KinoKultura: Issue 41 (2013)
Although lasting barely four minutes, Sergei Eisenstein’s Glumov’s Diary (Dnevnik Glumova, 1923) is more than merely an antique curiosity or footnote in the history of cinema. As the director’s first excursion into the realms of film, it marks the beginnings of a transition which would result shortly afterwards in his abandonment of theatre altogether in favor of cinema as a vehicle for eccentric comedy combined with political agitation. The parodic impulses of Glumov’s Diary, which are directed for the most part towards popular cinematic genres, reveal an aspect of Eisenstein’s interests which has been relatively neglected in the studies of his creative evolution hitherto. At the same time, as a filmic experiment conceived as part of a stage spectacle, namely, his adaptation for the Moscow Proletkul’t of Aleksandr Ostrovskii’s nineteenth-century comedy Enough Simplicity for Every Wise Man (Na vsiakogo mudretsa dovol’no prostoty), Glumov’s Diary cannot be divorced entirely from its theatrical context. Like other experiments of this kind, for example the improvised épatage of FEKS, the Petrograd-based Factory of the Eccentric Actor, the screening of film material as part of a stage production reflected the avant-garde vogue for synthetic art forms generally in the early revolutionary period. Glumov’s Diary is infected by Eisenstein’s enthusiasm for the formal devices of street theatre, most importantly the circus, pantomime, music hall, and cabaret. Furthermore, it belongs to a broader phenomenon within Soviet proletarian culture of the early 1920s which sought to harness the carnivalesque energy of popular theatre for directly political ends, as witnessed, for example, in the annual May-Day parades. It is symptomatic of this confluence of interest that the very first screening of Glumov’s Diary outside the confines of the Ostrovskii production, indeed perhaps the only screening before its disappearance and subsequent “rediscovery” nearly fifty years later, took place courtesy of its inclusion in Dziga Vertov’s Spring Ciné-Truth: A Lyrical Newsreel Landscape (Vesenniaia Kino-Pravda: Vidovaia liricheskaia khronika). This documentary, which was the sixteenth in the Kino-Pravda series and released on 21 May 1923, included a considerable amount of footage from the May-Day parades that had taken place earlier that month. For reasons which will become clear, it is only because of its inclusion within this body of material that Glumov’s Diary has survived at all.
While undeniably a cause for celebration, since before this moment Eisenstein’s film was regarded as irretrievably lost, the chance rediscovery of Glumov’s Diary along with fragments from Vertov’s newsreel in boxes of unedited material in the documentary archives in Krasnogorsk in 1977 nevertheless poses a number of textological problems. The first resides in the fact that what is currently circulating under the title of Glumov’s Diary is based on an archival reconstruction which is flawed in several key respects. The most damaging flaw, perhaps arising from the archivists’ lack of detailed familiarity with the director’s intentions and the theatrical production from which the material derives, is the disruption of the sequence order of its first part; this is sufficiently serious to render the narrative illogical, if not actually incomprehensible. Furthermore, apart from direct contamination from Vertov’s documentary, which itself has survived only in fragmented form, investigation into the genesis of Glumov’s Diary suggests that not all the sequences which appear in the archival reconstruction belong to the material which Eisenstein intended to screen as part of his stage spectacle. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that, although based on the same reconstruction, there are two versions of Glumov’s Diary currently in circulation which differ in terms of their narrative content: one of them includes materials which were not discovered in Krasnogorsk and derive from another archival source altogether. The uncertainty about sequence order and the status of certain sequences, as well as the distance in time from the original theatre production, may well explain the relative lack of interest in the rediscovery of Glumov’s Diary on the part of Eisenstein specialists and silent-era film historians generally (Bulgakowa 2001: 37-38; Nesbet 2003: 13 & 196; O’Mahony 2008: 39-41). A recent and detailed reconstruction of the Ostrovskii production (Kleiman 1998), along with the publication of a number of newly discovered documents, among them plans for the staging (Eizenshtein 1998a) and what looks like a “scenario” for Glumov’s Diary (Eizenshtein 1998b), suggest that even the title given to the reconstruction is misleading. It is clear from these documents that Eisenstein planned the filming of three fragments, to be screened at different intervals during the production, but only one of which pertained to the actual contents of the diary as it functions within the play. Even the reconstruction of the theatre spectacle and the appearance of the “scenario” do not resolve all the issues pertaining to the genesis and screenings of these fragments. There is evidence to suggest that, in accordance with the principle of improvisation which underpinned the production as a whole, some of these fragments were subject to a degree of modification in the process of creation. Taken together, these circumstances qualify the idea that Glumov’s Diary has survived intact: hence the use of inverted commas in the title of this article to describe its status as previously “lost” but now, miraculously, “found.”
This article attempts to reconstitute Glumov’s Diary in its original form insofar as this is possible. Using the recent reconstruction of the Ostrovskii production, it will chart the process by means of which a work belonging to the classical dramatic repertoire in pre-revolutionary Russia was modernized and radically transformed by Eisenstein into a piece of inventive and eccentric agit-prop theatre. It will investigate the shooting and projection of the materials which constitute Glumov’s Diary with a view to restoring their artistic logic in the context of this spectacle. Furthermore, it will examine the textological problems posed by their archival reconstruction and attempt to reconstitute their proper boundaries and correct sequence orders. In terms of their wider significance, this article will explore the materials which constitute Glumov’s Diary as examples of cinematic parody which, in accordance with avant-garde strategies within the Soviet Union and internationally at the beginning of the 1920s, cite and subvert examples of popular cinema in order to render them comic and absurd. Their carnivalesque strategies will be considered in the light of the vogue for agitational street theatre in the early revolutionary period. Contrary to Eisenstein’s claim in subsequent years, it will be argued that the insertion of Glumov’s Diary into the fabric of the sixteenth Kino-Pravda, one that aimed to celebrate the first year of the series’ existence, was an entirely logical decision bearing in mind the documentary’s overarching themes and structure.
