to the artist. Surely we admire the amazing communication of the complex psychology of man in the masterpieces of Ge or Vrubel? Surely Ciurlionis is subtle, psychological and even musical? 16

'(Translator's note.) Zhivaya fotografiya, literally 'living photography', was a commonly used term for cinematography at this time.


16 (top) Engineer Prite's Project (1918) directed and designed by Lev Kuleshov for Khanzhonkov. 17 (bottom) Lunacharsky (left) and Mayakovsky in 1918.




Lev Kuleshov: The Art of Cinema Source: L.V. Kuleshov, 'Iskusstvo svetotvorchestva', Kinogazeta, 1918, no. 12 (March), p.12. technological falsehood of artistic production is the greatest sign of true art: sets on a stage or the reality of the physical substance of paint on a painter's canvas. It is exactly the same in cinema. Our art is abused for its cinema specificity [kinematografichnost'] 'You are not always literary! You are not theatrical!' The whole point of cinema lies in its great degree of cinematic specificity. Actors, directors, artists, inscribe your banner in clear letters: the idea of cinema is the cinematic idea. In any art the sole idea is the idea of art itself. One of the specifically cinematic characteristics of cinema is its non-stereoscopic quality, its contraction of depth into a flat and colourless screen. The problem for cinema artists until now has been to try and overcome the cinema specificity of the image. This attempt is fundamentally misguided (even though I personally, possibly under the late Bauer's influence, was very taken with perspective scenery). It seems to me that we must make use of the non-stereoscopic quality of cinema and make the flatness of the image into a method of communicating the artistic impression, in the same way that the characteristic quality of cinema's silence has been turned into such a method. We must think of the individual frames of a film as if they were images akin to the flat and primitive painting on classical vases. It seems that the ideas I have expressed are very dangerous but an unexpected point of view is often somewhat unintelligible and always looks risky. In order to express the idea of artistic impression art has elaborated various technical

The bases of cinema art are still unknown, its future paths still shrouded in mist, and cinema's innovators (of whom there are, unfortunately, few) grope their way uncertainly towards new achievements and new interpretations of cinema. We must recognise that the general artistic level of cinema is too limited and too talentless for people not to express frightened astonishment at the emerging precepts of the young art. It is true that the Russian public loves cinema very much and admires the products of our own film industry but I am far from wanting to accept cinema as an art that is generally accessible to and loved by all. Artists must move cinema, their talents will create it: accessibility is a crime for an artist. Art is only bewitching and attractive when it is not quite intelligible. Because of its artistic structure cinema as an independent art can have nothing in common with the dramatic stage. A plus in cinema is a minus in theatre, and vice versa. For this reason there must not be in cinema a single director, a single artist, a single person who is familiar with the footlights. Because there always are and always have been talented musicians who were delighted with their own painting, artists who wrote verse and creative dramatic artists who swamp the cinema that is alien to them. Cinema, recognised at its conception as the art of silence, naturally had to become the art of greatest movement and, simply by the law of paradox, had finally to assume the forms of the art of least movement. Every art expresses its artistic character by its apparent technological weakness: the ideal theatre is the theatre of Shakespeare, which is technologically weak. The


1918 methods, i.e. sounds, colours, words - hence the division of art into music, painting, theatre etc. Each individual work of art has its own basic method to express the idea of art. Very few filmmakers (apart from the Americans) have realised that in cinema this method of expressing an artistic idea is provided by the rhythmical succession of individual still frames or short sequences conveying movement - that is what is technically known as montage. Montage is to cinema what colour composition is to painting or a harmonic sequence of sounds is to music. On the dramatic stage the method of interpreting a theatrical production lies with the actor who expresses the theatrical idea through the creative will of the director and gives it individual form.

In cinema, because of its unusually high technological component - the quintessence of the machine and electricity - and because of the surprising significance of montage, the actor takes second place. In view of the fact that cinema must be based on a purely external (i.e. visual) artistic influence on the public the cinema artiste must learn to create the required impression not just by acting with the face but by acting with the whole body: by an expressiveness of lines. The refinement of the image on the silver screen has every right to express itself unobtrusively and even to be elevated to a cult, just as the genius Botticelli glorified the rhythmical harmony of lines in his masterpieces.




Anatoli Lunacharsky: The Tasks of the State Cinema in the RSFSR Source: A.V. Lunacharskii, 'Zadachi gosudarstvennogo kinodela v R.S.F.S.R.', Kinematograf. Sbornik statei (Moscow, 1919), pp. 5-7.

The state cinema in Russia faces quite unusual tasks. It is not simply a matter of nationalising production and film distribution and the direct control of cinemas. It is a matter of fostering a completely new spirit in this branch of art and education. In the present impoverished state of the Russian economy we cannot count on producing films of a purely artistic, literary or even scientifically objective character and competing with foreign firms or replacing Russian private films. For the present, while trade is significantly restricted, we might perhaps borrow this kind of material from films that have already been made or imported from abroad; but this situation will not of course last for ever. We must do what nobody else is either able or willing to do. We should remember that a socialist government must imbue even film shows with a socialist spirit. There is absolutely no doubt that in this respect far more newsreel footage must be shot and there is no need for me to say more. Furthermore, the main task of cinema in both its scientific and feature divisions is that of propaganda. Generally speaking, every art, as Tolstoy once remarked, is above all a means of instilling the artist's emotions into the masses. Education in the wider sense of the word consists in the dissemination of ideas among minds that would otherwise remain a stranger to them. Cinema can accomplish both these things with particular force: it constitutes, on the one hand, a visual

clarion for the dissemination of ideas and, on the other hand, if we introduce elements of the refined, the poetic, the pathetic etc., it is capable of touching the emotions and thus becomes an apparatus of agitation. We must pay attention to these aspects above all. If there is a place where a stupid fear of tendentiousness becomes even more absurd that place is cinema. Generally speaking, tendentiousness is harmful only if it is petty; the great tendentiousness of a religious idea or of a broad socialist idea that approximates to it can only produce works of art, and it was not for nothing that Chekhov complained that the art of his time had been deprived of God and that no amount of talent on the part of the artist and no outward mastery can, even in isolation, act as a substitute for a life-giving idea. A Communist government has such a lifegiving idea and, with the minimum of attention and experience, this idea can be very easily conveyed in the appropriate artistic guise. It seems to me that we must first of all produce a cultural-historical picture. It is impossible to imagine a richer source for cinema than the cultural history of mankind as a whole. This is, in the literal sense of the word, an inexhaustible source, and it is worth tapping it, starting with the life of primeval man so that the head really spins at the wealth of images that can be realised most fully through cinema. But we must not be carried away by the full panoply of the past: we must concentrate only on moments that are important for agitation and propaganda. We must convey the history of the 47

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18 (top) 'An apparatus of agitation.' Lunacharsky appeared in and helped script Overcrowding (1918), directed by Alexander Panteleyev for the Petrograd Cinema Committee. 19 (bottom left) Poster for Overcrowding, with Lunacharsky's name prominently featured. 20 (bottom right) Protazanov's Father Sergius, based on a story by Lev Tolstoy, was completed before the October Revolution but not released until mid-1918. Its depiction of the corruption encountered by a wandering priest fitted Lunacharsky's call to show how the idealistic aspects of Christianity 'have been systematically falsified by ecclesiastics in the service of the state and the wealthy classes' (Document no. 10).


1919 beginnings of the growth of the state in such a way that basic Communist ideas on the criminal nature and at the same time on the necessity of each state, on the development of man and his different forms, on the unique form of the state the dictatorship of the poor or of the proletariat are made clear to every viewer. Just as important is the history of the Church, including the depiction of cults - the cruellest and most senseless - and also of all the abuses committed by the Christian Church but, with historical objectivity, we must clearly distinguish its democratic and positive aspects. It is very easy, having given due credit to the positive and idealistic aspects of Christianity, to show how they have been systematically falsified by ecclesiastics in the service of the state and the wealthy classes.

