Slot: 30B-2 Dec. 30, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Panel: Russian and East European Expatriates in Film, Theatre, Music
Chair: Olia Prokopenko, Temple University
Title: Moscow Art Theatre (MAT) on Berlin's Screen, 1922-23
Author: Steven P Hill, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
The ups and downs of the M.A.T. at home and on tour abroad during the early Soviet period (1918-24) have been discussed in many publications, in the West and in Russia by Stanislavskii, Bertensson, Slonim, Nemirovich, Shverubovich, and others. In the West, much has been published about the German-Austrian film experimenter, director Robert Wiene, and his all-time classic Kabinett des Doktors Caligari (1919-20).
But little has been published anywhere, about Wiene's creative meeting with the M.A.T., which occurred in Berlin in 1922-23. And which resulted in two ambitious, semi-avant-garde silent films based on Dostoevskii and on Tolstoi, respectively: "Raskolnikow" (Prestuplenie i nakazanie, Crime and Punishment) and "Die Macht der Finsternis" (Vlast′ t′my, Power of Darkness). Both these "staged" adaptations, previously performed by M.A.T. at home and on tour, were transposed to the screen by Robert Wiene and his brother Konrad for their Berlin film studio. Both films were cast almost entirely with Russian-speaking actors from the M.A.T.'s "B Team" (i.e., the "Kachalov Group"). Kachalov's "B Team" toured outside the USSR from 1920, and several of them decided to emigrate permanently -- and thus became "personae non gratae" to Soviet theatre historians. Exception, of course, was made for those returning eventually to the USSR ( e.g., Tarasova, Kachalov himself ).
The leading film "star" of the Berlin-M.A.T. team was Grigorii Khmara ("Chmara"), who played Raskol'nikov. Other Russians hired for the Wiene brothers' "Russian" films were designer Andreev (Andrejew) and actors Vyrubov, Germanova, Zhilinskii, Kryzhanovskaia, Pavlov, Serov, Skul'skaia, Tarasova, Tarkhanov, Toma, Sharov (sometimes misspelled Zharov), and, arguably, Bersenev (unconfirmed). Since the two Berlin "Russian" films were photographed silent (no sound tracks to record speech in the 20s), the actors could communicate with each other in Russian, not German.
The MAT-Wiene films were long supposed lost, but fortunately a Dutch copy of "Raskolnikow" was recently found. The Dutch restorers of "Raskolnikow" focussed on the Wiene angle, and did not identify almost all the Russian expatriate thespians, even Porfirii Petrovich and Sonia. It has taken some years and the cooperative efforts of several researchers (including this author) to identify finally almost all those Russian actors on the screen. The presentation will include an "identified" showing of 1 or 2 video exerpts from this rare, restored film.
Title: Cinema and the Synthesis of Arts: An Illustrated Presentation
Author: Vera Zubarev, University of Pennsylvania
The goal of this presentation is to familiarize the audience with a movement called the “Synthesis of the Arts,” and the ways my project introduces it to cinema. The concept of “synthesis,” in the Russian context, goes back, at least, to creative individuals like Kuzmin and Eisenstein, but, of course, connects up with similar concepts in other languages and cultures, as well (e.g., Wagner in Germany). I will briefly explain the concept of “Synthesis of Arts” in general and in the Russian context. I will clarify how, from my point of view, it differs from a simple combination of arts. I will show that in the “Synthesis of Arts,” each art or medium plays an independent role, thus enriching the spectators’ perception of the cumulative whole. This differs significantly from a combination of arts, where the art or medium chosen as the main one subordinates the others and loses much of the desired cumulative impact upon the audience. Then I will illustration my statements by showing some excerpts from my recent video (2006), that is a synthesis of poetry, choreography, music and cinematography.
Title: Toward Defining Ayn Rand's Cine-Aesthetics
Author: Elizabeth Blake, Independent Scholar
Briefly as an actress and most notably as a screenwriter, the Russian Emigré Ayn Rand (née Alissa Rosenbaum) witnessed first-hand many of the developments in the American film industry over the course of the twentieth century. She was critical of both the studio system and the move toward unionization of the industry, as both interfered with her ability to produce feature films in accord with her political aesthetics. This dissatisfaction with the politics of Hollywood, although apparent in her writings, is most striking in her 1947 testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), in which she details her opposition to Gregory Ratoff's 1944 war propaganda film Song of Russia.
My presentation will begin with an examination of Ayn Rand's writings on Hollywood predating her 1926 emigration as well as her scriptwriting experience in the 1920s and 1940s in order to describe her early understanding of cine-aesthetics. Then, I will focus on a thorough analysis of Rand's testimony as a means of underscoring the political nature of her cine-aesthetics. A comparison of her testimony with that of other friendly witnesses before the commission will show how her identity both as a political exile from Soviet Russia and as a member of the film industry informs her harsh criticism of Song of Russia. Finally, a brief discussion of her 1949 film adaptation of her novel The Fountainhead, with Gary Cooper (another friendly witness before HUAC) in the starring role, will reveal how she remains conscious of the political, even propagandistic, nature of the film medium and, much in the manner of prominent directors from the Golden Age of Soviet film, consciously employs it in an effort to disseminate a particular political philosophy.