Glumov’s Diary: reconstruction of the theatrical context
Enough Simplicity for Every Wise Man premiered in St Petersburg’s Aleksandrinskii Theatre on 1 November (Old Style) 1868 and was subsequently published in the journal Otechestvennye zapiski [Notes of the Fatherland] (Ostrovskii 2001: 370 & 371). The play is a comedy which satirizes the landed gentry’s conservative reaction to the liberalism of the post-emancipation era. The main protagonist, Egor Dmitrich Glumov, is introduced as an ambitious, intelligent, and cynical young man, similar in character to Balzac’s Eugène de Rastignac, who lives in relative poverty in Moscow along with this mother, Glafira Klimovna. After a brief career disparaging the vulgarity of the capital’s noble families in the form of malicious epigrams which he publishes in the satirical press, he realizes the error of his ways and decides that the only path to advancement lies in gaining entry to the very world that he despises: instead of satirizing the objects of his ridicule, he decides to flatter them, taking advantage of their stupidity in order to insinuate himself into their privileged milieu and thus to advance himself in social and marital terms. His diary, previously the venue for his epigrams, becomes instead a record of his various encounters and conversations. A series of duplicitous intrigues ensues which witnesses Glumov effortlessly locating the character flaws in each of his new acquaintances. The victims of his machinations are: Kurchaev, Glumov’s cousin, who is a hussar and a rival for the hand of Mar’ia Ivanovna (Mashen’ka), the rich heiress whom Glumov conspires to marry; Golutvin, an aspiring but unpublished writer who approaches Glumov with a request for material from his diary in order to further his own career; Glumov’s uncle, Nil Fedoseich Mamaev, a conservative member of the gentry who believes that the younger generation are a bunch of free-thinking “whippersnappers” in need of moral instruction; Mamaev’s wife, and Kurchaev’s aunt, Kleopatra L’vovna Mamaeva, with whom Glumov conducts a romantic intrigue with the aim of extracting promises of patronage and employment; Kleopatra L’vovna’s former lover, Gorodulin, a wealthy nobleman who is impressed by Glumov’s wit and commissions him to write an important after-dinner speech; Krutitskii, another well-heeled nobleman and friend of Mamaev’s, who engages Glumov on the basis of his literary talents to compose a long-cherished project which he (Glumov) gives the hyperbolic title “A Treatise on the Harmfulness of Reform Generally” (Traktat o vrede reform voobshche); and Sof’ia Ignat’evna Turusina, a rich widow from a merchant family with strong religious beliefs, who has been entrusted with the responsibility of finding an appropriate match for Mashen’ka, who is her niece. Glumov’s manipulation of this circle proceeds with tremendous efficiency. However, at the point when he is on the verge of being accepted as Mashen’ka’s fiancé, Golutvin steals his diary and exposes its contents to the public. In a final twist, after Glumov argues in his defense that the diary only articulates publicly what each of the characters thinks of the others privately, and after they realize how dependent on his talents and flattery they have become, these victims forgive him. Cynicism, both on their parts, and on the part of Glumov himself, wins the day.
Eisenstein’s staging of this play was one of several theatrical and cinematic initiatives which emerged as a result of the call by Anatolii Lunacharskii, People’s Commissar for Enlightenment, in 1922 to celebrate the centenary of Ostrovskii’s birth (Strzhigotskii 1922). Judging by the recent reconstruction of this spectacle, Eisenstein’s experimental production was clearly based on the dramatic source, yet part of the incomprehension with which it was greeted by audiences doubtless lay in the decision to insist on the play’s contemporary relevance by shifting the action into the present and peppering the original script with witty references to contemporary events, some of them so opaque that, according to Bulgakova (2001: 37), it was christened a “leftist salon of political crossword puzzles.” The most important innovation was the relocation of the action to Paris, the transformation of the conservative characters into White émigrés, and in some cases the re-naming of these characters to accord with their new circumstances. Glumov, played by Ivan Iazykanov, was given a French name, Georges. Mamaeva, played by Vera Ianukova, was dressed as an American music-hall dancer with a feather boa around her neck and two peacock feathers in her hair. Mamaev, played by Maksim Shtraukh, became Mamiliukov-Prolivnoi, his double-barreled surname punning on Pavel Miliukov, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs under Alexander Kerensky, and on Russia’s war-aims during the First World War in relation to the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. Krutitskii, played by Aleksandr Antonov, was metamorphosed into Joffre, the commander-in-chief of the French army from 1914-16 who had agitated in favor of armed intervention in order to reverse the October Revolution. Gorodulin, now called Goredulin, and played by Ivan Pyr’ev, was transformed into a fascist sympathizer with political and business connections to émigré circles. Mashen’ka, played by Vera Muzykant, was also given a new name, Mary McLack, and a “masculine” persona which involved smoking a pipe and wearing gallifet trousers, patent leather shoes, and a sports-jacket. Lastly, in order to emphasize the banality of Kurchaev, Eisenstein divided him into three separate entities who dressed identically as officers in General Vrangel’’s White army: these characters moved, gestured, and spoke in unison.
As far as formal devices and stage methods were concerned, the documents which chart the evolving conceptualization of the production suggest that Eisenstein initially sought to model his adaptation on the devices of the commedia dell’arte, with each of the characters transformed into their masked Italian equivalents (Eizenshtein 1998a: 97-98). Subsequently, however, for reasons which the documents do not make clear, the formal emphasis shifted towards the tradition of the circus bouffonade, with its acrobatic stunts and elements of farce, pantomime, and music hall. The ballroom in the Morozov mansion on Vozdvizhenka Street, the venue for Proletkul’t theatre productions at this time, was transformed into a small stage modeled on a circus ring and equipped with trapeze wires, horizontal planks, tightropes, a trampoline, and various other acrobatic accoutrements. Furthermore, the action on stage was accompanied by circus uniformisty, assistants who helped arrange the stunts and move the equipment, as well as participating in some of the action. Glumov was dressed as a clown with traditional make-up and a cone-shaped hat. His mother, played by Boris Iurtsev, was attired in the style of the “red-headed clown” (ryzhii) of the Russian circus tradition. Mamaev, sporting a shaven head, also wore a clown’s costume and make-up. Lastly, although the costumes of Goredulin and Krutitskii contained details of the everyday which pertained to their social or professional status (top-hat and military casquette), they too appeared in circus-style make-up.