The history of political conflicts, in particular the history of the great French Revolution, and all kinds of important events of our recent revolutionary history, from the Decembrists to the October Revolution of 1917, must also be treated with all due care. While in no way denying the enormous importance of a broader range of themes, depicting, for instance, the history of science (an unusually rich theme), including the history of inventions or the history of the highest culture, I think that, with our limited time and resources, we must not hesitate too much and in choosing between two pictures of roughly the same importance and value we must make the one that can speak to the mind and the heart more vividly from the standpoint of revolutionary propaganda.




Lenin: Art Belongs to the People. Conversation with Clara Zetkin Source: K. Tsetkin, Vospominaniya


Lenine (Moscow, 1966), pp.9-13. too have our Doctor Karlstadts. We are far too "iconoclastic". We must preserve the beautiful, take it as a model, proceed from it even if it is "old". Why should we turn away from the truly beautiful, rejecting it as the starting point for further development merely because it is "0Id"?17 Why should we bow down before the new, as if before a god to which we have to submit merely because "it is new"? Nonsense, utter nonsense! Here there is a good deal of hypocrisy and, of course, unconscious deference to the artistic fashion that reigns in the West. We are good revolutionaries, but for some reason we feel obliged to prove that we too stand "at the peak of contemporary culture". I however have the audacity to declare myself to be a "barbarian". I cannot bring myself to regard the works of Expressionism, Futurism, Cubism and the other "isms" as the highest manifestation of artistic genius. I do not understand them. I do not derive any pleasure from them.' I could not restrain myself and confessed that my organs of perception were also pressed to understand why triangles should serve instead of a nose as the artistic expression of an inspired mind, and why the revolutionary yearning for activity should transform the human body, in which the organs are combined into a single, complex whole, into a soft shapeless sack, perched on stilts and with two forks, five prongs on each. Lenin laughed heartily. 'Yes, my dear Clara. It can't be helped. We are both old. It's enough for us that we at least

'The awakening of new forces, their work in creating in Soviet Russia a new art and culture', he said, 'is good, very good. The stormy tempo of :heir development is understandable and uselul. We should make up for what has been left out in the course of the centuries, and we want this. The chaotic ferment, the feverish searching for new slogans, slogans that today proclaim "Hosanna" to certain tendencies in art and thought and tomorrow will cry "Crucify him" all this is unavoidable. 'Revolution releases all the forces that have hitherto been fettered and drives them up from the depths to the surface of life. Here is one of many examples. Consider the influence that has been exerted on the development of our painting, sculpture and architecture by the fashion and fancies of the tsarist court, and by the taste and whims of the ruling aristocrats and bourgeoisie. In a society based on private property the artist produces goods for the market; he needs buyers. Our revolution has freed artists from the yoke of these highly prosaic conditions. It has transformed the Soviet state into their protector and their customer. Every artist, anyone who considers himself as such, has the right to create freely, according to his ideal, independent of anything else. 'But you must understand that we are Communists. We should not stand by with our arms folded and let chaos develop in all directions. We should guide this process and mould its results fully and systematically . We are still far, very far, from doing this. It seems to me that we 50


stay young in the revolution and that we find ourselves in the front ranks. We can't keep up with the new art, we shall hobble along behind. 'But,' Lenin continued, 'it is not our view of art that is important. Nor does it matter what art gives to several hundred, even several thousand, out of a total population numbering millions. Art belongs to the people. It should reach with its deepest roots into the very thick of the broad working masses. It should be understood by these masses and loved by them. It should unite the feeling, thought and will of these masses, and elevate them. It should awaken the artists among them and help them to develop. Should we treat a small minority to sweet thin biscuits while the masses of workers and peasants go short of black bread? I mean this, obviously, not just in the literal sense, but also figuratively: we should learn to keep house and do our sums. This applies equally to the fields of art and culture. 'So that art can be closer to the people, and the people closer to art, we should first of all raise the general educational and cultural level. What is our position in this respect? You are full of admiration for the colossal cultural task that we have accomplished since we came to power. We can of course say without bragging that we have done a great deal in this field. We have not merely "chopped heads", as the Mensheviks of all countries, including yours (Kautsky), allege; we have also been educating heads, we have educated many heads. However, this is "many" only when compared with the past, when compared with the sins of the classes and cliques that ruled then. We have aroused and kindled an immeasurably great thirst for education and culture among the workers and peasants. Not only in Petro grad and Moscow, in the industrial centres, but also far beyond these boundaries into the remotest villages. But at the same time we are a poor people, as poor as beggars. Of course, we are currently fighting a running battle with illiteracy. We are building libraries and reading rooms in towns and villages, large and small. We are organising the most varied courses. We are arranging fine concerts and spectacles, we are sending "mobile exhibitions" and "educational trains" throughout the country. But I reiterate: what can this do for the many millions of the population who are untouched by the most elementary knowledge, the most primitive culture? We must admit that, at the same time as

ten thousand people here in Moscow, and tomorrow another ten thousand people, will go into raptures over a glittering spectacle in the theatre, millions of people will be striving to learn to count and copy their name, trying to make contact with the culture that would teach them that the earth is round and not flat, and that the world is governed by the laws of nature and not by witches, wizards and the "Heavenly Father". 'Comrade Lenin, you shouldn't complain so bitterly about illiteracy,' I remarked. 'In a sense it has assisted your revolutionary cause. It preserved the minds of the worker and peasant from being stuffed with bourgeois concepts and attitudes, and prevented them from sickening. Your propaganda and agitation sowed seeds on virgin soil. It is easier to sow and harvest when you don't have first to uproot a whole primeval forest.' 'Yes, that's true,' said Lenin. 'But only within certain limits or, more accurately, for a particular period in our struggle. Illiteracy suited our struggle for power and the need to destroy the old state apparatus. But do we really destroy merely for the sake of destruction? We destroy to create something better. Illiteracy does not suit, does not at all suit the task of restoration. According to Marx this should be the task of the workers themselves and, I must add, of the peasants, if they want to gain their freedom. Our Soviet order makes this task easier. Thanks to it there are at the moment thousands of workers from amongst the people learning, in various soviets and soviet organs, to work on the task of restoration. These are men and women in the "prime of their lives", as you are accustomed to saying. Most of them grew up under the old regime and, consequently, received no education and had no contact with culture, but now they strive enthusiastically for knowledge. In the most decisive way we have set ourselves the goal of enlisting newer and newer strata of men and women in the work of the soviets and giving them a certain practical and theoretical education. However, despite this, we cannot satisfy completely the demand here for creative forces of leadership. We are compelled to enlist bureaucrats of the old type and, as a result, bureaucratism is taking shape in our country. I hate it with all my heart, without of course having any individual bureaucrat in mind. The latter may well be a capable fellow. But I hate the system. It


1920 paralyses and corrupts us from top to bottom. The decisive factor in overcoming and uprooting bureaucratism is the widest education and training of the people. 'What are our prospects for the future? We have created magnificent institutions and taken important steps to ensure that young workers and peasants can learn, study and assimilate culture. But here we face the same agonising question: what does all this mean for a population as large as ours? Even worse than this: we are still far from having enough kindergartens, orphanages

and primary schools. Millions of children are growing up without training and education. They will remain as ignorant and uncultured as their fathers and grandfathers. How many talents are wasted because of this; how much yearning for enlightenment is stifled! This is a terrible crime from the point of view of the good fortune of the rising generation, equivalent to plundering the wealth of the Soviet state, which should be transformed into a communist society. Herein lurks the terrible danger.'



