Grigori Kozintsev - Director

Nationality: Russian. Born: Kiev, 22 March 1905. Education: Gymnasium, Kiev; studied Art with Alexandra Exter, Kiev; Academy of Fine Arts, Petrograd, 1919. Career: Scenic artist, Lenin Theatre, Kiev, 1918; sent to Petrograd by Union of Art Workers of Kiev, 1919; founder, with Leonid Trauberg and Sergei Yutkevitch, The Factory of the Eccentric Actor (FEKS), 1921; with Trauberg, made first film, 1924; with Trauberg, prepared film on life of Karl Marx (unrealized), 1939–40. Awards: Stalin Prize for the Maxim Trilogy, 1941; Lenin Prize for Hamlet , 1965. Died: In Leningrad, 11 May 1973.

Films as Director:


Pokhozdeniya Oktyabrini ( The Adventures of Octyabrina ) (co-d with Leonid Trauberg, co-sc)


Michki protiv Youdenitsa ( Mishka against Yudenitch ) (co-d with Trauberg, co-sc)


Chyortovo Koleso ( The Devil's Wheel ) (co-d with Trauberg); Shinel ( The Cloak ) (co-d with Trauberg)


Bratichka ( Little Brother ) (co-d with Trauberg, co-sc); S.V.D. ( Soyuz Velikogo Dela ) ( The Club of the Big Deed ) (co-d with Trauberg)


Novyi Vavilon ( The New Babylon ) (co-d with Trauberg)


Odna ( Alone ) (co-d with Trauberg, co-sc)


Yunost Maksima ( The Youth of Maxim ) (co-d with Trauberg, co-sc)


Vozvrashcheniye Maksima ( The Return of Maxim ) (co-d with Trauberg, co-sc)


Vyborgskaya storona ( The Vyborg Side ) (co-d with Trauberg, co-sc)


Prostiye Lyudi ( Plain People ) (released in re-edited version 1956, which Kozintsev disowned) (co-d with Trauberg, co-sc)




Belinski (+ co-sc)


Don Quixote


Hamlet (+ sc)


Korol Lir ( King Lear ) (+ sc)


By KOZINTSEV: books—

Shakespeare: Time and Conscience , New York, 1966.

Glubokij ekran , Moscow, 1971.

King Lear: The Space of Tragedy , Berkeley, California, 1977.

By KOZINTSEV: articles—

"Deep Screen," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer/Autumn 1959.

"The Hamlet within Me," in Films and Filming (London), Septem-ber 1962.

"Over the Parisiana," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1962/63.

"Prostrantsvo tragedii," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), January, April, June, August, and November 1972, and January 1973.

"A Child of the Revolution," in Cinema in Revolution , edited by Luda and Jean Schnitzer, New York, 1973.

"Gogoliada," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), May, June and July 1974.

"Iz pisem raznyh let," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), May 1983.

"Iz rabocih tetradej. 1969–1971," in Isskustvo Kino (Moscow), no. 10, October 1990.

With S. Drejden, "Iz rabocih tetradej. 1969–1971," in Isskustvo Kino (Moscow), no. 12, December 1990.

"Iz raboÄŤih tetradej raznyh let," in Isskustvo Kino (Moscow), no. 8, August 1992.

"Gody s Ejzenštejnom," in Isskustvo Kino (Moscow), no. 8, August 1994.

"Iz pisem kinematografistam" (letters), in Isskustvo Kino (Moscow), no. 7, July 1995.

On KOZINTSEV: books—

Leyda, Jay, Kino , London, 1960.

Verdone, Mario, and Barthelemy Amengual, La Feks , Paris, 1970.

Rapisarda, Giusi, editor, La FEKS: Kozintsev e Trauberg , Rome, 1975.

Christie, Ian, and John Gillett, Futurism, Formalism, FEKS: Eccentrism and Soviet Cinema 1918–36 , London, 1978.

Leaming, Barbara, Grigori Kozintsev , Boston, 1980.

Christie, Ian, and Richard Taylor, editors, The Film Factory: Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents 1896–1939 , London, 1988.

On KOZINTSEV: articles—

"A Meeting with Grigori Kozintsev," in Film (London), Autumn 1967.

Barteneva, Yevgeniya, "One Day with King Lear ," in Soviet Film (Moscow), no. 9, 1969.