As a stunning example of the agitational potential of circus bouffonade, Eisenstein’s production very much reflected the latest trends in post-revolutionary Soviet theatre. As J. Douglas Clayton and others have pointed out, the exploitation of circus-style devices as a way of reinvigorating outmoded naturalism and bourgeois realism in theatre was well advanced at this time (Douglas Clayton 1993: 69-72; Aksenov 1991: 36-44; Szczepański 1987; Leach 1993). Viewed from this perspective, Eisenstein’s first essay on montage, “Montage of Attractions” (Montazh attraktsionov), which appeared in issue number three of the journal LEF (Left Front of the Arts) in May 1923, consists of a polemic with existing avant-garde practices and is more concerned with the agitational potential of the “attraction,” a performance traditionally associated with the fairground and circus, than with the montage principle per se (Douglas Clayton 1993: 211). This emphasis would be corrected in later essays, in which Eisenstein explained more clearly how the montage principle derived directly from the staging methods adopted for the Ostrovskii production (Eizenshtein 1968a: 70; 1964e: 454-55). Although it is customary to emphasize the influence of Vsevolod Meierkhol’d, Sergei Radlov, and Nikolai Evreinov on the Ostrovskii production, particularly in relation to the embrace of the circus, it has been argued that the theories and practices of FEKS, inaugurated by Grigorii Kozintsev, Leonid Trauberg and others in the summer of 1922, were equally, if not more, important (Tsiv′ian 1990). The crucial production in this regard was the FEKS adaptation of The Marriage (Zhenit’ba, 1842), their so-called “electrification of Gogol’,” which was first performed on 25 September 1922 in the Proletkul’t Palace in Petrograd, apparently with Eisenstein in attendance. Like Eisenstein’s Ostrovskii spectacle, this production was presented as a free staging of a dramatic text from the pre-revolutionary repertoire. It incorporated elements of popular theatre, employed genuine acrobats and circus clowns as part of the performance, adopted the principle of improvisation, contained elements of political agitation with a satirical, contemporary slant, and involved the screening of visual material from a film by Charlie Chaplin (Kozintsev 1982: 55).
The shared conceptual interests of FEKS and Eisenstein at this point are suggested by the invitation extended to the latter to meet and collaborate with the group’s founding members in the summer of 1922 (Iutkevich 1990: 156; 164). This partnership took the form of a three-act libretto, a pantomime envisaged as an eccentric adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s Columbine’s Scarf (in Russian, Podviazka Kolumbiny), which Eisenstein devised along with Sergei Iutkevich, the avant-garde artist and aspiring theatre director who, like Eisenstein, was attending Meierkhol’d’s classes at the State Higher Directorial Workshops (GVYRM), and who was a key member of FEKS (Iutkevich 1990: 172-73). Although never staged, this production was important in the sense that it pioneered several methods which Eisenstein would later adopt in his Ostrovskii production, most importantly what he himself described as the “invention of scenic attractions” (izobretenie stsenicheskikh attraktsionov); according to Iutkevich (1990: 173), this was an embryonic version of the later “montage of attractions,” the title given to the Ostrovskii spectacle. The action of the play took place in Paris, albeit a modernized, “Americanized” version of the capital. Furthermore, the staging envisaged the use of tightropes and other acrobatic accoutrements (Iutkevich 1990: 172). The formal collaboration between Eisenstein and Iutkevich was not solely confined to the realms of theatre, however. In November 1922, only two months after the premiere of The Marriage, the two artists co-authored an article in which they surveyed recent trends in European and North American cinema, and enthusiastically hailed the phenomenon of Chaplin (Eisenstein and Iutkevich 1988). It is indicative of the influence of FEKS in shaping his thinking that Eisenstein referred to the screening of filmic material during the stage production of The Marriage in his retrospective account of the making of Glumov’s Diary, the essay entitled “My First Film” (Moia pervaia fil′ma), which was first published in the film gazette Sovetskii ekran in 1928 (Eizenshtein 1964c: 107).
Glumov’s Diary: the problem of narrative content and the screening on stage
Eisenstein’s essay “Montage of Attractions” reveals that he arranged for the projection of two short fragments of film as part of his Ostrovskii stage production: they belonged to a series of twenty-five “attractions” which were performed as part of the adaptation’s epilogue (Eizenshtein, 1964a: 272). His descriptions of their content, albeit exceptionally cursory, make clear that what subsequently became known as Glumov’s Diary consisted of two independent fragments which were screened at different moments during this epilogue. The first (attraction no. 2) was a “parody” of the American detective genre and intended to dramatize the theft of Glumov’s diary. The second (attraction no. 10) was a “comic film” that served as a résumé of scenes already performed on stage, and the theme of which was Golutvin’s publication of the diary. This information was subsequently augmented in “My First Film,” in which we learn that the first fragment ended with the diary’s thief, Golutvin, played by Grigorii Aleksandrov, arriving at the entrance of the theatre: after the screen goes dark, Golutvin rushes into the auditorium clutching the diary in the form of a reel of film stock (Eizenshtein 1964c: 108).
Subsequent to the publication of these two essays, our knowledge of the content of these fragments and their position within the stage production as a whole has been aided by the recent reconstruction of the Ostrovskii spectacle and the publication of documents which chart the process of the play’s conceptualization. As far as the “scenario” for Glumov’s Diary is concerned, although not presented in the conventional form of a libretto, the description of the protagonists and the actions, while sometimes presented in abbreviated form, is sufficiently detailed to be regarded as something approaching a shooting script. This script consists of two documents. The first lists the “transformations” planned for the second fragment of Glumov’s Diary, but does not include any reference to the parody of the American detective film (Eizenshtein 1998b: 109-10). The second document, by contrast, describes the action in both fragments, gives a detailed description of the chase sequence in the American parody (the theft of the diary), but slightly alters the sequence order of the second (Eizenshtein 1998b: 110). This second document, which the editors have assumed postdates the first because it accords more readily to the filmed material that has survived, includes some additional material not listed in the first version of this fragment, to which we will return in due course.
It is useful to bear these documents in mind when examining the materials of Glumov’s Diary as reconstructed by archivists. Tracing the circumstances of their survival is an intriguing and complex process. As indicated above, Glumov’s Diary owes its survival solely to its inclusion in Vertov’s Spring Ciné-Truth. The chain of events which gave rise to this situation was first revealed by Eisenstein himself in “My First Film;” his version has since been corroborated by other sources. According to Boris Mikhin (1974: 169), the director of Goskino, Eisenstein approached him in early 1923 with a request for film stock and a cameraman to shoot a short film, in his own words, a “parody of an American detective film,” which was planned for inclusion in the Ostrovskii production. A little bizarrely, according to Eisenstein, Mikhin put him in touch with Vertov, who donated a reel of film and proposed his colleague, Aleksandr Lemberg, as cameraman. Because the studio management did not trust Eisenstein entirely in his undertaking, Vertov was invited to supervise the project in the capacity of “instructor” or consultant (Eizenshtein 1964c: 108). Lemberg was unhappy about the technical difficulties involved in executing the required trick shots outdoors and suspected that he was being drawn into some kind of “provocation;” for these reasons he withdrew (Eizenshtein 1964c: 108). Vertov, moreover, apparently unimpressed by the eccentric antics of the acting ensemble, made his excuses and left after only a couple of sequences had been filmed (Eizenshtein 1964c: 108). Lemberg was subsequently replaced by Boris Frantsisson, a camera operator who, although not formally a member of Ciné-Eye (Kinok) group, was nevertheless closely associated with Vertov by virtue of his inclusion in a list of collaborators who, it was hoped, would be involved in the establishing of a dedicated documentary film studio in Goskino in the early months of 1923 (Lemberg 1976; Roshal’ 1982: 75). According to film historian Iurii Tsiv’ian (2004b), in order to justify the cost of the film stock given to Eisenstein, Vertov decided to include the two fragments of Glumov’s Diary in his Kino-Pravda newsreel. The section was entitled “Spring Smiles of the Proletkul’t” (Vesennie ulybki Proletkul’ta) (Eizenshtein 1964c: 108; Roshal’ 1982: 93).