Introduction Lenin's 'Directive on Cinema Affairs' of 17 January 1922 (Document no. 12) reflected the beginning of a more sustained and serious interest in cinema on the part of leading figures in both the world of politics and of art. Lunacharsky's reminiscences underline the significance of this process (Documents nos 13 and 14). Lenin's remark that 'of all the arts for us the most important is cinema' was to be frequently quoted and was of course susceptible to differing interpretations. The 'Directive', with its reference to 'a definite proportion' of entertainment and propaganda films was later to be enshrined (by others) as the 'Leninist proportion': 75 per cent fiction and 25 per cent documentary It is clear from the memoir material that Lenin's principal concern in 1922 was to get Soviet cinema on its feet: if this meant producing a 'useless picture' to attract audiences, then so be it, at least in the short term. The major political effort was to be directed to newsreels and documentaries with particular emphasis on cinemas in the countryside and in the East 'where they are novelties and where, therefore, our propaganda will be particularly successful'. That, however, was a blueprint for the future: in 1922 Soviet cinema did not have the resources to fulfil these tasks. It was at Lenin's express suggestion that a government commission considered the reorganisation of the film industry. As a result of its recommendations Sovnarkom, the Council of People's Commissars, established in December 1922 the first Soviet centralised state cinema organisation, Goskino, but it was still expected to be self-financing. Lenin, after all, 'had an inner conviction of the great profitability of the whole thing if only it could be put on the right footing'. The seeds of future conflict between 'commerce' and 'ideology', in the specifically Soviet meanings of those terms, were being sown. In Petrograd a new film-making group was being formed in a theatre: FEKS, the Factory of the Eccentric Actor. FEKS worshipped popular art forms: the circus, the music-hall, the cabaret. They turned their back, as others were to do, on 'high art': 'We prefer Charlie's arse to Eleonora Duse's hands.' They demanded something 'hyperbolically crude', 'art without a capital letter. a pedestal or a fig-leaf' (Document no. 15). In this they had much in common with the various branches of Futurism. Like the Futurists, FEKS also worshipped the machine and had their particular perception of America and 'Americanism'. A fascination with American cinema and its techniques - which were, after all, hugely


1922 successful- was widespread. Kuleshov, who felt that 'We should focus the main attention of our observations on the audience in the cheap seats' (Document no. 22) noted that 'The success of American films lies in their maximum degree of cinema specificity', which he defined as 'dynamism' rather than 'psychologising': 'the essence of cinema, its method of achieving maximum effect, is montage.' Thus, for Kuleshov, the break between cinema and theatre was complete and final. 'There is,' Kuleshov wrote, 'no doubt that theatre and theatre workers bring nothing but harm to cinema' (Document no. 18). S!gnificantly, Vladimir Fogel, a member of the Kuleshov workshop, was one of the first Soviet film actors to have no convention~l theatrical training. Whereas Kuleshov felt that the weakness of theatre lay in its artifice and its isolation from contemporary reality and feared that this weakness might infect cinema, others, here exemplified by Voznesensky, argued that filmmakers were 'dishevelled' and needed to be rescued by those very paragons of Russian theatre, the co-founders of the Moscow Art Theatre, Nemirovich-Danchenko and Stanislavsky: all that was needed was 'clear will and the discipline to realise it' (Document no. 16). At the other end of the spectrum lay Dziga Vertov and his Cine-Eye group whose first manifesto proclaiming the virtues of documentary film was published in August 1922 (Document no. 21). To them the fiction film was all but synonymous with theatre and certainly shared its faults. Even the American adventure film was but 'a copy of a copy'. They distinguished, as did Gan and Mayakovsky, between 'cinematography', which described the current and undesirable state of affairs, from 'cinema', which described a pure, precise and perfect future form. For Vertov's group cinema was to be a science-based art form, derived from machine technology, a science that would improve man so that he too became a finely tuned precision instrument: 'Our path - from a bumbling citizen through the poetry of the machine to the perfect electric man.' Vertov's manifesto appeared in the same issue of the same journal as two of the pieces by Kuleshov: that in itself demonstrates the openness (or inconsistency) and the variety of the debates that flourished in 1922. In later years journals were to take up particular, and exclusive, positions. The journal was Kino-Fot and the editor Alexei Gan, the Constructivist. Gan managed to orchestrate an extraordinarily fertile debate about cinema while retaining the freedom to express his own strongly held views. Echoing the utopianism of the ComFuturists, Gan argued that cinema represented the 'extended organs of society' that automatically organised human feelings (Document no. 19). The task of Soviet cinema was 'fixing revolutionary life on the screen'. For that reason Gan gave his support to the Cine-Eyes and deplored the paucity of government funding. But he would not tolerate LEF, whose pronouncements on the new life and the new art he found hypocritical: 'There are no reflections whatsoever of the new life on the "left front". In all this time we have witnessed only one thing: an endless series of formal experiments' (Document no. 25). Gan was not however opposed to experiments as such: had he been, he would not have supported Vertov (Document no. 26); nor would he have published Kuleshov's remarks that 'Experiments are now urgently necessary for cinema. . .. For the honest cinematographer experimentation is more important than bread' (Document no. 23).


21 (top) Alexander Sanin's Polikushka, for the Rus Collective, was begun in 1919 but not completed for over two years due to the privations of the period. Finally released in 1922, it became the first post-revolutionary production to be seen widely abroad. 22 (bottom) Dziga Vertov's first Cine-Pravda series began in May 1922, presenting two or three topical and informational items in each edition (see Document no. 28).




Vladimir Lenin: Directive on Cinema Affairs

Date: 17 January 1922. Source: A. M. Gak (ed.), Samoe vazhnoe iz vsekh iskusstv. Lenin 0 kino (Moscow, 1973), p.42. in private hands give enough of their income to the state in the form of rental to ensure the right of the entrepreneurs to increase the number of films and import new ones, subject to direct censorship by Narkompros and on condition that the proportion is maintained between entertainment films and films of a propagandistic character under the title From the Life of the Peoples of the World, so that industrialists are interested in the conception and production of new films. Within this framework they should be given the initiative to a wide degree. Films of a propagandistic and educational character should be tried out on old Marxists and literary men, so that we do not repeat the sad mistakes that have occurred several times in the past, when propaganda achieves the opposite effect to that intended. We should pay special attention to the organisation of cinemas in the countryside and in the East, where they are novelties and where, therefore, our propaganda will be particularly successful.

Narkompros must organise the supervision of all programmes and systematise this matter. All films exhibited in the RSFSR should be registered and catalogued by number in Narkompros. For every film programme a definite proportion should be determined: (a)

entertainment films, specially for publicity purposes and for their receipts (of course without any obscene or counterrevolutionary content) and (b) under the heading From the Life of the Peoples of the World films of a particularly propagandist content,19 such as the colonial policy of the British in India, the work of the League of Nations, the starving in Berlin, etc., etc. Not only films but also photographs of propaganda interest should be shown with the appropriate captions. We must try to see that cinemas


Anatoli Lunacharsky: Conversation with Lenin. I. Of All the Arts . . . Source: G. M. Boltyanskii (ed.), Lenin i kino (Moscow/Leningrad, 1925), pp. 16-19.

My great discussion with Ilyich on cinema was provoked by his enormous interest in cinema affairs, of which his famous letter to Litkens, written in January, is also evidence. 2o In about the middle of February, or perhaps towards the end of the month, Vladimir Ilyich suggested that

I went to see him for a talk. As far as I recall the talk touched on several current problems in the life of Narkompros. He asked what we had done to put into effect the directive he had sent to Litkens. In reply I gave him a fairly detailed account of all that I knew about the state of 56

1922 cinema in the Soviet Republic and about the enormous difficulties encountered in developing it. I mentioned in particular that Narkompros did not have the resources to produce films on a broad basis and that there was nobody to manage this, or more correctly, no Communist managers on whom we could pin all our hopes. In response to this Vladimir Ilyich told me that he would try to do something to increase the resources for the Photographic and Cinematographic Department,21 but that he had an inner conviction of the great profitability of the whole thing if only it could be put on the right footing. He once more underlined the need to determine a definite proportion between entertainment films and scientific ones. Unfortunately very little had been done so far in this respect. Vladimir Ilyich told me that the production of new films imbued with Communist ideas and reflecting Soviet reality should begin with the newsreel and that, in his view, the time to produce films of this kind had perhaps not yet arrived. 'If you have a good newsreel, serious and educational pictures, then it doesn't matter if, to attract the public, you have some kind of useless picture of the more or less usual type. Of course censorship is necessary in any case. Counterrevolutionary and immoral films should have no place.'


