Art Director. Nationality: Hungarian. Born: Austria-Hungary, 1890. Education: Attended Fine Arts Academy, Budapest. Career: Entered films in mid-1920s, working with both the formalist group FEKS (mainly for Kozintsev and Trauberg), and for the realist group KEM (especially for Ermler). Died: In 1971.
Films as Art Director:
Mishki protiv Youdenitsa (Mishka against Yudenich) (Kozintsev and Trauberg); V tylu u belych (Tchaikovsky and Rachimanova); Napoleon-Gaz (Timoshenko)
Severnoe siianie (Mirage in the North) (Foregger); Katka bumazhnyi ranet (Katka's Reinette Apple) (Johanson and Ermler); Chyortovo koleso (The Devil's Wheel) Kozintsev and Trauberg); Shinel (The Cloak) (Kozintsev and Trauberg)
S.V.D. (Soyuz Velikogo Dela; The Club of the Big Deed) (Kozintsev and Trauberg); Bratichka (Little Brother) (Kozintsev and Trauberg); Chiuzoi pidzak (Schpiss)
Devushka s dalekoi reki (The Girl from the Distant River) (Chervyakov) (co); Dom v sugribakh (The House in the Snow-Drifts) (Ermler)
Oblomok imperii (Fragment of an Empire) (Kozintsev and Trauberg); Novyi Vavilon (The New Babylon) (Kozintsev and Trauberg); Flag nazii (Flags of Nations) (Schmidgof) (co); Chornyi parus (The Black Sail) (Yutkevich)
Dvadzatdva neshchastia (22 Misfortunes) (Gerasimov and Bartenev)
Odna (Alone) (Kozintsev and Trauberg)
Ich puti razoshchlis (Federov); Snaiper (Timoshenko)
Yunost Maksima (The Youth of Maxim) (Kozintsev and Trauberg)
Vozvrashcheniye Maksima (The Return of Maxim) (Kozintsev and Trauberg)
Vyborgskaya Storona (The Vyborg Side) (Kozintsev and Trauberg)
Pirogov (Kozintsev (co); Zhizn v tsitadel (Life in the Citadel) (Rappaport) (co)
Academician Ivan Pavlov (Roshal) (co)
Jambul (Dzigan) (co)
Ovod (The Gadfly) (Fainzimmer)
Prostiye lyudi (Simple People) (Kozintsev and Trauberg—produced 1945) (co)
Don Cesar de Bazan (Shapiro); Don Quixote (Kozintsev)
Den pervyi (The First Day) (Ermler)
Hamlet (Kozintsev) (co)
Katerina Izmailova (Shapiro)
Karol Lear (King Lear) (Kozintsev)
On ENEI: articles—
Soviet Film (Moscow), no. 10, 1970.
Silaneva, T. A., in Designers of the Soviet Cinema, Moscow, 1972 (text partly in English).
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Yevgeni Enei's career extended from the mid-1920s to 1971, and he combined in his work the delightful eccentricity and wonderment of the early filmmakers Kozinstev and Trauberg with the later dedication to Soviet psychological realism of Ermler and the Kozinstev-Trauberg team in the 1930s. His brilliance was revealed in the striking sets for The New Babylon: the fantastic department store of the Paris Commune of 1870 perfectly matches Kozinstev and Trauberg's extravagant political views. Working again with the cinematographer Andrei Moskvin on Kozinstev and Trauberg's Alone, he used a variety of white tones in close collaboration with the cinematography. Later in his career, he proved adept at providing rather solid biographical films, such as Pirogov. The New Yorker called Don Quixote one of the most beautiful color compositions ever assembled in a film. Enei maximized the potential and richness of color film while successfully avoiding a garishly unrestrained palette of hues. Shot in the Crimea under a scathing sun, the film enjoys a landscape of chalky white that serves as a perfect backdrop against which to silhouette the characters of the knight errant, his devoted companion, and those whom the two encounter. In the film, art direction provides Enei with a means of communicating character; for example, the stark black cloaks and stiff white ruffles perfectly frame the cold, arrogant faces of the aristocrats at the duke's court, while costuming for the ragged don heightens both his tragedy and his absurdity. Don Quixote is considered by most to be the best of the Soviet offerings in the State Department's U.S.-U.S.S.R. Cultural Exchange Agreement of that year.
Enei shared excellent company in developing Hamlet. Grigori Kozinstev, not only a talented director but also a respected Shakespeare scholar, both directed and wrote the script, based on poet Boris Pasternak's admired Russian translation. In addition, the film is supported by composer Dmitri Shostakovich's turbulent, foreboding musical score. Visual spectacle supports the film's epic tone and features impressive black-and-white tableaux that are nothing short of visual poetry. Exterior shots are of a funereal grayness with chiaroscuro reminiscent of Russian film patriarch Sergei Eisenstein. Interior scenes, by contrast, contain warm lighting amid labyrinthine stone corridors where courtiers adorned with courtly robes, furs, and elegant raiment course a doomed path. Beyond the excellent costuming, settings contribute to the quality of the picture. Above a violent, storm-lashed sea is poised upon a cliff of forbidding rocks an ancient, turreted castle (a real castle located in Estonia). Visual imagery is carefully composed and powerfully displayed. For example, riders on horseback seem winged with the fluttering of capes and soldiers hurtling over the castle's drawbridge provide potent spectacle. Fortinbras's troops replete with artillery—hundreds of cavalry and pikemen covering miles of bleak landscape—make their way toward the Baltic coastline. Period accuracy was ensured with the use of actual sixteenth- and seventeenth-century weapons and authentic armor lent to the film by Leningrad's Hermitage. Enei's attention to detail is evident throughout Hamlet, as is characteristic of his work in general. The portrait of the royal court is one teeming not only with royalty, courtiers, soldiers, and ladies but also with stable boys, cooks, fishmongers, and peasants—giving the film a social context generally absent from previous interpretations of the play. A final example of Enei's meticulous art direction is evidenced in Polonius's death scene. When Prince Hamlet kills the Lord Chamberlain in his mother's bed chamber, the old man falls, tearing down a curtain to expose rows of mannequins draped in the queen's finery. The film's social consciousness continues to the final climactic scene. The choice to set Hamlet's death beyond the walls of the brooding castle provides the film with an opportunity to reveal how the microcosm impacts the macrocosm, how the world of the king affects the lives of the people. Hundreds of peasants stood witness to the death of their prince.
Enei worked again with Kozinstev in producing another Shakespeare classic, King Lear. It is useful to contrast Kozinstev's Lear with Britain's Peter Brook's version of the same play, filmed the same year. Indeed, the two directors corresponded and shared production notes. Brook's version has been criticized as being visually dead, a nightmare vision of emptiness serving as a symbol for the meaninglessness and hopelessness of the universe. The play itself is certainly grim enough; however, Kozinstev and Enei manage not to lose themselves in morbidity and despair. As is his custom, Enei gives careful attention to the films accouterments, which are tactilely rich despite a stark, at times even sterile backdrop. Costumes and sets are appropriate both to the subject and to the emotional content of each scene.
Enei's most famous works, however, are the two Maxim films he made for Kozinstev and Trauberg in the mid-1930s. This outstanding fictional sequence, so rooted in reality that millions of viewers in the Soviet Union believed it represented the life of a real man, had a precedent in Ermler's silent Fragment of an Empire, described by Paul Rotha as "the epitome of the Soviet sociological propaganda film." The Maxim films do more than put words and sounds to a silent sociological biography: the disparate images that Maxim encounters in his early life, the amazing views of the city, always from Maxim's perspective, suggest the way a mind actually thinks and grows.
—Carrie D. O'Neill