Like Glumov’s Diary, Vertov’s documentary itself was for many years regarded as lost. Both were discovered at the same time, but in separate boxes of unedited negative, and reassembled on the basis of existing knowledge. In the case of Vertov’s documentary, albeit without intertitles, copies are now preserved in Krasnogorsk and Gosfil’mofond, and have since been made available to archives abroad. In the case of Glumov’s Diary, the archivists recognized the footage and invited the film specialists Naum Kleiman and Vladimir Listov to confirm their attribution; after this was received, they reassembled the material and struck a positive, which was sent to Gosfil′mofond, the state film archive. The footage of Glumov’s Diary as reinserted into Vertov’s documentary lasts for around three minutes and fifty-three seconds, and would appear to form the basis of two of the versions of the film as showcased on commercial DVD. There is, however, a second version of Glumov’s Diary currently in circulation, entitled Portraits of Sergei Eisenstein and other Materials (Portrety Sergeia Eizenshteina i drugie materialy), which lasts for five minutes and forty seconds and includes additional material not present in the Krasnogorsk version of Vertov’s documentary: this material forms the basis of the two other DVD versions of Glumov’s Diary currently available. According to Kleiman, this second version is the product of a decision taken by the management of Gosfil’mofond at some point in the 1980s to produce its own version of Glumov’s Diary on the basis of the Krasnogorsk materials, but with the addition of footage discovered in Eisenstein’s Moscow apartment in 1963 by Pera Atasheva, the director’s erstwhile collaborator and wife while he was alive. Thus, although the two competing versions of Glumov’s Diary currently in circulation derive ultimately from Krasnogorsk, they are nevertheless presented in two different guises, and in fact with slightly different sequence orders.
Kleiman’s acknowledgement that the process of archival reconstruction was undertaken on the basis of informed “guesswork,” rather than a specialist knowledge of Eisenstein’s project in its historical context, does not inspire confidence that the process was subjected to due diligence. The first problem to be resolved in relation to Glumov’s Diary lies in the sphere of contamination. Both versions of the fragments include one sequence which should not be present: this is the scene in which a military truck is filmed moving past a crowd carrying banners by the walls of the Moscow Kremlin. Leaving aside the obvious thematic discrepancy, the surviving footage of Spring Ciné-Truth, albeit in its current, haphazard state, suggests that this scene belongs to the May-Day parade material; indeed, the brief sequence is identical to a number of images in the third part of the newsreel which depict vehicles moving past groups of people with similarly festive banners in the centre of Moscow, some of them directly positioned by the Kremlin walls.
A second but more ambiguous case of contamination lies in the brief shot of a plane, a single-propeller bi-plane, the Il’ia Muromets, which the Soviet military used for training purposes during the 1920s, which is shown flying towards the State Historical Museum on Red Square. The problem here lies in the fact that, according to the second document of the “scenario” (Eizenshtein 1998b: 110), the first fragment of Glumov’s Diary did indeed envisage the anti-hero, Golutvin, being picked up by an aeroplane as part of his roof-top chase with Glumov. Nevertheless, it is not clear whether this aeroplane was actually supposed to have been shown, as opposed to its presence merely insinuated. In “My First Film,” for example, Eisenstein refers to the appearance of an aeroplane, but the word itself is placed in inverted commas (Eizenshtein 1964c: 108). Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the May-Day parade material included in Vertov’s Kino-Pravda documentary includes exactly the same piece of footage as part of a montage of images of planes performing aerial stunts above Red Square. It is perfectly possible that, in the absence of other means, Eisenstein might have requested this material directly from Vertov. If so, it suggests that the degree of their collaboration over Glumov’s Diary was closer than he dared admit in subsequent years. In addition, it means that the sixteenth Kino-Pravda as reconstructed by the Krasnogorsk archivists contains repeat footage.
In relation to the footage assembled under the title of Portraits of Sergei Eisenstein and Other Materials, more complex forms of contamination become apparent. As well as the material discovered in Krasnogorsk, this version contains introductory intertitles which state the year, location, and title of Eisenstein’s Ostrovskii production; announce the inclusion of “fragments” (otryvki) from Glumov’s Diary; and present an incomplete cast list of the acting ensemble. Furthermore, as part of this introduction, the reassembled material includes three additional sequences, the provenance of which is not indicated: a portrait of Eisenstein standing in front of a poster for the Ostrovskii production (judging by the inert state of the director, this would appear to be a photographic still rather than a moving image); a moving-image portrait of Eisenstein, virtually identical in terms of his pose, but shot from a distance slightly further away, or with a different lens, which shows him doffing his cap, briefly rearranging his hair, and bowing in front of the same poster; and a masked portrait of Grigorii Aleksandrov as Golutvin, also standing in front of the poster, who is grinning mysteriously and begins to remove his mask before his image is dissolved to be replaced by a question-mark.
As far as these additional materials are concerned, it is important to note that they were indeed associated with the staging of Eisenstein’s production, but not in the order in which they are presented in Portraits of Sergei Eisenstein and Other Materials. Thus, according to the most recent reconstruction of the production, a portrait of Eisenstein doffing his cap and bowing to the audience was screened as part of the spectacle, but only at the end of the epilogue as an “attraction” in its own right: in the recent reconstruction it is described as a “directorial farewell” and was preceded by the actors appearing on stage to take their bows and fire-crackers going off under the seats of the auditorium (Kleiman 1998: 95). By the same token, according to the second document of the “scenario” for Glumov’s Diary (Eizenshtein 1998b: 110), a shot of Golutvin standing in front of the production poster and removing his mask was also intended to be included as part of the spectacle, but only at the end of the second fragment (a production still showing this scene accompanied the 1928 publication of “My First Film” (Eizenshtein 1928). The presentation of these shots in succession in Portraits of Sergei Eisenstein and Other Materials thus distorts their purpose and function within the stage production as a whole.
