Alternate Titles: Gryosi, Грёзы
Evgeni Bauer presages “Vertigo” with this film about death, identity, grief, and madness. A man is suffering due to the recent death of his young wife, and lops off a piece of her corpse’s hair to remember her by. Inconsolable, he wanders the streets aimlessly, until he spots a woman who is her exact double. He follows her to a theater, and watches the performance, in which she plays the part of a ghost in a cemetery. He reaches out to her, distracting the audience from the performance, then goes after her backstage, finding out where she lives. He visits her with flowers, and she receives his warm attentions with mutual interest. He tells his friend that his has found happiness again, then to his surprise his new love begins a flirtation with the friend! Unable to bear the contradictions between the ghost of his wife and the reality of the actress lookalike, he descends into madness, which is aggravated by cruel taunts from the woman. By the end, driven to the breaking point, he snaps when she starts using the lock of hair as a prop in a jest at his expense.
So, we’ve got another Bauer movie from 1915, and as usual, it’s fascinating. We get the usual highly decorated Bauer sets, shot as usual from a 30-degree angle, with cutting to close-ups within scenes, and use of depth and camera movement. We also get some really nice location shots of a Russian city (I’m guessing Moscow or Petrograd, but I haven’t found a definite answer), including a very interesting tracking shot that follows the main character down the street, then halts as the woman passes, then tracks backward when he turns to follow her. From the motion, I’m guessing that this was done from an automobile, running at very low speed. The other visually interesting sequence is the theater, which includes a large number of extras (at least twenty to thirty), who are seen from front and back. They appear to be “in on” the movie, and keep to character, while some of the passersby on the street stop to stare at the camera. The theater sequence involved several camera angles, and used stage effects to show ghosts rising from the grave and smoke. The “real” ghost of Elena is represented through double exposures, ala Méliès, and sometimes shows up while her double is on the screen. It’s overall a fairly economical production, with much of the action taking place in the main character’s living room, but nevertheless surprises with its advanced techniques.
As far as the story goes, I think it may translate to modern audiences better than “The 1002nd Ruse” or “Twilight of a Woman’s Soul.” The actress seems a bit too shamelessly wanton and cruel to be believed, but I’m inclined to read this as being seen from the perspective of a man whose perceptions are distorted by grief and madness. He, after all, is demanding that she re-fashion herself to “be” his dead wife, when she is clearly her own person with her own motivations and interests. Not the most reasonable way to establish or maintain a love affair. No doubt at a certain point she feels the need to reassert her own identity, and to demand to be treated as her own person. And who would love someone who was constantly moping around about his dead wife? This is somewhat strengthened by the fact that the actor (Alexander Wyrubow, who as far as I know never worked in movies again) is rather a ham, over-acting when sulking, reaching out for his new interest, and when “going mad” with jealousy. It works for the story of someone with a tenuous grip on reality, but also seems to emphasize why the actress isn’t thrilled with her new relationship.
Director: Evgeni Bauer
Camera: Boris Zavelev
Cast: Alexander Wyrubow, N. Chernobaeva
Run Time: 33 Min
You can watch it for free: here.