Vsevolod Pudovkin


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7.0 Mother (1926)
5.0 The End of St. Petersburg (1927)
7.0 Storm over Asia (1928)
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Vsevolod Pudovkin fu studente di chimica e di fisica all'Università di Mosca e poi operaio in una fabbrica di armi; a ventisette anni prese la decisione di entrare nel cinema e andò al fronte come operatore di cinegiornale; al ritorno si iscrisse alla scuola di Kulesov e divenne suo assistente, oltre che protagonista di due film (Mistera Vesta e Luc smerti), esordendo alla regia con dei cortometraggi di ricerca scientifica. Pudovkin era convinto che la tecnica del montaggio dovesse essere estesa a tutte le fasi di produzione del film, e in quanto a formalismo superava perciò lo stesso maestro; nutriva invece seri dubbi sull'estetica futurista della macchina, alla quale preferiva l'uomo (nella sua dignità di uomo) e la natura (nella sua idealizzazione di natura); conferiva perciò grande importanza al rapporto fra attore e oggetto (equivalente di un monologo muto, condotto attraverso gesti e sguardi) e a quello fra azione e paesaggio (equivalente a una sorta di prosa documentaria, semplice e piana).

Il cortometraggio Shakhmatnaya Goryachka/ Chess Fever (1925) e` una commedia.

Mat/ Mother (1926), trasposizione del romanzo di Gorkij, iniziò la trilogia sui tipi sociali: in questo caso una vecchia paesana che ha un marito crumiro e ubriacone e un figlio aspirante rivoluzionario, e che attraverso diversi traumi (la morte del marito, l'arresto del figlio a seguito della sua denuncia, l'evasione e infine la morte dello stesso durante un corteo) abbandona il tradizionale atteggiamento passivo e rassegnato e timoroso dell'operaio e del contadino russo e si fa uccidere alla testa del corteo sventolando la bandiera rossa.
Pudovkin si serve di metafore intensamente liriche, come il movimento a onde della folla (un fiume che trascina e distrugge), il doppio diverso olocausto della vecchia quando sacrifica il figlio (per esorcizzare la rivolta) e sé stessa (per far trionfare la rivolta), o la griffithiana fuga sui ghiacci dell'evaso (il vecchio ordine zarista che si oppone all'eroico slancio rivoluzionario). Il messaggio di Pudovkin è lineare, privo di fratture anche quando la vicenda sembra aggrovigliarsi. L'educazione alla coscienza passa attraverso una fase di passiva rassegnazione per non mettere in pericolo le persone e le cose a cui si è affezionati, un trauma conseguente proprio a quest'accanita testarda conservazione, e giunge così alla fase di adesione; l'itinerario morale della madre (un personaggio qualunque del popolo) e poi assunto a emblema per tutto il popolo; Pudovkin estrae la coscienza rivoluzionaria dalla realtà quotidiana, mostrando la connessione fra il destino individuale e la storia collettiva.
The film is a loose adaptation of Maxim Gorky's masterpiece, upon which a revolutionary plot is grafted, and it is memorable mainly for Pudovkin's elegant montage. The story itself is a patriotic melodrama that doesn't stand up to Gorky's masterpiece. Pudovkin is also very good at close-up portraits.