The discovery of this material means that Eisenstein’s stage production featured three screenings, not two, as conventionally assumed. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether these portraits were projected during the play’s premiere. Judging by the production poster in the background, this would appear to have taken place on 28 April, yet close scrutiny of the poster in question shows this date to have been crossed out by hand and replaced by four later dates, all of them in the early part of May, and the earliest of which is 8 May. This creates an enigma in relation to the dating of this material and suggests that the two fragments may have been subjected to a degree of creative evolution. In “My First Film,” for example, Eisenstein indicates that the filming of Glumov’s Diary took place on a Thursday, two days before the premiere (Eizenshtein 1964c: 108). A historical calendar for the year 1923 in Russia confirms that 28 April was indeed a Saturday. Assuming that the footage shot on 26 April was processed and edited ready for screening two days later, it means that the portraits of Eisenstein and Aleksandrov cannot have featured as part of the premiere. In relation to the portrait of Eisenstein, since the production was an improvised spectacle that was continually in the process of adjustment, it is possible that this “attraction” was an after-thought that was only included for later performances of the play, possibly on 8 May, or subsequently. In relation to the portrait of Golutvin, however, because it is mentioned explicitly at the end of the second document of the “scenario,” the possibility is raised that the second fragment of Glumov’s Diary (the comic film which details the contents of the diary) may have been augmented after 26 April. This is corroborated by the discrepancies between the two documents which constitute the “scenario.” The fact that the first does not mention the parody of the detective film suggests that Glumov’s Diary may initially have been conceived only in terms of the revelations in the diary. Furthermore, because the Aleksandrov portrait is only mentioned in the second document of the “scenario,” it suggests that this document may have post-dated the filming of the bulk of the material on 26 April. The possibility that the conceptualization of Glumov’s Diary was subject to revision is also suggested by Eisenstein’s admission in “My First Film” that the initial calculation for the length of the footage required for the project (eight meters in total) ended up being multiplied by a factor of fifteen (120 meters in total) by the time filming had finished (Eizenshtein 1964c: 108).
Glumov’s Diary: reconstruction of the sequence order
The most recent reconstruction of Eisenstein’s Ostrovskii spectacle (Kleiman 1998: 91) indicates that the first part of Glumov’s Diary was intended to link the end of Act V with the epilogue. Nevertheless, there is uncertainty as to when the projector was switched on and the filmed fragment screened. This reconstruction suggests that the first fragment continued the theft sequence which had just been launched on stage: Golutvin appears on a balcony in the auditorium and taunts Glumov with the theft of his diary; Glumov rushes up the aisle to try and catch him; and Golutvin swings on a trapeze wire back towards the stage in order to escape his clutches. At this point, or so it is suggested, the lights were extinguished and the audience presented with a continuation of the sequence in cinematic form. This order of events, however, contradicts the progression of the attractions in the epilogue as detailed in “Montage of Attractions” (Eizenshtein 1964a: 272): this states that the first fragment was shown only after the first attraction of the epilogue, which consists of Glumov’s monologue on the loss of his diary and his decision to expedite the marriage to Mashen’ka with all possible speed. Since the reconstructed version of the production refers to the projector being switched on twice in order to show the same fragment of film, the first time at the end of the Act V and the second time as the second attraction of the epilogue, this passage must be regarded as fatally flawed.
Bearing in mind the action on stage and the information contained in the “scenario,” it should be clear that the narrative sequence order of the first fragment as presented in the reconstructed versions of Glumov’s Diary is incorrect. Both archival versions begin their narrative proper with Golutvin arriving at the entrance to the Morozov mansion in his top hat, but this is patently absurd in context and confuses the steps by means of which he evades Glumov’s pursuit. In its correct order, as outlined in the second document of the “scenario” (Eizenshtein 1998b: 110), the fragment should begin with a close-up of Golutvin (Aleksandrov) as the thief; a close-up of a reel of film stock, which represents the diary; and a close-up of a hand “stealing” the diary. This should be followed by shots showing Golutvin climbing out of a round window and ascending a high tower by means of a rope in order to reach a battlement above. Having reached this battlement—the camera position from a building en face reveals the height and precariousness of his position—Golutvin ascends a ladder that leads from this battlement to a platform located at the top of the tower. The camera switches position to show him reaching the top of this ladder. Here, again from a position en face, Golutvin places his top hat on one of the spiraled vertical embellishments and makes a waving gesture with his hand, presumably a sign for an aeroplane to fly over and pick him up. At this point Glumov’s head, still adorned by the cone-shaped hat from the scene on stage, appears out of the same window from which Golutvin has emerged earlier. Craning his head upwards, he espies the rope attached to the battlement, catches sight of Golutvin’s top hat on the embellishment, and shouts out in dismay. This sequence is succeeded by a trick shot which shows Golutvin dropping from the “plane” into an awaiting, chauffeur-driven car. Seconds later, he arrives at the entrance to the theatre. After jumping out of the car and running up a few of the steps to the entrance, he turns to face the camera, theatrically doffs his hat (which has somehow miraculously reappeared on his head), and makes his triumphant entrance.
As far as the second fragment is concerned, while the sequence order is generally correct in the versions currently in circulation, it is important to emphasize that the contents of the diary, which involve Glumov performing somersaults in order to gain the favor of his patrons, reenact or reprise scenes that have occurred earlier in the play. In Act I, for example, Glumov has flattered Mamaev by emphasizing his own stupidity: unnoticed by his patron, he dons the tail and ears of a donkey (Kleiman 1998: 71; Levshin 1974: 148). His romantic intrigue with Mamaev’s wife has been predicated on the idea that he is shy and naïve, this aiming to provoke her maternal instincts: the scene is metaphorically realized in the filmed fragment when he is magically transformed into a small child (the child is played by the son of Valerii Inkizhinov, the actor and tutor in biomechanics). The exchanges between Glumov and Krutitskii/Joffre in Act III have been accompanied by acrobats using their bodies to form the shapes of military hardware (dreadnoughts, howitzers, and tanks): hence Glumov’s transformation into a mitrailleuse or rapid-fire machine gun (Kleiman 1998: 79). In relation to Turusina, the larger-than-life cards that adorn her body were intended to represent icons and thus to mock her religious convictions. The rationale for the swastika symbol in relation to the fascist sympathizer Goredulin should perhaps be self-evident.
