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Monday, March 28, 2011

Yakov Protazanov: Father Sergius (1917)

A movie made in 1917, just before the Russian Revolution. It would have been impossible to make this film in pre-Soviet Russia - it would have been impossible after the Revolution, either. It was a very thin time window when the making of Отец Сергий (Father Sergius) has been possible: in 1917 just before the Revolution. And just a few months after, the existence of this movie was no more tolerated. It had to wait for another two years to be released: in Poland, no more in Russia.

It is the adaptation of a well-known story written by Tolstoi: I had read it longtime ago, I have found it today on the web and read it again. A passionate story about the tragic paradox of human condition, serving your own demons even when trying to serve God.

A young noble, officer in the Russian imperial army, renounces to everything and goes to the monastery. All his ambition to raise in the ranks of society is converted in ardent desire to approach God. After a long, painful struggle for attending holiness he will succumb to the natural call of flash and find out that ambition never comes from God. At the end the hero will become a foul for the world, a foul for Christ. Will it be the true way this time?

A profoundly religious story about a highly unconventional religious personage - no wonder that the making of this movie would have been impossible in both Tsarist and Soviet Russia.

The director, Yakov Protazanov, was the most important pre-Soviet Russian filmmaker. He made 80 movies between 1911 - 1918. Then he left the country, to come back in 1923. His first Soviet movie was Aelita, in 1924 - a loose adaptation of a SF novel by Aleksey Tolstoi. It is a genial movie. The Soviet censorship hasn't allow its circulation for tens of years. The destiny of great artworks is sometimes very much alike with the life of good Father Sergius: long and painful struggles with horrible adversities.

(Yakov Protazanov)

(Early Movies)



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