To this Vladimir Ilyich added: 'As you stand on your own feet, thanks to good housekeeping, you might even receive a certain loan for this as the general situation in the country improves, you must develop production on a broader basis and, in particular, you must promote wholesome cinema among the masses in the cities and, to an even greater extent, in the countryside.' Then, smiling, Vladimir Ilyich added: 'Among our people you are reported to be a patron of art so you must remember that of all the arts for us the most important is cinema.' With this, I recall, our conversation came to an end. Unfortunately it must be admitted that the letter to Litkens, apart from a detailed reply on the legal and economic aspects of the matter, has had no real results. Vladimir Ilyich's idea of a proportional composition for each programme has not been realised to this day.22 To make up for this, we have, of course, progressed somewhat as far as film production is concerned, but only recently. I do not recall exactly whether Litkens drew up a plan of action, perhaps he did, but in any case work on it has abated until now, and even now we are more inclined to place hope in the future than to demonstrate the achievements of the present.

Anatoli Lunacharsky: Conversation with Lenin. II. Newsreel and Fiction Film

Source: A. V. Lunacharskii, Kino na zapade i u nas (Moscow, 1928), pp.63-4. newsreel selected in the appropriate manner, i.e . . . . Only the Soviet government, which is taking it would be visual publicity in the spirit of the line upon itself with an unheard-of intensity and on taken, let us say, by our best Soviet newspapers. an unheard-of scale the task of re-educating all Apart from this, cinema should, in Vladimir the citizens of the country in the spirit of the Ilyich's view, assume in addition the character of ideas of its proletarian vanguard, can lay claim to illustrated public lectures on various questions of cultural film production and it must bring it about. science and technology. Finally, Vladimir Ilyich That is how Vladimir Ilyich viewed the considered it no less, but on the contrary even matter too. In his conversations with me he more more, important that there should be artistic than once touched on questions relating to propaganda for our ideas in the form of entertaincinema and he indicated that film production ment films, depicting fragments of life and should be kept in state hands, that its content permeated with our ideas - both so that they should be determined by the agitation and propashould bring to the country's attention things that ganda organs of the Government and the Peoples' are good, improving and uplifting, and so that Commissariats of Education for the relevant they should castigate things that are bad here and Republics. In this process we must pursue three in the life of other classes and other countries. goals overall. The first - a broadly informative 57



Grigori Kozintsev, Leonid Trauberg, Sergei Yutkevich, Georgi Kryzhitsky: Eccentrism Source: Ekstsentrism (Petrograd, 1922).

(a) Salvation in the Trousers of the Eccentric SAL VATION IN THE TROUSERS ... ECCENTRISM Patented 5 December 5 1921

from which the great gaiety of Futurism emerges with a thousand burdens.' Marinetti ... 'For the theatre as such this is a defeat, for its territory has been captured by the Eccentrism of the music hall'. Lunacharsky ... 'Oh, oh, oh!' The clown Serge

without Eccentrism (a visiting card). Music-Hall Cinematographovich Pinkertonov25 1 year from birth?? See below for information.

in the 'Free Comedy' Theatre, Petrograd. From the manifesto of the Eccentric theatre: For the first time! 5 DECEMBER 5 Eccentrism! Four blasts on the whistle: 1.

2. 3. 4.

for the actor - from emotion to the machine, from anguish to the trick. The technique circus. The psychology - head over heels. for the director - a maximum of devices, a record number of inventions, a turbine of rhythms. for the dramatist - the coupler of tricks. for the artist - decoration in jumps.

For the fifth whistle blast - for the public - we are ready. And remember: the American MARK TWAIN said: 'Better to be a young pup than an old bird of paradise.' .... OF THE ECCENTRIC

(b) Kozintsev: A.B.! Parade of the Eccentric


1) YESTERDAY - comfortable offices. Bald foreheads. People pondered, made decisions, thought things over. TODAY - a signal. To the machines! Driving belts, chains, wheels, hands, legs, electricity. The rhythm of production. YESTERDAY - museums, temples, libraries. TODAY - factories, works, dockyards. 2) YESTERDAY - the culture of Europe. TODAY - the technology of America. Industry, production under the Stars and Stripes. Either Americanisation or the undertaker. 3) YESTERDAY - sitting-rooms. Bows. Barons. TODAY - the shouts of newspaper-sellers, scandals, policemen's truncheons, noise, shouting, stamping, running. The pace today: The rhythm of the machine, concentrated by America, realised on the street.

ROST A without pungency, Max Linder without his top hat, Brockhaus without Efron23 - what could be more absurd?


1921 December 5 (a historic date)24 Kozintsov, Kryzhitsky, Trauberg found: The 20th Century without . ..

Life requires art that is hyperbolically crude, dumbfounding, nervewracking, openly utilitarian, mechanically exact, momentary, rapid, otherwise no-one will hear, see or stop. Everything adds up to this: the art of the 20th century,

A QUESTIONNAIRE ... 'The Eccentric's trousers, deep as a chasm, 58

1922 the art of 1922, the art of this very moment is Eccentrism 3. OUR PARENTS Parade allez! In literature - the chansonniere, the cry of the auctioneer, street language. In painting - the circus poster, the jacket of a cheap novel. In music - the jazz band (the commotion of a negro orchestra), circus marches. In ballet - American song and dance routines. In theatre - the music-hall, cinema, circus, cafechantant, boxing.

11) Hands everywhere. Sport in the theatre. Films of the champion and the boxer's gloves. Parade allez! - more theatrical than the grimaces of Harlequin. 12) Use of the principles of American advertising. 13) The cult of the amusement park, the big wheel and the switchback, teaching the younger generation the BASIC TEMPO of the epoch. The rhythm of the tap-dance. The crackle of the cinema. Pinkerton. The roar of the switchback. The noisy tomfoolery of the clown. The poetry - 'time is money'! Our rails rush past: Paris, Berlin, London, romanticism, stylisation, exoticism, archaism, reconstruction, restoration, the pulpit, the temple, the museum! Only our methods are indivisible and inevitable: THE AMERICANISATION OF THE THEATRE in Russian means ECCentriSM

4. WE ARE ECCENTRISM IN ACTION 1) Presentation - rhythmic wracking of the nerves 2) The high-point - the trick 3) The author - an inventor-discoverer 4) The actor - mechanised movement, not buskins but roller-skates, not a mask but a nose on fire. Acting - not movement but a wriggle, not mimicry but a grimace, not speech but shouts. We prefer Charlie's arse to Eleonora Duse's hands!26 5) The play - an accumulation of tricks. The speed of 1000 horse power. Chase, persecution, flight. Form - a divertissement. 6) Humped backs, distended stomachs, wigs of stiff red hair - the beginning of a new style of stage costume. The foundation - continuous transformation. 7) Horns, shots, typewriters, whistles, sirens - Eccentric Music. The tap-dance - start of a new rhythm. We prefer the double soles of an American dancer to the five hundred instruments of the M arinsky Theatre. 27 8) The synthesis of movements: acrobatic, gymnastic, balletic, constructive-mechanical. 9) A can-can on the tightrope of logic and commonsense. Through the 'unthinkable' and the 'impossible' to the Eccentric. 10) From fantasy to sleight of hand. From Hoffmann to Fregoli. 28 The infernal American 'Secrets of New York'. 'Who's Behind the Smiling Mask?'.