It should be pointed out that the status of some of the material in this second fragment as it currently exists is at present unclear. One problem consists of the sequence that follows Glumov’s various transformations and shows him and Mashen’ka descending the steps of the theatre entrance as part of their wedding ceremony. This is followed by requests from Goredulin, Joffre, and Mamaev for compensation for their participation in the wedding preparations: these receive a crude rebuff from Glumov, who nonchalantly takes a puff from his bride’s pipe and shows the three clowns, not his wallet, but a kukish, or finger (the gesture actually involves the thumb being placed between the index finger and the middle finger, and is repeated seconds later, but this time is pointed towards the camera, and thus, it is implied, the theatre audience). These moments cannot logically be part of the diary because they post-date the actual theft by Golutvin. Furthermore, according to the reconstruction of the spectacle, the scenes in question were supposed to have been performed on stage as part of the epilogue before the screening. Attractions four, five, and six, for example, witness Goredulin, Joffre, and Mamaev petitioning Glumov in succession for payment for their involvement in the wedding, and performing various stunts: Goredulin juggles three balls, his signature trick throughout the production; Joffre performs an acrobatic stunt (a "forder-shprung"); and Mamaev is keen to perform a stunt but is prevented from doing so by Glumov (Kleiman 1998: 91-92). In addition, the eighth attraction in the epilogue was supposed to have shown Manefa, a woman who specializes in fortune-telling, disguised as a priest and giving her blessing to the union (she swings a censor and holds a cross) (Kleiman 1998: 92). It is difficult to account for this repetition of material in view of the fact that the “scenario” for Glumov’s Diary (Eizenshtein 1998b: 110) confirms that the scenes from the wedding and Glumov’s rebuff were intended for inclusion in the second fragment. It is possible that Eisenstein was unconcerned by the overlap between staged and screened material. It is also conceivable that the scenes in question were intended to represent Glumov’s “dream of the future;” in other words, his desire for, and anticipation of, the ceremony, which has been committed to his diary in advance of the actual event.
A further problem lies in the series of what might best be described as introductory “cameos:” these consist of close-ups of the key members of the acting ensemble smiling and then distorting their faces into eccentric and grotesque expressions. In both archival versions of Glumov’s Diary, albeit with some degree of variation, the “cameos” in question have been positioned just before the scenes in the second fragment in which the actors perform their roles as part of the revelations contained in the diary. The two documents of the “scenario” make no reference to such portraits, however. Furthermore, the rationale for their inclusion in the context of a theatre production is not immediately obvious (the respective roles of the actors would presumably be well known to the audience by the time of the epilogue). Although it is impossible to verify in the absence of further information, it should not be excluded that this material was filmed by Frantsisson specifically at Vertov’s request for inclusion within Spring Ciné-Truth. The introductory intertitle given to the material as a whole, “Spring smiles of the Proletkul’t” (my emphasis), suggests that the close-ups, with their expressive gestures, may have been envisaged as material with which to introduce Glumov’s Diary within the documentary. Potentially, the eccentric grimaces, which are clearly engineered to provoke laughter, have the capacity to signal the carnivalesque nature of the Proletkul’t enterprise to those among Vertov’s audience unlikely to be familiar with it.
Glumov’s Diary: the parodic impulse
The most important difference between the fragment of film projected on screen during the FEKS production of The Marriage and the first fragment of Glumov’s Diary lies in the fact that the material used by Kozintsev and Trauberg was apparently borrowed from a genuine Chaplin film and was projected in the background while action was taking place on stage in the foreground (Noussinova 1993: 35; n27). Furthermore, the footage in question, apparently supplied to the directors by a friendly projectionist, lasted for only thirty seconds and bore no relation to the production or the environs of the theatre itself (Kozintsev 1982: 55). By contrast, although this may not be obvious to today’s viewer, the action of the first fragment of Glumov’s Diary—Glumov’s pursuit of Golutvin—takes place in the immediate vicinity of the Morozov mansion and exploits its most imposing architectural features, the battlement and towers, as part of the chase sequence. There is a degree of artistic logic to the exploitation of the location in the sense that the fragment continues a theft that has just occurred on stage. In so doing, however, Eisenstein reinforced a strategy that had been adopted before the beginning of the spectacle proper, namely, the erosion of the boundaries separating the stage from the auditorium in which the play was being performed. This played on the stark disjunction between the grandiose and luxurious, pseudo-mediaeval architecture and interior décor of the mansion, which was built in the Mauritanian style and modeled on the Pena National Palace in Sintra, Portugal, and its prosaic subversion by the Proletkul’t. Thus the entrance was adorned with flaming torches, yet arrows had been painted in white on the pavement outside to alert pedestrians to the spectacle by directing them towards the production poster. Passing through the vestibule and foyer, spectators encountered, on the one hand, sumptuous parquet and marble flooring, hunting trophies lining the walls, stuffed, life-size bears, mosaics, and a bronze statue of a gigantic lion; and on the other, female actors dressed in “working clothes” (prozodezhda), who were sitting behind tables and selling tickets for the performance (Kleiman 1998: 57).
The incorporation of the theatre, the rooftop nature of the chase, the use of an aeroplane, Golutvin’s leap into an awaiting car, his return to the very building where the play is being staged, and the temporal deceit involved in the fragment’s projection (the screening attempts to preserve the illusion that the action is being filmed at the very moment that it occurs) might have possessed a very specific resonance for the members of the audience in the sense that it is strikingly reminiscent of a sensational stunt executed by the French actor, director, and comedian Max Linder as part of his whistle-stop tour of Russia and Eastern Europe in 1913. A detailed account of this exploit was given by a correspondent for the Russian film magazine Sine-fono only a few days after it was performed, and in many respects, because of its degree of invention, it subsequently passed into the folklore of pre-revolutionary cinema. The correspondent in question reported that the day after being mobbed on his arrival by train from St Petersburg on 5 December (Old Style), Linder was due to appear at the Moscow Zon Theatre for a pre-arranged show. With the audience growing impatient, the owner of the theatre arrived on stage and announced that Linder had left the city in the morning to test-drive a new sports car, and had telephoned to say that he would be delayed. At this moment the lights in the auditorium dimmed and the audience was shown a fragment of film which showed Linder, having crashed his car, desperately trying to make his way back to Moscow in order to meet his engagement, initially on horseback, and then by aeroplane. The final seconds of this film showed him flying to Moscow and descending from the plane by means of a rope onto the glass roof of the theatre. The roof was shown being smashed, the film-projector was switched off, the audience was suddenly engulfed in darkness, and when the lights were switched on Linder was seen shinning down a rope from the roof, after which he leapt onto the stage, issued a brief apology for his delay, and proceeded with his show (“Maks Linder v Moskve” 1913).
