Solntseva, Yulia (1901–1989)

views updated

Solntseva, Yulia (1901–1989)

Russian actress and director . Name variations: Iuliia Ippolitovna Solntseva; Yuliya Solntseva. Born on August 7, 1901, in Moscow, Russia; died in October 1989; studied philosophy at Moscow University; graduated from the State Institute of Music and Drama in Moscow; married Aleksandr Dovzhenko, in 1927 (died 1956).

Filmography (as actress):

Aelita (1924); Cigarette-Girl from Mosselprom (1924); Earth/Soil (1930).

Filmography (as director):

Shchors (1939); Liberation (1940); Bucovina-Ukrainian Land (1940); The Battle for Our Soviet Ukraine (Ukraine in Flames, 1943); Victory in the Ukraine and the Expulsion of the Germans from the Boundaries of the Ukrainian Soviet Earth (1945); Life in Bloom (1948); Egor Bulytchev and Others (1953); Unwilling Inspectors (Reluctant Inspectors, 1955); Poem of the Sea (Poem of an Inland Sea, 1958); Story of the Turbulent Years (The Flaming Years or Chronicle of Flaming Years, 1961); The Enchanted Desna (1965); The Unforgettable (Ukraine in Flames, 1968); The Golden Gate (1969); Such High Mountains (1974); The World in Three Dimensions (1979).

Born in Moscow in 1901, Yulia Solntseva was considered one of the most beautiful actresses of the Soviet Union's post-Revolution years. According to Oksana Bulgakova in Lynne Attwood's Red Women on the Silver Screen, the melodramas in which these beautiful actresses starred did not disappear after the Revolution, rather they "underwent their own socialist revolution" and became vehicles for revealing social evils or Western decadence. Solntseva gained fame in 1924 when she performed the title role of the barely dressed Martian princess in Yakov Protazanov's science-fiction melodrama Aelita, and as the cigarette girl in Yuri Zhelyabuzhsky's Cigarette-Girl from Mosselprom. Her role in the latter, that of a beauty who becomes a film actress and falls in love with a cinematographer, suggests Rob Edelman, was a re-enactment of her own relationship with director Aleksandr Dovzhenko, whom she married in 1927. She made her final appearance on screen in Dovzhenko's Earth/Soil in 1930.

Earth/Soil was the beginning of a lifelong collaboration between the two as co-directors of several films. Edelman believes that the entire body of Solntseva's work bears the influence, if not the outright imprint, of Dovzhenko, who with Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin, was a genius of Russian filmmaking. Solntseva's most notable early works are documentaries that focus on the Ukraine and the beginnings of World War II. In 1940, she was the sole director of the documentary Bucovina-Ukrainian Land, which followed the movement of the Russian army into the Western Ukraine and Byelorussia after Germany invaded Poland. She then collaborated with Yakov Avdeyenko on the 1943 film The Battle for Our Soviet Ukraine, and with Dovzhenko on the 1945 Victory in the Ukraine and the Expulsion of the Germans from the Boundaries of the Ukrainian Soviet Earth. Edelman posits that even in these films, the images of serenity contrasted with the devastation of war "clearly are reflective of Dovzhenko's aesthetic."

When Dovzhenko died of a heart attack in 1956, he had been working on Poem of an Inland Sea, the first part of a trilogy about a Ukrainian village. Solntseva committed herself to its completion, and the work eventually received the Lenin Prize. She further dedicated herself to finishing and filming all of Dovzhenko's unrealized work, sublimating her own creative perspective to it. Although critics tend to assess Solntseva's work in terms of her husband's aesthetic vision, Edelman acknowledges that in the early 1950s, prior to Dovzhenko's death, Solntseva did turn to eminent theater companies in Russia to film short plays that they had produced. She also created The Golden Gate, a 1969 film about her relationship with the director, and in 1974, she made a film in which Dovzhenko did not figure—Such High Mountains, which focused on education. Film critics propose that this body of independent work provides insight into what Solntseva might have consistently produced had she not relied so heavily on her husband's artistic inspiration. "At the very least," concludes a contributor to Women Film Directors, Solntseva ought to be remembered as a "co-creator" of her husband's films, "and a woman who never received the credit due her for her considerable contribution to the art of Soviet cinema." Named an Honored Artist of the Republic in 1935, she died in 1989.


Attwood, Lynn. Red Women on the Silver Screen: Soviet Women and Cinema from the Beginning to the End of the Communist Era. London: Pandora, 1993, pp. 145, 151–152.

Edelman, Rob. "Yulia Solntseva," in Women Filmmakers and Their Films. Edited by Amy Unterburger. Detroit, MI: St. James Press, 1998.

Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

Women Film Directors: An International Bio-critical Dictionary. Edited by Gwendolyn A. Foster. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995.

Lisa Frick , freelance writer, Columbia, Missouri