(c) Georgi Kryzhitsky: the Theatreof Excitement

'A sense of theatricality as some aesthetic monstrance of an evidently tendentious characterIt spat, rubbed itself, changed and became THEATRE. And I say: it's R-U-B-B-I-S-H. Yes. No reincarnations, no transformations, no buskins and no masks. There's only one thing: EXCITEMENT. The sense of theatre is the sense of the tightrope, the sense of excitement. The healthy and joyful straining of our whole being, of all our vital energy. 59

1922 When it takes your breath away, it catches in your throat and there are reddish little spots dancing in your brain. Just like the CIRCUS: under the big top the tightrope-walker balances on a thread and the whole auditorium is silent, catching its breath ... . Look ... look ... again! .. . - Oh!- Stop it! - That's enough!! - No More!!! Theatre is excitement: the auction, the aeroplane, lotto, the lottery, the races, roulette. Theatre is the tote, a frantic game of chance, a steeplechase in which the actors race for prizes. Like horses. We both want and have to lay bets on them. 'You betting on Davydov? Don't, his left back leg is lame. - Khodotov? Yuryev?29 I wouldn't risk a bet on them each way, let alone to win. Please don't think that this is just a joke: even in Greece they used to crown authors and actors like prize horses. They laid bets, they took chances, they waited, they waited petrified: 'Well, who won? Who?! Who?!!!' Every face riveted on the black spots of the racing horses. They leaned over the barrier. The muffled sound of voices. The tension increases more and more. . . . Again - and again - and again! . . . Suddenly everyone became agitated, they clapped and shouted. The crowd began to wave and started moving, their faces flushed with joy, and in the corners of a hundred eyes you could see

future review of our contemporary Theatre of Excitement. After four false starts Tamara tears off into the distance. At the mile post Yurenev is first then Koonen. 31 They fight for everything on the straight: Yurenev falls and Koonen has the advantage. At the finishing post he wins by a head. Or this: Monakhov was clearly out in front from the start and he gradually increased his lead. Vedrinskaya soon took second place and it stayed like that till the halfway point. As they came into the straight, there she was, right behind Monakhov who was tiring, and she overtook him easily at the finish and won by a neck. Of the rest Ge came third. 32 Theatre programmes will show the artiste's latest record and his 'fastest times'. The sense of theatre is a sense of movement, a convulsion of the nerves and the emotions, an active, dynamic, motive principle. Ignatov comes along and starts to preach that the sense of Theatre is a particular poison, 'CURARE', that paralyses the motor nerves! So let me tell you, Mr Ignatov, that you understand nothing whatsoever about Theatre! Because you've never gone mad, never been a lunatic, never been insane, never hooted, howled or roared with laughter. That's what your 'EXPERIENCE' amounts to: merely studying the programme sedately. But the prim public of subscription ticketholders fearful of destroying an illusion is not theatrical: what is theatrical is a Brazilian savage shooting the Othello he despises. Here you'll find neither 'co-experience' nor 'co-creation', nor even the mild cross-chat with the audience that you find in an intimate cabaret:

EXCITEMENT. I open the first theatre journal that comes to hand and scan through a review at random: Madame Michurina 30 gave a touching performance as the loving mother. The normally delicate and refined Yuryev knows how to capture all the fine psychological nuances of fading passion with great sensitivity.

HERE THERE'S JUST EXCITEMENT. How old-fashioned the 'madman' MARINETTI's notions seem now: the notion of smearing the seats in the auditorium with glue or of releasing sneezing powder among the audience! Just a mild drawing-room petit

Down the toilet with it. Perhaps not. Even emery paper would be preferable for that purpose. Now I'd like to give you an extract from a

jeu . ..



No, we want not childish diversions, but -

styakov,35 an Eccentric version of Shaw, Yakulov36 + Eccentrism, Eccentrism - in art, in foreign affairs, in the rubber industry. Tomorrow they'll come - nearer ... here! 1). advertisements: a Monday excursion from the Alexandrinsky 'Maison Tellier'37 with the aid of the HONOURED SYSTEM of Eccentrism; 2). editorials in Zhizn iskusstva on Eccentrism; 3). a lecture by Chukovsky with drawings by Dobuzhinsky;38 4). a compulsory appearance at the rabfaks and academic rations.

EXCITEMENT! Alas! The sense of excitement has fled from Theatre to the gaming tables, the green fields, and the running track and soared up into the big top. The Ostrovsky prizes haven't penetrated that far yet. Theatre does not depict anything at all: it does not change anything at all. It simply knocks you on the head. On the very crown of your head. On the skull itself. For the sense of Theatre, the only sense of Theatre, is:

3. But do you have anything to show us? Theatre is not the Commissariat for Industry (unfortunately!). There is no bureau of inventors. No patents are issued. We don't need them either. Weare not afraid of the widespread pilfering of the name, theses and plans of the 'Eccentric Theatre': there are quite simply lots of white houses but only one White House and that's in Washington. We are merely protesting against the confusion of Eccentrism with instruments that are unworthy of this particular cause and we cite the evidence of Dr. Anton Meyer:39 'Eccentrism is taken internally: the dosage is elephantine. External usage is no help against faintness, sciatica, melancholia, premature greyness and so on.'

EXCITEMENT. And no Spaniards. (d) Leonid Trauberg: Cinema in the Role

of Accuser

1. Everyone wears 'Triangle' galoshes. As everyone knows, galoshes are a sign of prosperity and good taste. I justify this by the long crocodile queues outside the shops. 'Hurry for your Triangle galoshes!' Now everybody walks around in the galoshes that are a sign of prosperity and good taste: people, objects, ideas, theatres. The motto is: 'Protect yourself against street mud: hunt for galoshes!'

4. The consent of the dead Rehearsals, dress rehearsals, premieres. Journals, articles, discussions. Monumental, GRANDIOSE, planetary. Galoshes, galoshes, galoshes. The demand for galoshes has exceeded the supply. The last people rush around the shops searching like characters in a sketch. They have no galoshes on their feet. No galoshes, but a child's coffin. The salesman's patter: 'The latest fashion! Now everyone wants galoshes and not coffins. Come along - they'll doff their hats to you. Surely they'll honour the dead?'

2. The abduction of children to San Francisco. On 5 December 1921, when we hurled ECCENTRISM AT THE PUBLIC like a ball, we didn't realise that all of a sudden - Fregoli! Allez-hop! - there would be a transformation! Before our very eyes someone has torn the ball, opened it out, sewn it together and we get a shining new pair of galoshes without our PEPO ration-card. 33 Now the notion of 'Eccentrism' is vibrating through all the theatres, the Petrograds, the RSFSRs and the Europes like Tima doing the rounds. 34 The number of reports increases daily: Eccentrion, an Eccentric parade, Eccentro-Khle-

5. The search for the audience from Shakespeare to the 'cafe-chantant.' Who can resist the salesman's patter? I 61

1922 certainly can't. I love corpses. Chekhov, who agreed with me on this point, expressed my view: The dead have no shame but they stink terribly. The second half of this statement is just as true as the first. If it was only a matter of shame we'd let them be. But when they stink and produce this stink right under your very nose, we have to complain. Protest is inevitable, just like Charlie Chaplin's moustache. Something unsuitable is happening. The heavy carriages are dragged out from cells papered with IMAGES into new cloisters, to stink in an atmosphere of tables.

