(The Peasant) Women of Ryazan

(The Peasant) Women of Ryazan

Director: Olga Preobrazhenskaya

Screenplay: Boris Altshuler

Minutes: 67

Year: 1927

Score: 5.57

Release: Coming Soon from Flicker Alley

One unexpected side-effects of having a love of world of cinema is everything you learn when you devote a little time to a subject. This is, by no means, suggesting that the films themselves are necessarily accurate, cough, Braveheart, but doing a bit a research for this essay cracked a door of history for me.

First, some plot from Flicker Alley:

Returning to a pre-Russian Revolution mode of narrative storytelling, this melodrama focuses on two peasant women—one the victim to an abusive father-in-law and the other emancipated. Preobrazhenskaia takes her time, repeating shots of objects in action, hands at work, and the dizzying movements that comprise the rituals of rural life. The film ends on a hopeful note, celebrating the self-sufficient new (Soviet) woman. (Music by Sergei Dreznin.)

Note: what Flicker Alley calls “victim to an abusive father-in-law” is a very kind way of saying raped and forced to raise the child.

The biggest flaw of this film is that the Flicker Alley edition is not yet available. This isn’t a vein pander. I was able to find a copy of Vimeo, all in Russian. And YouTube, in French. Having to stop each time there is an intertitle and reference a PDF translation dragged me out of the film to the point in which I just waived my hand at the screen and watched the images and ignored the words. That’s the trick with silent films, the actors are already emoting so much that you should be able to follow the story without words. This is a prime example of why I am so excited to this anthology to be my mailbox in a couple weeks.

The movie is fine, the story is fairly heavy and can be applied to many examples of living as a women in poverty*. But the execution was alright, not to great, not bad. So why is it important today? There have been women involved behind the camera since the beginning of cinema. However, having them in the big chair is a bit rare, just like it seeming still is today.

Olga Preobrazhenskaya was originally a Russian Empire film star at the beginning of the Soviet Revolution. What I did not know about Russian at the time was that women’s rights were fairly progressive at this time, more so than US rights. Not great, but fairly good.

Growing up in the United States during the tail-end of The Cold War I was taught that there was nothing good about Russia. I know that is wrong now but propaganda is what it is. (And this is a strange idea because it says that Russia, primarily Mosfilm, seemed to produce dramas and propaganda films.) Knowing how different life was is very interesting to me.

Knowing that there are alternatives to Eisenstein and Vertov with regards to early Russian cinema should open a good many doors for classic cinema. This is a good year for it. With the Early Women Filmmakers anthology coming on May 9th and Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers coming from Kino Lorber sometime in November our cinematic fore-mothers are starting to get their due.

Thanks for reading!

Director: 6 – Cinematography: 7 –  Edit: 5 – Parity: 7 – Main performance: 7 – Else performance: 6 – Score: 5 – Sound: NA – Story: 6 – Script: 5 – Effects: 5 – Design: 6 – Costumes: 7 – Keeps interest: 5 – Lasting: 5

(*)Longtime fans of the blog know that this is not a suggestion that women on any level are not strong or resilient but a tragic fact of life at the turn of the last century and, well, everyday when dudes feel like they can legislate women existence. Together we can try and fix it, it is a long time coming and a lengthy project.

4 thoughts on “(The Peasant) Women of Ryazan

  1. I love your phrase “cinematic fore-mothers”.

    Thanks for the introduction to this film, and to Olga Preobrazhenskaya herself. I don’t know much about Soviet filmmaking, but the little I’ve seen is fascinating. I’m sure this film is no different.

  2. “Knowing that there are alternatives to Eisenstein and Vertov with regards to early Russian cinema should open a good many doors for classic cinema.” Isn’t it great to learn that there are new doors we can walk through to see what is out there? And to have a movie directed by a woman and not a propaganda film is a really good door. I enjoyed your essay.

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