Drama in a Gypsy Camp near Moscow (1908)
Alternate Title: Drama v tabore podmoskovnykh tsygan
This very short Russian movie came out shortly after “Stenka Razin,” and was produced by Drankov’s major future competitor, Alexander Khanzhokov. It in no way compares. Where “Stenka Razin” is based on a song familiar to audiences, this one seems to have been improvised on the spot. Where the first movie is grand and operatic, this comes off as silly. It claims to have been made in an actual gypsy camp and to be performed exclusively by gypsies, but this authenticity doesn’t help its rushed awkwardness. The one thing I will say for it is that, shot entirely outside in fields and on a cliffside, it has some of the feel of an early American Western, in that it shows off the countryside better than the characters. The story is of an attempt of a gypsy man to woo his intended love. When she resists, he pulls out a knife and stabs her. Then he becomes remorseful and hurls himself from a cliff. The camera is generally placed quite far from the action, and there are only a few setups. There is actually one pan which follows the two characters through the camp, allowing us a good view of all the sleeping gypsies as they sneak off for a rendezvous, but this actually also undermines the “realism” because we can see what look like tourists walking through the wood in the background, making it all too clear that it is actually day. Another “blooper” occurs when we see an ostensibly dead body move in reaction to the people crowding around it. Film making was very new, of course, and the rules were not yet established, so it is interesting to see how the director attempted to create a story, but evidently this movie was a financial failure even with Russian audiences of the day, who were already accustomed to more sophisticated fair from France and other points in Europe.
Director: Vladimir Siversen
Camera: Vladimir Siversen
Run Time: 2 Min, 18 seconds
You can watch it for free: here.