Lost in the Leningrad archives for seven decades, one of the newly-discovered treasures of Russian silent film makes its debut at Pushkin House. Writer and film historian Peter Bagrov will give a guided tour of the context, as well as the potent emotional content of Yevgeny Cherviakov’s forgotten masterpiece, My Son (Sovkino, 1928).
In 1928, right when silent filmmaking was at its zenith in Russia, a well-regarded director released a showstopper. Yevgeny Cherviakov’s colleagues and contemporaries held up his work as the ‘model of poetic cinema’. But as the ideological stranglehold tightened, and the film industry adopted ‘intellectual cinema’ as its mantra, the furore soon died down. Refusing to propagate ideas, Cherviakov stuck by what he saw as his cinematic calling: “to show, by means of cinema, anger, love, despair, jealousy – in short, the entire complex of emotional phenomena that is called ‘human passions’. To show it outside any historical, everyday life (bytovye), industrial or any other accessories”.
All of Cherviakov’s work was presumed lost, until a recent and wholly unexpected discovery in Buenos Aires, unearthed My Son.
My Son is a film that charts, distils and presents the pure, irrational feelings of a man who finds out his newborn son is not his own. The conventional drama is handled in a fresh and thoroughly unconventional way: emotions that are impossible to describe and pin down are passed on directly and ingeniously to the audience, so they experience a taste of the same.
As well as zooming in on the details of the depiction through film of unfathomable feelings, Peter Bagrov gives insight into the film’s wider significance, it’s place in the cultural context both of the 1920s when it was made, and meaning of its subsequent discovery and re-introduction to audiences today.
Peter Bagrov is a widely published film historian, currently Senior Curator of the Gosfilmfond of Russia. Formerly he lectured on the History of Russian Cinema at the St. Petersburg University of Film and Television. He has travelled widely talking on the lesser-known aspects of Soviet cinema, and has published a large number of books and articles on a wide variety of film-related subjects.