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Friday, September 12, 2014

A Movie from 1918: The Project of Engineer Prite




Lev Kuleshov was only nineteen in 1918, when he directed his first movie, Проект инженера Прайта (The Project of Engineer Prite). The whole film is no more available, only a partial reconstruction of 30 minutes: disparate scenes, just glimpses in what the original looked like. The action takes place in America, the land of buoyant industry and daring projects, also of big companies led by big shots who kill any idea that does not serve their interests. Kuleshov was from the very beginning a pro-American enthusiast, so no wonder his first movie takes place in the country of his dreams, and anyway in 1918 Soviet Russia was taking industrial America as model, but the big bourgeoisie. Ironically this movie from 1918 offers a paradigm for today's gap between the American society at large and the multinational companies. The main hero is a young engineer (Mack Pright or Prite, whatever) who has developed a revolutionary project that would make electrical energy very cheap: turbines running entirely on peat - simply, reliable, and above all echo-friendly, this film was way ahead its time, isn't it? A power plant is built based on his project and it is about to start functioning. Naturally this would come against the interests of a huge oil company, which leads to intrigue, espionage, sabotage, all that stuff. There is also a bit of love story, as the daughter of oil company's boss is attracted by the young and handsome engineer.

So, we have here a cocktail of political propaganda, enthusiast industrial projects, villain multinational crocks, sabotage, espionage, thriller, love, what else? well, above all it breathes of Kuleshov's enthusiasm for all things American, it shows Kuleshov entirely, his daring cinematic techniques are here in nuce, his further movies can be guessed. He was one of the greatest, and he had an unjust destiny. His apprentices, Eisenstein among them, took over his genial ideas (what else is Eisenstein's intellectual montage other than Kuleshov Effect?) and went further making celebrated films, while Kuleshov, after making some fine movies in the twenties, took low profile and remained a pedagogue for the rest of his life. And decades after, he was rediscovered.


Here are several links to articles discussing the movie:






(Lev Kuleshov)

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