(e) Sergei Yutkevich: Eccentrism-

Painting- Advertising

'Everyone to the transport front'!


changing the loose skates of the old art, people wear the shameless yellow and red tramcars of Futurism,


and there they are, gathering clumsily, wheels up, in the tram yards of Contemporary Art, 1922

From the Depot of the Eccentrics comes the Motorcycle of the New Painting. The Revolution in Painting rumbles on triumphantly but what is left of it now for the happy motorcyclists, if not:

6. An unsuccessful attempt.

I suggest that V. V. Kamensky40 supported me in the view that, if the public wants triviality and vulgarity and defects to the cafe, then we must clean the cafe up and force it to BE MORE SERIOUS. If we're not in a position to keep the public in the theatres we'll have to force it behind its back to experience GENUINE ART. (From an article in My Journal, Moscow, no. 1.)

'The traditions of Ingres' (Picasso), antique junk in both 'World of Art' cliques (the former 'Jack of Diamonds'42 and the others of Benois),43 the fancy-work of the Suprematists44 and the innumerable piles of rotten theories where you'll find everything from metaphysics to mathematical formulae but not a word OF OUR PROFESSION. How did we come to inherit this? A step into the past: Impressionism Pointillism Futurism Cubism Expressionism. The reduction to elements of form and content. A complete break with life. The subject of a work is its form. The ship of European culture is listing. The drowning men try in vain to clutch at the straws of Mysticism and Symbolism. But the electric siren of Contemporaneity bursts with a mighty roar into the perfumed boudoirs of artistic aestheticism! The call is more and more demanding, more and more insistent: leave the picture frames and move towards

Sherlock Holmes, taking his pipe out of his mouth, responded ironically: 'Scotland Yard, agitprop sections and people's commissariats in general! You're often wrong! Can you see who is chasing the audience, coercing its tastes?' Answer: Serious people in galoshes. The slogan of their time is: 'Revolution brings tasteful art out of the palaces and on to the streets!' It's a religious procession, take off your hats, just imagine it! Guilty, comrades! Not that one! To the ABC! From the streets into the palaces with the revolution! The streets bring revolution to art. Our street mud now is circus, cinema, music-hall, Pinkerton. Modest like an American advertisement, HIGHLY MORAL LIKE BENEDICTINE, straight like Tatlin's monument,41 we categorically don't want galoshes on our feet. But what if we're forced to wear them? A sensation! Eccentric galoshes: with a flick of the foot they're off and flying into the ugly mugs of the deserving. A cockerel. PATHE.

the concrete, the tangible, the object.

From Cezanne to Picasso - the materialisation of the subject. Still lifes, landscapes, copying of signs, imitating raw materials, pasting objects on the surface of the brush. Pictures do not exist - it is angles, movements, subjects and colour that hit you from the frame.


1922 THE END OF FIGURATIVE ART HAS COME. Suprematism, king for a day, has become 'utilitarian', even though it did not want to, moving over from the cafes to ladies' handbags and cushions of the renascent drawing-rooms of 'respectable houses'. Constructivism has rejected surfaces and devised the slogan: THROUGH THE DISCOVERY OF RAW MATERIAL TOWARDS A NEW OBJECT. Now we, the young painters, must once more raise the banner of New Painting! It is just as pointless to assert the uselessness of surfaces as it is to deny the utility of cinema because you have no film with the face of the new French President. Surface and figurativeness have not perished but we need a fundamental reexamination of our attitude towards art. We must not neglect Life in favour of art but must through a new outlook on life employ

LIFE AS A TRICK towards the new Art. We summon everyone from the labyrinths of Intellect to a perception of Contemporaneity! Enough of self-satisfaction! - we need Art that is tendentious and utilitarian! How quickly yesterday's revolutionaries and today's academicians have acquired'the manners of their respected 'maftres' and commend their prescriptions to young art as if they were the only true ones. But we have been warned, we see on the walls of bourgeois drawing rooms not the Somovs but Yakulov. 45 We maintain that it's too early to die in a monastery! The revolution goes on!

cinema, circus and variety theatres, the unknown authors of dust-jackets for adventure stories about kings, detectives and adventurers; like the clown's grimaces, we spurn Your High Art as if it were an elasticated trampoline in order to perfect our own intrepid salta of Eccentrism! The only thing that has escaped the corrupting scalpel of analysis and intellect is the POSTER. Subject and form are indivisible. What is there to celebrate in them? Risk, bravery, violence, chase, revolution, gold, blood, laxative pills, Charles Chaplin, wrecks on land, sea and in the air, surprise cigars, operetta prima donnas, adventures of all sorts, skating-rinks, American boots, horses, struggle, chansonettes, a salta on a bicycle and thousands and thousands of events that make our Today beautiful. ALL THE TWO HUNDRED TOMES OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM ARE NOT AS EXPRESSIVE AS A CIRCUS POSTER!!! We prefer a Pinkerton cover to the concoctions of Picasso!!! We do not want to stuff youthful painting with new prescriptions but we know THAT: 1).The raw material for a work is both subject and form. 2).In place of the subject we assert the stunt. 3).The stunt represents the highest tension in the utilisation of raw material. 4).Texture is a degree of tension in the treatment of the raw material. 5).By the concept 'texture' we mean not only the degree of tension in the brush treatment but also in the treatment of the stunt (subject). 6).The texture of the stunt requires an equivalent texture of form.




WE PUBLICISE CONTEMPORANEITY! Contemporaneity - the stunt that is blinding because it is so unexpected = the sole form for the painting . poster. of Today: th e E ccentrlC The old painting is dead. THE ECCENTRIC POSTER IS DESTROYING PAINTING GENERALLY.

THEY ARE: The geniuses who created the posters for 63

1922 We propose: 1).The vulgarisation of all the forms of painting of yesteryear. Cubism Futurism - Expressionism through a filter: of laconicism - of expressionism - of the unexpected. 2).Maximum use of the forms of the lubok,46 the poster, the dust-jackets of popular editions, advertisements, type-face, labels. 3).EVERYONE SEES - EVERYONE KNOWS the Eccentric poster! The use of artistic concepts for purposes of agitation and propaganda. 4).Encouragement of the genre of monumental artists. Cartoons, caricatures, revue. 5).Study of locomotives, cars, steamers, engines, mechanisms.

Everyone must know: the best firm in the world is •Life' Beware of imitations! WE NEED LIFE AND WE MUST ACT TO ENSURE THAT LIFE NEEDS US! Machines, bridges, buildings await you, Constructivists! Music-halls, circuses, skyscraper walls are free for your gigantic brush, Eccentric painters!

ECCENTRISM PAINTING ADVERTISING FOR EVERYONE ALIVE TODAY!!! P .S. To respected theoreticians, reviewers and art critics who tut-tut at the errors of our ardent youth we suggest Marinetti's formulation: 'Old men are always wrong even when they are right and the young are always right even when they are wrong!'

Let us learn to love the machine! The products of the 'Art' firm ARE NOT FOR USE.

