In case you were wondering, in fact there was a Russian film industry before Sergei Eisenstein, and in fact some pretty good work was done during the Russian Empire before the Revolution(s) that would bring us “Battleship Potemkin” and other memorable silents. The genius of this period was Evgeni Bauer, whose career only lasted from 1913 until his untimely death in June, 1917 (between the February and October revolutions). This movie probably wouldn’t have been approved under either the Leninist or Stalinist regimes, as it tells the story of an innocent young noblewoman whose virtue is endangered by a shifty and deceitful working man, to whom she attempts to provide charity. After she murders him to avenge her honor, she is haunted by his image and unable to relate normally to her handsome suitor, a prince. She tries to tell him but he assures her he doesn’t care about the past, and they are married. When he finally finds out, he shows little sympathy for her situation (much less for the poor dead prole), but appears to regard himself as the true victim. The story may be a bit odd, but the photography is among the best I’ve seen for 1913, with careful composition and excellent set design. The contrast between rich and poor surroundings reminded me of “Fantômas” at times.
Director: Evgeni Bauer
Camera: Nikolai Kozlovsky
Starring: Nina Chernova, A. Ugrjumov, V. Demert
Run Time: 48 Min
You can watch it for free: here.