Eisenstein’s enthusiasm for Linder in his youth—the Frenchman’s name features in a list of foreign “stars” who had captured the director’s imagination during the pre-revolutionary period (Eizenshtein 1968b: 422)—suggests that he may well have been familiar with this stunt. While clearly borrowing from the conceit, however, the first fragment of Glumov’s Diary nevertheless deliberately parodies it. The fact that Golutvin escapes to the back of the theatre and returns to the front by means of an aeroplane and car mocks the topography of rooftop chases generally. It also renders the theft absurd in the sense that the action on stage purportedly takes place in Paris, and yet the theft sequence very obviously takes place in Moscow. In essence, the naturalistic illusion of theatre has been subverted, if not shattered altogether. As Eisenstein himself made clear on several occasions, the stunts themselves and Golutvin’s mode of dress, in particular his black mask and top hat, were conceived as parodies of the detective or adventure-thriller genre. In his initial plans for the Ostrovskii production, he referred to the figure of Golutvin being modeled on the underworld criminals in Les Mystères de Paris, a mid-nineteenth century “pot-boiler” by the French novelist Eugène Sue, which had been adapted variously for screen in the early part of the twentieth century (Eizenshtein 1998a: 106). In his unpublished 1937 essay on montage, moreover, he mentioned two further points of cultural reference, The Exploits of Elaine (1914) and House of Hate (1919), both of them U.S. films directed by George B. Seitz and starring Pearl White, as well as the films of the actor and director Harry Piel, a figure popularly known at the time as the “German Douglas Fairbanks” because of his enthusiasm for aerial stunts (Eizenshtein 1964e: 454). It is perhaps worth noting in this context that The Exploits of Elaine, released in the Soviet Union under the title of The Mysteries of New York / Tainy N’iu Iorka, had been reviewed in the October 1922 edition of Kino-fot, the Constructivist journal edited by Aleksei Gan (“Tainy N’iu Iorka,” 1922); and also that production stills from Pirates of the Sky / Die Luftpiraten (1920), a film directed by Piel which incorporated several daredevil chases up and along tall buildings, as well as around airborne dirigibles, had featured prominently in the same edition (“Piraty vozdukha” [stills], 1922). Although not, strictly speaking, part of the first fragment, it has also been suggested that Eisenstein’s own appearance on screen and bowing before his audience parodied a curious film tradition which he had first encountered in his youth. Shtraukh has recalled regularly attending a cinema with Eisenstein in the Latvian beach resort of Majorenhof (now Majori) when they were boys. The owner of this cinema apparently had a trademark “signature:” a brief clip of himself, screened at the end of each program, in which he crossed the road, stood in front of the camera, and bowed his head before the audience. The pretentiousness of this ritual, as if the owner considered himself a film entrepreneur on the scale of Thomas Edison or the Lumière brothers, apparently caused them much mirth (Shtraukh 1974: 48).
If the first fragment of Glumov’s Diary would appear to have been explicitly conceived as a subversive parody of popular cinematic genres, the second fragment is more nuanced in terms of its citational strategies. With its static and largely axial positioning of the camera, the appearance of only one or two characters at any given time within the frame of the shot, the persistent use of the iris, which was a convention of mainstream cinema, and the resort to the dissolve as a form of trick shot, the second fragment to some extent evokes the practices of Georges Méliès, the theatrical impresario and filmmaker now regarded as one of cinema’s pioneers. Méliès’s films were “attractions” not only in the sense that they were exhibited at makeshift cinemas in fairgrounds towards the end of the 1890s, but also because they incorporated stunts, tricks, and “magical” special effects for the purposes of comedy and entertainment; indeed, the use of the dissolve as a trick shot was Méliès’s discovery and subsequently became his trademark device. It is known that Eisenstein was fascinated by his works as a child. One film in particular, The Merry Frolics of Satan (Les Quat’cents farces du diable, 1906), which he watched as a ten-year-old while on a trip to Paris, allegedly constituted his first encounter with cinema; indeed, in his autobiographical notes he records the indelible impression that one of the film’s trick shots made on him at the time (Eizenshtein 1964f: 215; 427).
The question remains, however, whether the second fragment of Glumov’s Diary can be accurately defined as a subversion of Méliès as opposed to a form of discrete homage. Anne Nesbet, for example, has described this fragment as a “witty take-off” of Méliès (Nesbet 2003: 13). In support of this position, it might be argued that the element of vulgarity in Eisenstein’s treatment of Glumov’s successive somersaults distinguishes them from the practices of Méliès. The ostentatious volte-face that Joffre performs while standing on his armoured vehicle (the displaying of his backside as a form of insulting dismissal); the spittle that Mamaev directs towards Glumov before his transformation into a donkey; the gesture of the kukish (finger) shown by Glumov to the three petitioners and the audience; and the cross-dressing of a woman (Vera Muzykant) as a pipe-smoking man during the wedding ceremony (her name, McLack, constitutes a (sexist) dismissal of her femininity) undeniably belong to the realms of the carnivalesque. On the other hand, it might be countered that, despite his reputation for relatively innocuous forms of illusionism, Méliès himself was not adverse to carnival-style subversion. Some of his longer film narratives poke merciless fun at figures of authority, in particular inventors and scientific members of academies, who are invariably presented as amateurs and charlatans, but also members of the political establishment (Ezra 2000: 9). Furthermore, some of his film shorts contain a degree of salacious innuendo. Eclipse of the Sun by the Full Moon (Éclipse du soleil en pleine lune, 1907), for example, contains more than a hint of ardent copulation by the two celestial bodies. This is more risqué than anything in the two fragments of Glumov’s Diary.