The film opens with images of the mother hard at work in the kitchen, her son Pavel sleeping and her husband Vlasov returning home drunk. The mother tries to stop the father who wants to steal something, the father tries to beat her up, the son grabs a hammer and threatens the father. After work the father and other works head for the local pub. A meeting is taking place at a long table: reactionaries (members of the "Black Hundred" group) are preparing to attack workers if they go on strike. They overhear the drunk and broke Vlasov threaten the bartender for a glass of vodka and offer him the drink for free, thinking that they may need him: Vlasov is big and strong. A young woman asks Pavel to hide the guns of the revolutionaries. Pavel hides the package under the floor while his mother is asleep but his mother wakes up and sees him. A group of workers, including Pavel, meet in the woods to plan the strike while the reactionaries in town check Vlasov's strength. When the group of revolting workers enter the factory compound, the reactionaries lock the gate and surround them. Pavel tries to mediate in vain. The rebels are attacked. The other workers that are witnessing the attack can't help because armed guards send them back into the factory. Pavel escapes and is chased by his own father. Pavel and another worker lock themselves in the pub. Pavel escapes in the woods while the other worker is cornered by the posse. He pulls out a gun and, during the struggle, accidentally shoots and kills Vlasov. The worker is then killed by the posse. Pavel reports back to the young woman. Meanwhile at home his mother found the bag with the guns. Her husband is delivered dead to the house. Soldiers are sent to restore order at the factory. During the wake, an old woman warns the mother that Pavel is to blame and he will cause more trouble. When Pavel finally returns home, he finds his mother mourning in front of the dead father and realizes what has happened. The mother begs Pavel to stop dealing with the revolutionaries. The soldiers enter the house. The commander demands that Pavel delivers leaflets and weapons in order to be forgiven. He refuses to cooperate. The soldiers search the house and find nothing but nonetheless arrest Pavel. His mother gets desperate. She begs Pavel to cooperate and then digs up the weapons herself and gives them to the commander. This only proves Pavel's guilt. Pavel is still arrested. Pavel's trial is a farce. His defense lawyer doesn't even show up and there are no jurors. The rich bourgeois spectators watch with contempt the poor anxious mother sitting in a bench in the back, in tears. Pavel is sentenced to life in a labor camp. Her mother, who is the cause of his arrest, is desperate. When his mother visits him in prison, Pavel realizes that she now works for the revolutionaries. She delivers a message from them: they are planning to storm the prison and free him. It is spring. The ice is melting. The revolutionaries lead a protest march towards the prison. Pavel's mother is among them. The prisoners, who are out for the daily walk, revolt and overwhelm the guards. Pavel has been forbidden to join the walk and is still locked in his cell but manages to attract and overwhelm a guard. Despite heavy fire coming from the guards, the prisoners climb the gate and the walls. Many are killed but many escape. Pavel is chased by the guards to the icy river. While they are shooting at him, he jumps from from floe to floe. The prisoners join the protesters. Pavel hugs his mother. But the joy lasts only a few seconds. The soldiers arrive and start shooting on the crowd, killing scores. Pavel is killed right away in his mother's arms The mother grabs a socialist flag and stands up while the cavalry is charging. She is trampled to death by the horses. Then we see more ice cracking, and factories and churches from various odd angles, and finally the flag waving on top of the government building.

Il tipo scelto per Konets Sankt-Peterburga/ The End of St. Petersburg (1927) è un giovane contadino affamato e ignorante (senza nome) che si trasferisce dagli zii a Pietroburgo e si impiega in una fabbrica; denuncia lo zio che ha organizzato uno sciopero, ma poi picchia il direttore e viene spedito al fronte; a Ottobre è nelle file dei bolscevichi. L'andamento è il medesimo di Mat: prende l'avvio da un tradimento familiare a fin di bene e termine con la Rivoluzione.
This was one of the three films made to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Revolution, with Eisenstein's October and Boris Barnet's Moscow in October. It is a rather dull film. The war scenes are not particularly interesting and too much of the film seems intent only on gratifying the regime. Some sections are pretty boring, amateurish patriotic propaganda.