16 Alexei Voznesensky: Open Letter to Nemirovich-Danchenko and Stanislavsky Source: Ekran, 4 May 1922, p. 13. elled and talented Russians but I do not consider them to be creative. Because to be creative you need above all to have a clear will and the discipline to realise it and these dishevelled Russian talents have neither the will nor the discipline. Of course in these short and narrow columns I cannot say even a hundredth part of what I want and have to say to you, but I shall hint as much as I can and you will work out the rest. The art of cinema is dying. Never having flourished, yet encompassing enormous unrealised opportunities that cannot be described in our inadequate human language, there is wasting away somewhere in the background of all the arts the infant, the most beautiful and now possibly the most productive of the arts. I am not afraid to say this to you, the lords of the theatrical realm, because, if operettas are renowned in the best drama theatre in the world, I am not obliged to speak respectfully and reas-

People to whom the first, but not the seventh, truth of earthly phenomena is evident will express malicious surprise that I am addressing you, Vladimir Ivanovich, and you, Konstantin Sergeyevich, two men of theatre. I have said many times in the press that in matters of screen art we must appeal to anyone but those who are active in theatre. This is because theatre and cinema are diametrically opposed to one another in terms of methods, approaches, aspirations and goals. But the most profound seventh truth of earthly phenomena is that in the whole wide sweep of ridiculous, violent, innocent Russia there are no more obviously creative people in the arts than you two: Nemirovich and Stanislavsky. There are no creative men who can create everything ex nihilo in the way that you conceived a great theatre of European standing in the shed of a summer-house near Moscow. In reply people can point to many dishev64

1922 suringly about the art of theatre. I think that theatre must die, severely and wisely, like Tolstoy. That's it. Quite simply! A majestic finale for theatre that displayed restraint and determination would obviously be more fruitful for the future than all that sickly, doomed, vain and blabbering fuss in theatre, with theatre and around theatre with which theatre's current cheer-leaders want to replace the great art of the old theatrical unities. But this is beside the point. Returning to the young and vital creativity of the screen, I want to point out to you that its resources are withering fruitlessly in Russia for purely extraneous reasons of a technical nature: there is no culture and no discipline. I call these things extraneous because you can acquire, introduce, implant, force them gradually to be organic and innate. If you come across Russian films you will be struck by a dark terror at the artistic illiteracy of everything you see there, a dull brutal illiteracy that does not even dream that somewhere in the world there exist Anatole France, the paintings of Gauguin, The Black Masks of Leonid Andreyev or the productions of the Moscow Art Theatre. Actors who do not know the script that they are using and do not understand how you should act for the screen; directors who are as remote from an understanding of psychology as they are from Mount Ararat, who have no sense of rhythm and do not even suspect that it exists, who are busy with their columns and candlesticks and concerned that the furnishings should as far as possible be in the 'Empire style', who are convinced that it is enough to 'run through' a scene with the actors once or twice before the actual shooting, and then they just 'cope' if you shout at them during the shooting; cameramen who care a thousand times more about some trick of lighting in an insignificant place than about the whole basic sense of the play and the artistic object .... I used the words 'artistic object' and I laugh. I laugh at my own naive faith in words which

thought it could express in small letters that complex, dense, interwoven and close-knit mass of ignorance, tastelessness, artistic stupidity and artistic brutality that goes under the name of Russian cinema and blasphemously passes itself off as art. At the same time cinema really is a great and marvellously new art, while Russian cinema is in spirit and in essence the most virtuous expression of this art and the overwhelming mass of those who work in Russian cinema are selfless, honest, sincere and hard-working people. But .... But they do not have their own Nemirovich or their own Stanislavsky. They have no innovators or culture-bearers, no great men of will for things to be named after. I repeat: I am not appealing to you, Vladimir Ivanovich and Konstantin Sergeyevich, because you founded the Moscow Art Theatre, because we do not need theatrical people as such. I am appealing to you, Vladimir Ivanovich and Konstantin Sergeyevich, because you succeeded in creating something real from a dream, and creating it in the middle of a desert, advancing slowly and seriously, learning and teaching, conscious of your iron will and forcing yourself to realise it, patiently (as only geniuses can be patient) cultivating greatness where nothing had been before. It is as creative, as uniquely creative men, as great artists who know how to perceive, how to expose, how to infect, how to move, that I appeal to you to come to the art of the screen, to study it, get to know it and work for it. I summon your culture, your taste, your willpower, your discipline, your prosperity for work, your aptitude for art and for hard work to a new area of creativity for you, to creativity in the screen world. As the ancients once went to the Varangians, so I come to you with an entreaty: 'Our land is great and plentiful but there is no order in it. Come to rule and reign over us.' And, like Rurik and Truvor,47 you will look creatively at one another and cheerfully reply: 'we're coming!'




Lev Kuleshov: 'Art' Cinema Source: L. V. Kuleshov, '''Khudozhestvennaya'' kinematografiya', Ermitazh, no. 11, 25-31 July 1922, p. 16. Good direction - good directorial work. Good photography - photography. In this instance no such thing as cinema art has emerged on the screen, only a reproduction has emerged. Nobody will describe as a new art the technically more or less competent reproduction of combinations of the products of the creativity of workers in different arts. Living photography is the fixing of phenomena occurring in front of the camera and the projection of what has been filmed on to a fiat screen by means of the temporal and spatial alternation of light and shade. The character of the photography can be varied only in its speed and the metrorhythmical construction of an individual scene is mechanical. Thus we must state that within the individual filmed scene (within the 'frame') there is nothing except the reproduction of some kind of raw material. Hence also a sequence from such a film is raw material and nothing more. If we adopt this point of view, without rejecting art in general, and try to reveal the essence of cinema art, we shall have to state that we cannot uncover the art of cinema within the confines of the separate living photographs that constitute a film. Those who write about a phenomenon 'devoid of the lechery of the word' or about the 'Great Silent' do not realise this.

For the past four years we have been discussing very earnestly the 'regeneration' of cinema. We have summoned, and continue to summon, all kinds of meetings, boards, commissions etc. which are supposed to take the appropriate measures to regenerate one of the most interesting areas of industry. The premature and anaemic 'film' journals and the 'film' sections of the theatrical journals are doing the same. As a general rule our discussions have been concerned with so-called 'art' cinema. We talk about the unusual qualities of the 'Great Silent', of 'Painting with Light'48 and of the' Art of Silence' - but these unusual qualities are only very vaguely defined: 'devoid of the lechery of the word', the 'ill-fated and great art' etc. The essence of cinema art has in the majority of cases hitherto been defined by its special characteristics, the emotional side of the film actor. I am bold enough to assert that those who write and have written about cinema have no grounds for stretching the word 'art'. Is cinema an independent art form? Let us suppose that the camera has taken a magnificent scene from a particular angle and that that scene has come out magnificently on the screen. What does that give us? The actor has acted well- the art of the actor, theatrical art. Good sets - the art of the set designer.


Lev Kuleshov: Cinema as the Fixing of Theatrical Action

Source: L. V. Kuleshov, 'Kinematograf kak fiksatsiya teatral'nogo deistviya', Ermitazh, no. 13, 8-13 August 1922, p. 15. observations we can easily establish that it is real objects and constructions that come out best in cinema: a rural landscape, an urban landscape, a man walking, a man at work, a horse, a car, a train, an aeroplane, a tree etc. 'Real' objects, 'real surroundings, 'real' people come out well. Artificial things do not come out well. Their artificiality on the screen is unacceptable.

In the context of discussions about the 'regeneration' of Russian cinema (we suggest that what is needed is the construction rather than the 'regeneration' of cinema) it is interesting to pose the question of the possibility of attracting theatre workers into cinema. There is no doubt that theatre and theatre workers bring nothing but harm to cinema. If we study the relevant experiments and


1922 Let us try and put a real chair (preferably an American office chair) in front of the camera and, next to it, one that has been superbly painted (and painted in the most naturalistic way) on canvas by an artist. Then let us film them and see what comes out on the screen: we shall see that the real chair looks like a real chair and the painted one looks artificial. Whereas with the naked eye we perceive the artist's work as a symbol of a chair, on the screen we perceive the painted canvas. Experiments in filming artificial and real objects, mainly 'real' people and actors, always produce the same result: artificial people (actors) do not come out well. Let us look at historical pictures. Without any difficulty your eye will detect their complete failure. The contemporary theatre, of whatever tendency, always has elements of showiness and artificiality, given its innate atmosphere and the work of the actor: the technique of theatre is indissolubly linked with them. However much theatregoers protest, I maintain that theatre, marching under the banner of contemporary theatre art, is by its very nature artificial, and in the regular theatre people are already unconsciously employing primitive cine-


matic techniques. The more theatre has to do with cinema, the more it will appear to violate its nature. People must not think that I am welcoming the work of the Art Theatre in cinema. The Art Theatre was the first to experience a fiasco on the screen. (The work of the First Studio and considerably later Tairov in Pierette's Veil and Meyerhold in The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Strong Man.) It is extremely difficult to imagine theatregoers coming to terms (if, of course they work on a theatrical level and do not begin to study cinema) with the scale of our profession. We have unfortunately not yet been able to establish the regular form (the limits) of the scales of cinema but in any case the scale of theatre is miles away from the scale of cinema. Look at a good American picture. Cinema requires an extreme degree of organisation of its material and extreme regular work on the part of the model actor [naturshchik),49 and these are arranged in the plastic category for a single point of view (the lens) and in the temporal category for the rhythm of a single projector. In theatre things are arranged for a hundred eyes and a hundred ears. Theatrical measure for us would mean chaos, theatrical artificiality, death.

