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Salient: An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University of Wellington. Vol. 24, No. 5. 1961

Film Society Notes

page 10

Film Society Notes

Ivan Groznii—II, (Ivan The Terrible—Part II—The Boyars' Plot.)

I don't think that the film society could have started this year's programmes with a better one than this. Eisenstein made this part in 1946 but it was banned by the Soviets until 1958. As he was ill from then until the time he died in 1948, it is not likely that he finished Part III of the intended trilogy. This print is all black and white, though overseas critics make mention of Eisenstein's striking use of colour. He used this, magnificently, in the banquet scene where Ivan dresses Vladimir in ceremonial robes. This was the only colour sequence in this part, though we know that he planned to make Part III entirely in colour, and had received Stalin's permission to make it.

The Boyars' Plot deals with the conflict between the Boyars (headed by Boyarina Euphrosinia Staritskaia), the Orthodox Church (under the Metropolitan Philip), and Ivan. The Tsarina Anastasia had already been poisoned by Euphrosinia and now the Boyarina is plotting to destroy Ivan. The murder of some of the Kolichevs by Ivan's henchman results in the Metropolitan's hate and his consequent union with Euphrosinia. Ivan discovers this though, and it is Euphrosinia's son Vladimir who is murdered mistakenly in his place. The film ends with Ivan destroying his enemies and predicting his future course.

The film is notable for its epic proportions and the virtuoso performance by Cherkasov as Ivan. It has a controlled and sure pace which deliberately creates a mood of foreboding and suspense. The composition and settings are equally carefully designed, and Prokofiev's music, especially the choral settings, is imprsesively appropriate.

To quote Liam O'Laoghaire,

"It is impossible to give in a brief review an adequate idea of the rich pictorial quality of the film, the dramatic manipulation of light and texture of setting and costume, the ballet of human figures, the careful orchestration of voice and music and the processional development of images. The magnitude of the film raises it beyond any quibbling."

Don Quixote (U.S.S.R.)

Produced and directed by Grigory Kozintsev in 1957, this version of Cervantes also has Cherkasov in the leading role, with Yuri Tolubeyev as Sancho Panza. Obviously, some selection has to be made in adapting a screenplay from the huge original, but the film does give an agreeably truthful and impressionistic account of some of the adventures of the pair.

I think the opening falters a bit in getting under way, but there is a fine sense of style throughout and an authoritative use of settings and costumes, allied with a beautifully realised reconstruction of the Spanish countryside. Kozintsev has chosen to emphasise the social aspects of the novel, creating a strong illusion of authenticity with his settings of sunbaked earth and stone. The scenes at the Spanish court and in the village stand out, but the famous duel with the windmill and with the Black Knight are quite well handled.

When shown commercially, the film was dubbed—not particularly well either, but we were fortunate in obtaining a subtitled version instead, which thus takes the sting out of the comment made by the reviewer in the Monthly Film Bulletin, when he noted that.

"For Nikolai Cherkasov, the film is a kind of climax to a lifetime's study of the role—it is especially regrettable that the English dubbing has deprived us of an essential part of this richly human characterisation."

Ostatni Etap (The Last Stage), Poland.

This film, made in 1946, has not been commercially screened in New Zealand, as far as I know. The commercial set-up being what it is, it's not likely to be, either.

Directed by Wanda Jakubowska from a script by herself and Gerda Schneider, the film is set in Auschwitz concentration camp, in which one of them suffered during the war. 4,500,000 people died there and this is a moving recapitulation of their experiences. It is one of the most moving films to come out of the Second World War, and was made at Auschwitz itself. A compelling realism is one of the qualities that distinguishes it from all other fictions about concentration camps I've seen.

It was made under the patronage of the Film Board of the United Nations, won a Peace Prize from the World Peace Council, and won the Grand Prix at the Third International Film Festival at Venice. It was also placed on the short list of the British Film Academy for its award.

Arthur Everard.