The film opens in the poor countryside, with windmills in an arid land. Two peasants are sharing a piece of bread. At home a woman is collapsing. Her little son runs to alert one of the two men. A baby is born. Nobody is happy: another mouth to feed. Two paesants protect their face from a sandstorm. Meanwhile in the capital of the czars a capitalist inspects a factory where workers work in awful conditions, treated like slaves despite the wealth of the stock market. The capitalist demands longer work hours. Back in the countryside two poor peasants, an old woman and her son, walk a long distance to reach the city and look for an acquaintance, hoping that the young man can get a job. The "uncle" (the village friend) works in the factory where some workers are calling for a strike after being informed that the work hours must be increased. When the man comes home with other coworkers and tells his wife that they are on strike, she gets angry. She then tells the young man that they can't feed him. The workers discuss the strike and the young man overhears that they stopped working. The capitalist easily replaces the striking workers with starving peasants. The young man joins them. He is immediately hired and is happy. The striking workers watch in dismay as the scabs walk into the factory. The young man is overheard discussing what he heard at his "uncle"'s place and detained to provide details about the organizers. He leads the police to the home and all the conspirators get arrested. The factory manager rewards the young man. The wives of the arrested workers look down on him, a traitor. The young man, remorseful, walks into the offices of the manager and demands that his "uncle" be released. The young man loses his temper and throws the manager to the floor. He wreaks havoc demanding to the taken to the owner in person but he only manages to get arrested. That night World War I begins. Politicians comment that the war saved Russia from a revolution because now people are focused on winning the war. The police chief decrees that the young man has to enroll in the army as a "volunteer". Soldiers die in the trenches while capitalists make money in the stock market. Meanwhile at home people are starving. Then the revolution starts and the czar is deposed. We see the rich bourgeois crying. The "uncle" is one of the leaders of the revolution. Soldiers come to arrest him while he went out to buy tobacco but his wife warns him in time for him to escape. The troops are recalled from the front to defend the new government from the communists who want to overthrow it. The young man is one of them and assists his "uncle" when he addresses the troops asking them to mutiny and join the communists. The communists then storm the government palace. The wife of "uncle" wanders around the city looking for her husband. In the streets she finds the young man, wounded, and feeds him. Then she enters the palace and finds her husband among the revolutionaries who conquered it. The city has been renamed from St Petersburg to Leningrad.

La prosa realista di Pudovkin rifugge dall'epica di massa di Ejzenstein, così come la sua pacata dimostrazione è lontana dalla dialettica conflittuale della Potëmkin. L'individuo di Pudovkin è comunque niente di più che un campione statistico, per cui il dramma dell'individuo è sostituito dal dramma della Storia. Il montaggio di questo film non è costruttivo come in Mat, ma piuttosto una collisione di eventi, con inserti quasi giornalistici e scene simboliche.

Più complessa invece la vicenda di Potomok Chingiskhana/ The Heir to Genghis Khan/ Storm over Asia (1928) che ha per protagonista un pastore Mongolo unitosi ai partigiani per combattere gli Inglesi. In uno stile quasi documentario degli ampi suggestivi e primordiali paesaggi asiatici (il corrispondente sovietico delle praterie e dei deserti del western) e dei costumi delle tribù mongole (corrispondente dei pellirosse), Pudovkin ha diretto il più epico dei suoi film, sempre fedele peraltro al tema dell'educazione morale attraverso l'asservimento e la ribellione. Il film conclude la trilogia che si proponeva di mostrare le cause e i motivi della Rivoluzione attraverso dei casi esemplari.
The film is a Brecht-ian apologue, dressed with tropes of both the western movie and of the horror movie. The ethnographic scenes may be interesting as historical documents but last a bit too long. The British occupation of Southeastern Siberia, Northern Tibet and Mongolia is purely fictional (it was China that occupied Mongolia).