Yutkevitch, Sergei, "The Conscience of the King," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1971.

"Director of the Year," in International Film Guide 1972 , Lon-don, 1971.

Robinson, David, "Grigori Kozintsev, 1905–1973," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1973.

Obituaries, in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), October 1973.

Hejfic, I., and others, "G.M. Kozincev, kakim my ego znali . . . ," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), November 1974.

Tsikounas, M., and Leonid Trauberg, " La Nouvelle Babylone ," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 1 December 1978.

Shklovsky, V., and others, "Iz myslej o G.M. Kozinceve," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), April 1980.

"Grigori Kozintsev," in Film Dope (London), January 1985.

Gerasimov, Sergei, and Iosif Heifitz, "Licnost' mastera," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), March 1985.

* * *

A man of enormous enthusiasms, bursting with theories which were always intended to be put into practice as soon as possible, Kozintsev started his career at the age of fifteen by giving public performances of plays in his family's sitting room in Kiev. When he went to art school in Petrograd he met Sergei Yutkevich, and the two boys joined with Leonid Trauberg to found FEKS, the Factory of the Eccentric Actor. They produced a book on Eccentrism , "published in Eccentropolis (formerly Petrograd)," and they produced all sorts of street theater, an amalgam of music hall, jazz, circus, and posters, meanwhile exhibiting their paintings at avant-garde shows.

Kozintsev was barely nineteen when he and Trauberg brought all this flashy modernism, their love of tricks and devices, their commitment to a new society, and their boundless energy together in their first film, The Adventures of Oktyabrina. Through their next few productions the two young directors perfected their art, learned how to control the fireworks, and developed a mature style which, however, never lost its distinctive FEKS flavor.

In The New Babylon , a story about the Paris Commune of 1870, largely set in a fantastic department store, they reached that standard of excellence only achieved by the greatest silent films: in complete control of the medium, using Enei's brilliant art direction to the full, but peopling a gripping story with human characters only the correct degree larger than life that the medium demanded. A young composer, Shostakovich, was commissioned to write the accompanying score.

Kozintsev and Trauberg were themselves a little disappointed with their first sound film, Alone , a contemporary subject, although it was by no means a failure and it at least brought Shostakovich to the notice of the world at large. For the Maxim Trilogy they returned to an "historical-revolutionary" subject with tremendous success, building on their own experience with New Babylon , but completely integrating sound and dialogue rather than merely adding them to the previous recipe.

Sadly, the trilogy was really the last work of this highly successful partnership; their Plain People , about the wartime evacuation of a Leningrad factory to Central Asia, ran into serious official trouble and, although completed in 1945, was not released until 1956 in a version that Kozintsev refused to acknowledge.

For the rest of his independent career he remained loyal to the Leningrad studios and, perhaps because of the troubles with Plain People , devoted himself exclusively to historical or literary themes. After two "biopics"— Pirogov and Belinski —he turned to Don Quixote , which was well received at home and abroad. His Hamlet , with its brooding Scandinavian background, superb photography, and beautifully handled acting, won even wider international acclaim, as did his even more brooding and original King Lear. These films were not merely very accomplished interpretations of Shakespeare's plays: they were the result of Kozintsev's own "brooding," years of deep research and careful thought, electrified, however, by equally profound emotions—the final flowering, in fact, of that enthusiastic fifteen-year-old in Kiev.

Kozintsev himself wrote to Yutkevich after King Lear , "I am certain that every one of us . . . in the course of his whole life, shoots a single film of his own . This film of one's own is made . . . in your head, through other work, on paper . . . in conversation: but it lives, breathes, somehow prolongs into old age something that began its existence in childhood!" And indeed King Lear still combines Kozintsev's original emotionalism with his commitment to a cause; it is no accident that, despite its humanistic values, the film can be analyzed in terms of dialectical materialism.

Kozintsev's enthusiasm never deserted him. Not long before his death, after a private London showing of King Lear , the director was asked a question about which translation of the play he had used. Kozintsev, waving his arms in excitement, his eyes flashing, his voice rising several octaves, launched himself into a passionate eulogy and defense of the officially discredited poet Boris Pasternak. So Kozintsev was an "eccentric actor" to the last—but, as always, with a deep concern for humanity and truth, regardless of any personal consequences.

—Robert Dunbar

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