Pudovkin, Vsevolod

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PUDOVKIN, Vsevolod

Nationality: Russian. Born: Vsevolod Illarionovitch Pudovkin in Penza, 16 February 1893. Education: Educated in physics and chemistry, Moscow University; entered State Cinema School, 1920. Military Service: Enlisted in artillery, 1914; wounded and taken prisoner, 1915; escaped and returned to Moscow, 1918. Family: Married actress and journalist Anna Zemtsova, 1923. Career: Worked as writer and chemist, 1919–20; worked on agit films, 1920–21; student at Lev Kuleshov's studio, from 1922; quit State Cinema Institute to join Kuleshov's Experimental Laboratory, 1923; began collaboration with cinematographer Anatoly Golovnia and scriptwriter Nathan Zarkhi, 1925; with Alexandrov, signed Eisenstein's "Manifesto on Audio-Visual Counterpoint," 1928; travelled to England and Holland, 1929; joined Communist Party, 1932; after car accident, taught theoretic studies at V.G.I.K., 1935; joined Mosfilm studios, 1938. Awards: Order of Lenin, 1935. Died: In Riga, 30 June 1953.

Films as Director:


Golod . . . golod . . . golod (Hunger . . . Hunger . . . Hunger) (co-d, co-sc, role)


Shakhmatnaya goryachka (Chess Fever) (co-d) Mekhanikha golovnovo mozga (Mechanics of the Brain) (+ sc); Mat (Mother)


Konyets Sankt-Peterburga (The End of St. Petersburg)


Potomok Chingis-khan (The Heir to Genghis-Khan; StormOver Asia)


Prostoi sluchai (A Simple Case) (revised version of Otchenkharacho dziviosta (Life's Very Good); first screened in 1930)


Dezertir (Deserter)


Pobeda (Victory) (co-d)


Minin i Pozharsky (co-d)


Kino za XX liet (Twenty Years of Cinema) (co-d, co-ed)


Suvorov (co-d); Pir v Girmunka (Feast at Zhirmunka) (co-d) (for "Fighting Film Album")


Ubitzi vykhodyat na dorogu (Murderers Are on Their Way) (co-d, co-sc)


Vo imya rodini (In the Name of the Fatherland) (co-d)


Amiral Nakhimov (Admiral Nakhimov)


Tri vstrechi (Three Encounters) (co-d)


Yukovsky (co-d)


Vozvrachenia Vassilya Bortnikov (The Return of VasiliBortnikov)

Other Films:


V dni borbi (In the Days of Struggle) (role)


Serp i molot (Sickle and Hammer) (asst d, role)


Slesar i kantzler (Locksmith and Chancellor) (co-sc)


Neobychainye priklucheniya Mistera Vesta v stranye bolshevikov (Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in theLand of the Bolsheviks) (Kuleshov) (co-sc, asst, role as the "Count")


Luch smerti (The Death Ray) (Kuleshov) (design, role); Kirpitchiki (Little Bricks) (role)


Zhivoi trup (A Living Corpse) (role as Feodor Protassov)


Vessiolaia kanareika (The Cheerful Canary) (role as the illusionist); Novyi vavilon (The New Babylon) (Kozintsev and Trauberg) (role as shop assistant)


Ivan Grozny (Ivan the Terrible) (Eisenstein) (role as Nikolai the fanatic)


By PUDOVKIN: books—

Film Technique, translated by Ivor Montagu, London, 1933.

Film-Acting, translated by Ivor Montagu, London, 1935.

Film Technique and Film Acting, New York, 1949.

Textes choisis, Moscow, 1955.

Sobranie sochinenii v trekh tomakh, Moscow, 1974.

By PUDOVKIN: articles—

"Scénario et mise en scène," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), 1 Septem-ber 1930.

"Poudovkine parle du montage," with René Lévy, in Revue duCinéma (Paris), 1 December 1931.

"A Conversation with V.I. Pudovkin," with Marie Seton, in Sightand Sound (London), Spring 1933.

"The Global Film," in Hollywood Quarterly, July 1947.

"Two Conversations with Pudovkin," with C.H. Waddington, in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1948/49.