In 1918 the descendants of Genghis Khan in Mongolia are simple herdsmen and trappers who live in tents in the cold and desolate steppe. An old man is dying in a tent, assistend by a Buddhist priest, when traders come to pick him up for the market. The old man cannot do the journey but send the son to sell his precious furs. Then we see ethnographic scenes of Mongols performing traditional dances at the market. A wealthy European trader, protected by soldiers, is informed of the young man's precious furs. The transaction attracts a lot of onlookers. The European takes the fur but pays very little for it. The young man attacks him. The European comically falls to the floor. Everybody flees in panic. His accountant attacks the young man and gets wounded. The young man flees too. The Europeans want revenge and call the army. Panic spreads in the market. The soldiers threaten to punish the entire population if the "criminal" does not surrender. An old man advises the young man to hide in the snowy mountains. He walks over ice deep into the tundra where nobody lives. Fast forward to 1920. Communist partisans are being chased by the British army. The former young trader saves the life of a partisan and then joins the fight against the British. He is amazed when he sees a woman breast-feeding a baby. The others laugh at his amazement. But everybody mourns when their chief dies. While the rebels hide in the wilderness, the British live a nice life in the capital. We see the British governor and his wife getting dressed with grand pomp at the same time that the Buddhist lama is being dressed in his traditional costume. While the governor and his wife are escorted to the temple for an official diplomatic meeting with the lama, a British official is charged with confiscating cattle from the herdsmen. We see the lengthy ceremony at the temple, where the governor is introduced to a child considered the reincarnation of the lama, while we see the raid of the British on the herdsmen. In the middle of the ceremony the governor is warned that communists are ambushing the British on the roads. He is rushed away in a car and escorted by the cavalry. Meanwhile, during the raid his troops have arrested communists and the young Mongol with them. They confiscate his amulet. The governor calls him "an animal" and orders him executed. The soldier charged with executing him is reluctant but must obey. A curious officer analyzes the amulet and discovers a document inside it, written in an ancient language. Meanwhile, the soldier takes the young Mongol, who keeps smiling at him, to a hill and reluctantly shoots him, as commanded. The Mongol falls into a ravine. The soldier stares unhappy. A missionary identifies the ancient language and realizes that the document is of historical value: it identifies the bearer as the heir of Genghis Khan. The governor orders that the young Mongol be brought back to him, but it seems to be too late. The soldiers rush to the ravine the Mongol has fallen. Luckily, the soldier missed and the Mongol is still alive. The governor's idea is to exploit the fact that the name of Genghis Khan still exerts power on the Mongol population. The British operate the badly wounded Mongol and save his life. When he recovers enough to speak, although still bandaged in the head and the leg, three British journalists spread the word that the heir to Genghis Khan has been found. Some time later, healed although still limping, the Mongol is dressed up like a British gentleman and introduced to society. The British governor intends to appoint him head of a puppet government. Coincidentally, the British trader who cheated the Mongol of the precious fur arrives just then, carrying that very fur as a gift for a woman. The Mongol recognizes the fur and grabs it from the woman. The British trader attacks him and again demands revenge, but the British governor is not willing to sacrifice his creature and instead accuses the British trader of having insulted and attacked a British ally. The British governor prepares a treaty by which the new Mongol ruler will grant Britain all that Britain desires. Since they need to claim that they have no Mongol prisoners, the governor orders a Mongol prisoner to be executed. The prisoner escapes inside the palace and is shot dead just in the room where they are signing the treaty with the new Khan. The new Khan snaps and attacks the killer. The soldiers try in vain to stop him. He grabs a sword, calls the British "thieves" and "bandits", and vandalizes the building before escaping. We then see him leading leading the final charge of the partisans against the British soldiers while a storm rages around them, collapsing trees and sweeping away the British soldiers like dead leaves.

L'avvento del sonoro e l'irrigidimento stalinista operarono una profonda trasformazione del regista, che passò a dirigere film didattici come Prostoy Sloochay/ A Simple Case (1932) e Dezertir/ The Deserter (1933), sulla diserzione morale di un comunista tedesco che trova asilo in Unione Sovietica abbandonando così i compagni in lotta nella sua patria.

He directed the historical epics Pobyeda/ Victory (1938) and Minin i Pozharskiy/ Minin and Pozharsky (1939), as well as the biopics Suvorov (1941) and Admiral Nakhimov (1947).

Soltanto nel 1953, dopo un ventennio in cui aveva dato le sue migliori prove come attore (Ivan Groznij), con Vozvrashshyeniye Vasiliya Bortnikova/ The Return of Vasili Bortnikov ritornò ai temi umanisti dei suoi capolavori muti, narrando di un reduce che trova la moglie sposata a un altro e fatica a inserirsi anche nel kolchoz.

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