Konyets Sankt-PETERBURGA - Film (Movie) Plot and Review





(The End of St. Petersburg)


USSR, 1927


Director: Vsevolod Pudovkin

Production: Mezhrabpom-Russ; black and white, 35mm, silent; running time: about 110 minutes; length: 8202 feet. Released 1927.


Screenplay: Nathan Zarkhi, from the poem "The Bronze Horseman" by Pushkin and the novel St. Petersburg by Andrey Biely; photography: Anatoli Golovnya and K. Vents; art director: S. Kozlovsky.


Cast: A. P. Chistyakov ( Worker ); Vera Baranovskaya ( His wife ); Ivan Chuvelov ( Ivan, a peasant ); V. Chuvelov ( Friend from the village ); V. Obolensky ( Lebedev, Steel Magnate ); A. Gromov ( Revolutionary ); Vladimir Tzoppi ( Patriot ); Nikolai Khmelyov and M. Tzibulsky ( Stockbrokers ).


Publications


Books:

Korolevich, V., Vera Baranovskaya , Moscow, 1929.

Yezuitov, N., Pudovkin, "Pouti Tvortchevstva," Les Voies de la création , Moscow, 1937.

De La Roche, Catherine, and Thorold Dickinson, Soviet Cinema , London, 1948; New York, 1972.

Mariamov, A., Vsevolod Pudovkin , Moscow, 1952.

Leyda, Jay, Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film , London, 1960.

Schnitzer, Luda and Jean, Vsevolod Poudovkine , Paris, 1966.

Amengual, Barthélemy, V. I. Poudovkine , Lyons, 1968.

Schnitzer, Luda and Jean, and Marcel Martin, Cinema in Revolution: The Heroic Era of the Soviet Film , New York, 1973.

Rimberg, John, The Motion Picture in the Soviet Union 1918–1952 , New York, 1973.

Dart, Peter, Pudovkin's Films and Film Theory , New York, 1974.

Cohen, Louis Harris, The Cultural-Political Traditions and Developments of the Soviet Cinema 1917–1972 , New York, 1974.

Klinowski, Jacek, and Adam Garbicz, Cinema, The Magic Vehicle: A Guide to Its Achievement: Journey One: The Cinema Through 1949 , Metuchen, New Jersey, 1975.

Taylor, Richard, The Politics of the Soviet Cinema: Nineteen Seventeen to Nineteen Twenty-Nine , New York, 1979.

Marshall, Herbert, Masters of the Soviet Cinema: Crippled Creative Biographies , London, 1983.

Masi, Stefano, Vsevolod I. Pudovkin , Florence, 1985.

Zorkaya, Neya, Illustrated History of the Soviet Cinema: Nineteen Seven to Today , New York, 1989.

Youngblood, Denise J., Soviet Cinema in the Silent Era: 1919–1934 , Ann Arbor, 1985, 1991.

Kenez, Peter, Cinema & Soviet Society: 1917–1953 , New York, 1992.


Articles:

Close Up (London), April 1928.

New York Times , 31 May 1928.

Variety (New York), 6 June 1928.

Potamkin, Harry A., "Pudovkin and the Revolutionary Film," in Hound and Horn (New York), April-June 1933.

Leyda, Jay, "Index to the Creative Work of Vsevolod Pudovkin," in Sight and Sound (London), November 1948.

"Pudovkin Issue" of Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), August-September 1953.

Weinberg, Herman, "Vsevolod Pudovkin," in Films in Review (New York), August-September 1953.

Macdonald, Dwight, "Eisenstein and Pudovkin in the Twenties," in On Movies (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey), 1969; as On Movies (New York), 1981.

"Pudovkin Issue" of Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), February 1973.

Hudlin, E., "Film Language: Pudovkin and Eisenstein and Russian Formalism," in Journal of Aesthetic Education (Urbano, Illinois), No. 2, 1979.

Burns, P. E., "Linkage: Pudovkin's Classics Revisited," in Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington, D.C.), Summer 1981.

Sasin, O., " Konec Sankt-Peterburga ," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), no. 8, August 1987.

Sonnenberg, B., " Aelita, Queen of Mars , Others from U.S.S.R.," in Nation , vol. 254, 9 March 1992.

Caruso, U.G., " La Madre/La fine di San Pietroburgo/Tempeste sull'Asia ," in Cineforum (Bergamo), vol. 33, no. 5(325), June 1993.

Smith, M., "The Influence of Socialist Realism on Soviet Montage: The End of St. Petersburg , Fragment of an Empire, and Arsenal ," in Journal of Ukrainian Studies , vol. 19, no. 1, 1994.

Kepley, V., Jr., "Pudovkin and the Continuity Style: Problems of Space and Narration," in Discourse (Detroit), no. 17.3, Spring 1995.


* * *


Pudovkin made The End of St. Petersburg in 1927 for the tenth anniversary of the Soviet Revolution. From an earlier conception of the film as a 200-year history of St. Petersburg and its changing political climate, Pudovkin focused instead on the struggle for that city at the time of the Revolution. As in Mother , Pudovkin charted the developing awareness of the (mass) protagonist from political naiveté to Marxist consciousness. The film's distinction is in the conjunction of this personal mode of Marxist analysis with two other major points of reference: the St. Petersburg cityscape itself and its representation in the Russian literary tradition; and Pudovkin's theoretical writings ( Film Technique and Film Acting ), particularly on the role of editing.

The portrayal of a protagonist who interacts with the animated architecture of St Petersburg follows in the tradition of Pushkin's poem "The Bronze Horseman" and Andrey Biely's symbolist novel St. Petersburg , written in 1910–11 but set during the unsuccessful rebellion in 1905. Pudovkin superimposes a Marxist interpretation on Pushkin's Bronze Horseman, the "Soul of Russia." Through editing, he causes the statue to cry during the bombardment of the Czar's Winter Palace. Biely's vivid city geometry becomes in the film a maze of revolutionary activity. Pudovkin shifts the major site of conflict from the homes of the workers (in Biely) to the foundries in which they work. The realism of the photographic image would serve him well, allowing him to rely on the spectator's familiarity with the architecture of the city. He vivifies the city's monumental buildings and squares (as well as its famous statues), lending credibility to his political narrative. The tradition of romanticized urbanism, from Dickens through Griffith, takes on a Marxist ideological thrust in The End of St. Petersburg .

Pudovkin conveys the revolutionary and urban themes through precise techniques of editing, which he had codified in Film Technique . His re-assemblage of filmed reality recalls Constructivism in its tight integration of form and content. The camera records real space and time; the director creates filmic space and time through editing. Pudovkin called this the "linkage" of the film strips, "brick by brick." Kuleshov had taught him the importance of the legibility of individual shots when trying to emphasize the relationships among shots. Pudovkin would elaborate important details and eliminate others, often stressing the metaphorical nature of a particular detail. It is the editing that gives the film its strong metaphorical potential.

The various ways in which Pudovkin alternates these details in the editing gives the film its distinctive rhythm. He establishes oppositions, cutting for contrast between day and night, as well as between large open spaces and claustrophobic interiors. He inserts ironic inter-titles to contrast with visual images. Most significantly, he employs parallel editing to contrast static shots with dynamic activity. Pudovkin maintains this rhythm throughout the film, often cutting on human movement to provide fluid continuity.

Pudovkin's conception of the mass hero would unfortunately set the pattern for what would become the official aesthetic of Socialist Realism. His cinematic dynamization of St. Petersburg would remain a more enduring contribution.

—Howard Feinstein

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