"Stanislavsky's System in the Cinema," in Sight and Sound (Lon-don), January/March 1953.

On PUDOVKIN: books—

Bryher, Winifred, Film Problems of Soviet Russia, London, 1929.

Yezuitov, N., Poudovkine, "Pouti Tvortchestva," "Les Voies de lacréation," Moscow, 1937.

Mariamov, A., Vsevolod Pudovkin, Moscow, 1952.

Leyda, Jay, Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film, Lon-don, 1960.

Schnitzer, Luda and Jean, Vsevolod Poudovkine, Paris, 1966.

Amengual, Barthélemy, V.I. Poudovkine, Premier Plan, Lyon, 1968.

Dart, Peter, Pudovkin's Films and Film Theory, New York, 1974.

Marshall, Herbert, Masters of the Soviet Cinema: Crippled CreativeBiographies, London, 1983.

Masi, Stefano, Vsevolod I. Pudovkin, Florence, 1985.

Taylor, Richard, and Ian Christie, editors, The Film Factory: Russianand Soviet Cinéma in Documents 1896–1939, London, 1988.

On PUDOVKIN: articles—

Potamkin, Harry, "Pudovkin and the Revolutionary Film," in Houndand Horn (New York), April/June 1933.

Rotha, Paul, "Pabst, Pudovkin, and the Producers," in Sight andSound (London), Summer 1933.

Leyda, Jay, "Index to the Creative Work of Vsevolod Pudovkin," in Sight and Sound (London), November 1948.

Sadoul, Georges, "Un Humaniste et un lyrique," in Les LettresFrançaises (Paris), 9 July 1953.

"Pudovkin Issue" of Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), August/Septem-ber 1953.

Weinberg, Herman, "Vsevolod Pudovkin," in Films in Review (New York), August/September 1953.

Wright, Basil, "V.I. Pudovkin: 1893–1953," in Sight and Sound (London), October/December 1953.

Herring, Robert, "Film Image—Pudovkin," in Cinemage (New York), May 1955.

Bizet, Jacques-André, "Les Théories du langage et de l'expression filmiques selon Poudovkine," in Le Cinéma Pratique (Paris), September/October and November/December 1966 and March 1967.

"Pudovkin Issue" of Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), February 1973.

Hudlin, E., "Film Language: Pudovkin and Eisenstein and Russian Formalism," in Journal of Aesthetic Education (Urbana, Illinois), no. 2, 1979.

Burns, P.E., "Linkage: Pudovkin's Classics Revisited," in Journal ofPopular Film and Television (Washington, D.C.), Summer 1981.

Weber, A., "Les deux dernier mousquetaires: Poudovkine et Eisenstein," in CinémAction (Conde-sur-Noireau), November 1982.

Pudovkin Section of Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), February 1983.

Kepley, Vance, Jr., "Pudovkin and the Classical Hollywood Tradi-tion," in Wide Angle (Athens, Ohio), vol. 7, no. 3, 1985.

Jurenev, R., "Neskol'ko povsednevnyh vstrec," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), August 1985.

Hogenkamp. Bert, "De russen komen! Poedowkin, Eisenstein en Wertow in Nederland," in Skrien (Amsterdam), November/December 1985.

Castoro Cinema (Milan), no. 118, 1985.

Amengual, B., "1917–1934. Les Soviétiques: Koulechov, Poudovkine, Vertov, Eisenstein, la FEKS," in CinémAction (Conde-sur-Noireau), July 1991.

Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), no. 12, December 1991.

Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), special section, no. 11, November 1993.

Kepley, Vance, Jr., "Pudovkin, Socialist Realism, and the Classical Hollywood Style," in Journal of Film and Video (Atlanta), vol. 47, no. 4, Winter 1995–96.

* * *

Vsevolod Pudovkin's major contribution to the cinema is as a theorist. He was fascinated by the efforts of his teacher, the filmmaker Lev Kuleshov, in exploring the effects of montage. As Pudovkin eventually did in his own work, Kuleshov often created highly emotional moments by rapidly intercutting shots of diverse content. Of course, the results could be manipulated. In The End of St. Petersburg, for instance, Pudovkin mixed together shots of stock market speculation with those depicting war casualties. Occasionally, Pudovkin's images are uninspired: the above sequence looks static, even simplistic, today. Nevertheless, while other filmmakers may have advanced this technique, Pudovkin was one of the first to utilize it in a narrative.

