footage and fictional portrayal of the royal family in connection with the tercentenary of the house of Romanov in 1913, and an officially sanctioned 'Imperial Chronicle' (Tsarskaia khronika) beginning in 1907.26
The concerns of Orthodox officials proved true with the release of several movies with strong religious themes beginning in October 1917. On the eve of the Bolshevik ascent to power, a two-part movie entitled Satan triumphant (Satana likuiushchii) successfully played to the general fascination with the occult and possession, as well as broad hostility towards religious extremism and anything German. The exaggerated asceticism of the main character, the Lutheran Pastor Talnox (and in part 11, his son Sandro), is matched by his self-induced sexual suffering as he lusts after his late wife's beautiful sister, with whom he shares a house along with his brother-in-law, a hapless hunchbacked artist. Their uneasy family life is suddenly brought down by the visit one stormy night of none other than Satan himself who wreaks havoc on the household and prods Talnox into seducing his sister-in-law and fathering a child on her.27 The following year, a different sort of religious suffering and destruction of pre-revolutionary social and cultural taboos was the subject of Fr Sergii (Otets Sergii), an adaptation of a Tolstoy tale. This film portrayed Orthodox religious ritual (sympathetically and accurately) in this fictional story about a former prince who takes monastic vows after his beloved becomes the mistress of the tsar. Eventually, the prince takes clerical vows and becomes known as Fr Sergii, a famous religious preacher with a growing stream of admirers, including women who swoon at the sight of his intense eyes and spiritual devotion. When Fr Sergii yields to carnal desires, he imposes a punishment in the form of a self-inflicted wound, leaves the priesthood and becomes a teacher in a peasant school in order to redeem his soul.28
The idealisation of folk culture in popular entertainment was supported by the scholarly disciplines that were emerging in late nineteenth-century Russia. Ethnography in particular placed the researcher's focus on the mundane customs and special traditions of peasant life in an attempt to discover and define the essence of the Russian soul. The resultant cataloguing of objects, behaviours and beliefs paid great attention to piety, especially when it took the
26 Tsivian, Early cinema, 127; R. Taylor, ThepoliticsoftheSovietcinema, 1917-1929 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 10. The Imperial Chronicles were intended both to inform the Russian public of the tsar's official activities and to create official images of the royal family.
27 P. Usai, L. Codelli, Carlo Monatanaro and D. Robinson, Silent witnesses:Russian films, 1908-1919 (Pordenone: Biblioteca dell'immagine, 1989), 422-6.
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