Alexei Gan: The Cinematograph and Cinema

Source: A. Gan, 'Kinematograf i kinematografiya', Kino-Fot, no. 1, 25-31 August 1922,


After the World War a heightened interest in the cinematograph or, more precisely the cinematheatre, may be observed in bourgeois Western Europe, in America and here in the proletarian republic. Few people are however interested in cinema as a whole, as the product of industrial culture or as a technological phenomenon, naturally supplanting the handicraft methods that have hitherto cemented the social apparatus, the wellknown system of people joined together. But the socio-historical conditions in which contemporary society is living unerringly dictate the need to take account of its material-technical 'organs'. The technological system of contemporary

society demands from us different aptitudes for movement, explanation and orientation, above all in its material sphere. And everything previously done in an amateurish fashion by the arts of painting, sound and movement with the aim of organising our emotions is now automatically done by the extended organs of society, by technology and in this specific case, by cinema. But it cannot serve only as a means of production in the sense of the mechanical multiplication of handicraft goods in one or another of their aspects. It must involve self-production. The cinematograph, as living photography and as the technical apparatus for the mass 67

1922 production of theatrical art, is the old cinematograph, the cinematograph of the capitalist system of exploitation, the cinematograph of the private owner. Cinema, as the quintessentially labouring apparatus of social technology, as the extended 'organs' of society, is a matter for the proletarian state.


Those are the two paths that are being followed on the other side of the screen. The cinematograph or cinema? Yesterday the cinematograph. Tomorrow cinema! Today we are clearing the path for tomorrow.

Lev Kuleshov: Art, Contemporary Life and Cinema

Source: L. V. Kuleshov, 'Iskusstvo, sovremennaya zhizn' i kinematografiya', Kino-Fot, no. 1, 25-31 August 1922, p. 2. about us. Contemporary man will never be satisfied by theatre, painting, literature or poetry. This is because our life does not need contemporary art and it does not need our life. People who study old museums produce perfectly valid work. People who love old art in their own life, who bewail the existence of the telephone and dream of the life of the Ancient World or the 18th century, are abnormal. The normal contemporary man is satisfied by contemporary art only when he makes demands of it that are purely matters of taste, only when he cultivates within himself some form of 'aestheticism', as it is now fashionable to say. But we know what an incredible diversity, what an incredible chaos, reigns in the tastes of our contemporaries. Tastes vary. Varying tastes demand varying products. Hence art cannot be drawn out of this blind alley. THE BLIND ALLEY IS INESCAPABLE. Contemporary art, in the sense in which it exists, must either disappear completely or flow into new forms. I cannot determine what will happen to it. But there is no doubt that all the energies, all the methods and all the knowledge of the laws of time and space that are intended to apply to art, must be channelled in the way that is most organically connected with the life of our epoch. The plan of work is: 11. Precision in time. 2/. Precision in space. 3/. Reality of raw material. 4/. Precision in organisation. (The cohesion of the elements among themselves and their order.)

Contemporary art is in a hopeless blind alley. It is amateurish and appears to be the product of an extreme form of dilettantism. Try going to an exhibition of contemporary paintings, reading or listening to contemporary poets and writers or going to the theatre and you will have no problem detecting the triumph of dilettantism and amateurism in contemporary art. For it is only amateurs who could think of making a good product - good art - without learning their craft, without knowing how to master their material, without the proper instruments, exclusively on the basis of undue familiarity. Only amateurs could work on the preparation of a product without a scientific method of studying all the laws of its production. In so far as an artist has to deal with raw material and with methods of processing that material, he must study precisely its qualities and characteristics and all the means of processing it. Contemporary art has no organic connection whatsoever with contemporary life. The old art undoubtedly had that connection. (At any rate to a considerably greater degree than art nowadays.) The attempt to establish a connection between contemporary art and life by means of all kinds of meetings, boards and commissions is simply absurd. Commissions can only establish that that kind of work is unnecessary. Imagine, in fact, that contemporary works of art were not of bad quality and that two thousand years hence someone were to study our art. This person would learn nothing about our life, our psychology, our essence, or about us as human beings. He would be forced to turn to our technology, to our engineering, in order to find out 68

1922 What is this? IT IS CINEMA. Not cinema that is amateurishly psychological, not cinema that fixes theatrical action, but natural cinema that is regularly ordered in time and space, a cinema that fixes organised human and natural raw material and organises the viewer's attention at the moment of projection through montage. That is the most important work at the present time. The knowledge of scholars and the enthusiasm and courage of artists must be


directed to cinema. Down with the Russian psychological picture. For the moment, welcome American thrillers and stunts. Expect pictures that are based on a natural script with subjects that are naturally constructed in time and space and with the action of the necessary people, the models. The day when a picture like that is shown will be a glorious day for many people, because in it they will find what in art they have lost forever.

Dziga Vertov: We. A Version of a Manifesto Source: D. Vertov, 'My. Variant manifesta', Kino-Fot, no. 1,25-31 August 1922, pp. 11-12. WE are purging the Cine-Eye of its hangerson, of music, literature and theatre, we are seeking our own rhythm, one that has not been stolen from elsewhere, and we are finding it in the movement of objects. WE invite you: - awayfrom the sweet embraces of the romance, from the poison of the psychological novel, from the clutches of the theatre of adultery, with your backsides to music, - awayinto the open, into four dimensional space (3 + time), in search of our own material, metre and rhythm. The 'psychological' prevents man from being as precise as a stop-watch and hampers his desire for kinship with the machine. In the art of movement we have no reason to devote our attention principally to contemporary man. In the face of the machine we are ashamed of man's inability to control himself, but what are we to do if we find the unerring ways of electricity more exciting than the disorderly haste of active people and the demoralising inertia of the passive. For us the joy of dancing saws in a sawmill is more familiar and easier to understand than the joy of human dancing. WE exclude for the time being man as an object of filming because of his inability to control his own movements. Our path - from a bumbling citizen through

WE call ourselves Cine-Eyes as distinct from 'cinematographers' - that flock of junk-dealers who do rather well peddling their rags. We see no link between the cunning and calculation of the profiteers and the genuine CineEye. We think the psychological Russo-German film-drama, weighed down with the apparitions and memories of childhood, is absurd. The Cine-Eye thanks the American adventure film with its ostentatious dynamism, the dramatisations of American Pinkertonism, for their rapid shot changes and close-ups. They are good, but disorderly: not based on a precise study of movement. A cut above the psychological drama but nonetheless insubstantial. A cliche. A copy of a copy. WE declare the old films, the romantic, the theatricalised etc., to be leprous. - Don't come near! - Don't look! - Mortally dangerous! - Contagious. WE affirm the future of cinema art by rejecting its present. The death of 'cinematography' is necessary so that the art of cinema may live. WE call for the acceleration of its death. We protest against the mixing of the arts that many call synthesis. The mixing of bad paints, even those ideally matched to the colours of the spectrum, produces not white but dirt. We are for a synthesis at the zenith of achievement of every art form - but not before.