Pudovkin's essays on film theory, "The Film Scenario" and "Film Director and Film Material," remain just as valuable as any of his works; these texts have become primers in film technique. Pudovkin wrote that it is unnecessary for a film actor to overperform or overgesture as he might in the theater. He can underplay in a film because the director or editor, via montage, is able to communicate to the viewer the pervading feeling in the shots surrounding the actor. Meanwhile, the actor may concentrate on his or her internal emotions, transmitting the truths of the character in a more subtle manner.

Beyond this, contended Pudovkin, an actor on screen is at the mercy of his director. The performer could be directed to cry without knowing his character's motivations; the shots placed around him will pass along the cause of his grief. A non-actor could even be made to give a realistic performance as a result of perceptive editing. Pudovkin often integrated his casts with both actors and non-actors; the latter were utilized when he felt the need for realism was greater than the need for actors with the ability to perform. In Chess Fever, a two-reel comedy, Pudovkin even edited in shots of Jose Raoul Capablanca, a famous chess master, to make him seem an active participant in the scenario. As the filmmaker explained, "the foundation of film art is editing." He noted that "the film is not shot, but built up from separate strips of celluloid that are its raw material."

Pudovkin's first significant credit, The Death Ray, was directed by Kuleshov. But he designed the production, wrote the scenario, assisted his teacher, and acted in the film. Before the end of the 1920s, he completed his three great silent features, which remain his best-remembered films: Mother, The End of St. Petersburg, and The Heir to Genghis-Khan. While they were each concerned with various aspects of the Revolution, they are not totally propagandistic: each film deals with human involvements, conflicts, and the effect that ideas and actions have on the lives of those involved. This is illustrated perfectly in Mother, based on a Maxim Gorky novel. Set during the 1905 Revolution, the film chronicles the plight of the title character (Vera Baranovskaya), who accidently causes her politically active worker son (Nikolai Batalov) to be sentenced to prison. Eventually, Batalov is shot during an escape attempt and Baranovskaya, whose political consciousness has been raised, is trampled to death by the cavalry attacking a workers' protest.

Baranovskaya also appears in The End of St. Petersburg, filmed to mark the tenth anniversary of the 1917 Revolution. The work centers on the political education of an inexperienced young peasant (Ivan Chuvelyov). This film is significant in that it is one of the first to satisfactorily blend a fictional scenario into a factual setting. Typically, Pudovkin cast real pre-Revolution stockbrokers and executives as stockbrokers and executives.

The Heir to Genghis-Khan (more commonly known as Storm over Asia) is not as successful as the others, but is still worthy of note. The film, set in Central Asia, details the activities of partisan revolutionaries and the English army of occupation in Mongolia (called the White Russian army in foreign prints). It focuses on a young Mongol trapper (Valeri Inkizhinov) whose fate is not dissimilar to that of Pudovkin's other heroes and heroines: he is radicalized by unfolding events after he is cheated out of a prized fox fur by a European merchant.

Pudovkin continued making films after the advent of sound. A Simple Case, revised from his silent Life's Very Good, was scheduled to be the Soviet cinema's first sound feature; instead, the honor went to Nikolai Ekk's The Road to Life. Pudovkin was not content to just add sound to his scenarios. His initial talkie was Deserter, in which he experimented with speech patterns: by editing in sound, he contrasted the conversational dialogue of different characters with crowd noises, traffic sounds, sirens, music, and even silence. But Pudovkin did not abandon his concern for visuals: Deserter contains approximately three thousand separate shots, an unusually high number for a feature film.

Pudovkin did make other sound films. His Minin and Pozharsky, released at the beginning of World War II, takes place in the seventeenth century, when Moscow was controlled by King Sigismund; it was the first major Soviet film to depict Poland as an invader. Nevertheless, his cinematic language is essentially one that is devoid of words, relying instead on visual components.

—Rob Edelman