Nesbet has also sought analogies between the subversive strategies of Eisenstein and the French Surrealists in their endeavors to shock the spectator through montage collisions (Nesbet 2003: 11-13). Here, also, a measure of skepticism is warranted. When viewed in the context of the stage production, the transformations which take place in the second fragment of Glumov’s Diary are no more illogical or surreal than the encounters in the play which they rehearse. Certainly, they are far less radical than the practices of early Surrealist film, where image collisions are unpredictable and bizarre, and strive towards the realm of the irrational and oneiric (Kuenzli 1996: 1-12). A useful comparison in this regard is Intermission / Entr’acte, the scandalous dream text directed by René Clair which was also projected onto a screen as part of a stage production, namely, Francis Picabia and Erik Satie’s The Performance is Cancelled (Relâche) by the Ballet Suédois at the Théâtre des Champs Élysées in Paris in December 1924 (the film lasts some twenty-two minutes). Screened between the two acts of the ballet, this work incorporates illogical and unexplained transitions from one scene to another; images of a ballerina (later revealed as a “bearded man”) performing dance movements while filmed from beneath a sheet of transparent glass; a funeral hearse drawn by a camel; mourners running hectically after an errant coffin through the streets of a Parisian suburb; and footage from a position astride a roller-coaster which has either been shot or edited upside down. These moments do not have their logic restored to them by reference to the balletic context, with which they possess little, if any, relationship. While the desire to outrage bourgeois audiences and subvert bourgeois art forms is a common avant-garde strategy at this time, the Surrealists’ penchant for images with psycho-sexual resonances, their interest in exploiting automatic associations, and the general anarchy of their works are largely absent in the cinema of the Soviet avant-garde. While acknowledging some points of convergence, Eisenstein himself recognized these fundamental differences. During a lecture at the Sorbonne in 1930, after attending the independent congress of filmmakers in La Sarraz, Switzerland, he was adamant that, while the Surrealist movement had produced interesting formal innovations, the “unconscious and automatic elements” of Surrealism were opposed to his own methods of working (Eizenshtein 1964d: 558).
Glumov’s Diary: the strategic alliance with Vertov’s Kino-Pravda
Insofar as any relationship has been asserted between Glumov’s Diary and Vertov’s Kino-Pravda series, this has tended to be formulated straightforwardly in terms of parody. This idea was first proposed by Eisenstein himself in “My First Film” (Eizenshtein 1964c: 108) and repeated on two subsequent occasions (Eizenshtein 1968a: 70; 1964e: 454). It has since become something of a received critical wisdom (Leyda 1960: 166; Bulgakowa 2001: 37; O’Mahony 2008: 40). Initially, Eisenstein described Glumov’s Diary merely as a “substitute” (zamena) for Kino-Pravda. However, in his subsequent essays this rather opaque formulation was promoted into something more ambitious: a “parody” of Soviet news chronicles, including Kino-Pravda, and the newsreels of international agencies, for example Pathé News. It is important to note that on all three occasions Eisenstein can only have been referring to the second fragment of Glumov’s Diary, since it is only this fragment that purports to reveal the contents of the diary. Furthermore, it is curious that nowhere in his statements does he distinguish between the “bourgeois” newsreel and Kino-Pravda, which was experimental, politically engaged, and overtly hostile to the randomly assembled actualité of foreign news agencies (Vertov 2004: 84). The suspicion that Eisenstein may have been exaggerating his parodic intent as a result of the strident polemic with Vertov after the release of Strike (Stachka, 1924) (Eizenshtein 1964b: 112-16) is reinforced by comparing Glumov’s Diary with the third part of Spring Ciné-Truth. Even though the fragments have probably been incorrectly positioned by the archivists in Krasnogorsk—inexplicably, they appear between images of children recovering at a sanatorium and subsequently learning technical skills at the Central House of Pioneers—the general conceptual alliance is not difficult to detect.
According to an interview given by Vertov shortly after its release, Spring Ciné-Truth was the first of the Kino-Pravda series to utilize exclusively contemporary material, as opposed to archival footage (Griol’ 1922). It was divided structurally into three distinct parts: “Moscow in Spring” (Moskva v vesne); “Street Children” (Besprizornye); and “May the May-Day Parade be with You” (Mai s toboi). It has been customary (Abramov 1962: 35; Roshal’ 1982: 93) to emphasize the looseness of these divisions and the fact that the three sections were unified primarily by the lyrical atmosphere associated with spring and the “concept of the smile.” The surviving footage, however, even in its current, randomly reassembled order, suggests that the material was structured deliberately according to the principle of associative ideological logic. Several related themes emerge from the study of this material. One is the position of children in Soviet society, initially as victims of famine and homelessness, but subsequently restored to health and able to become active Soviet citizens. As reassembled by archivists, Spring Ciné-Truth begins with children visiting an exhibition of Soviet paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and book publications, as well as educational posters which promote the Red Army’s efforts to relieve victims of famine. This is followed by a fashion show organized specifically to raise money for deprived children: one of its images shows a collection box with a placard which reads “For the Benefit of Street Children” (V pol’zu besprizornykh detei). This theme is continued shortly afterwards by scenes which show a street-side lottery to raise money for street children, and a much grander lottery event for the same cause, organized by the so-called Moscow Region After-Hunger Committee (Mosgubposlegol) and attended by various government officials and Bolshevik grandees, which shows young children picking out tickets from a large glass and metal wheel. This is succeeded by images of malnourished children weighed on scales by doctors, and idyllic scenes at a sanatorium in which children are restored to health through proper nutrition, gymnastic activities, and sunbathing. Later sequences show the entrance to the Central House of Pioneers, in which children are shown acquiring the crafts and technical skills necessary to become productive Soviet citizens. Lastly, as part of the May-Day parade material, Vertov is careful to emphasize the role of children both as observers and participants. We see crowds of children waving banners and pennants. They are shown squeezed together in the back of horse-drawn carts and trucks, dressed in costumes and carrying sheaves of wheat and scythes as part of the procession. Rows of pioneers and Komsomol members line the streets of Moscow to witness the parade of military equipment. Several brigades participate in the marching. And at one point a May-Day banner is visible on the side of a truck which declares that “Children are the Joy of Life” (Deti—radost’ zhizni).
Apart from the equation of youth with spring and the dawning of a new consciousness, another theme in Vertov’s newsreel chronicle, as Gruber (2006: 15) has observed, is the theatricality of Soviet life. This is established by means of the popular pageantry that features as part of the May-Day celebrations. The third part of Spring Ciné-Truth consists of a veritable cornucopia of carnival-style festivity: endless parades of processional floats, garlanded and decorated trucks and military vehicles, theatre troupes, bands of musicians, marchers carrying flags and banners, characters masquerading as reactionary “types,” and dolls and effigies that function as caricatures of the “fascist” class enemy. The presence of clowns, magicians, musicians and dancers among the crowds is typical of the performative discourses which informed the May-Day celebrations of this period. Facial expressions are grotesquely exaggerated by means of maquillage, large and ugly effigies of foreign statesmen (Hindenburg, Mussolini, and the British Governor-General of India) are paraded, Orthodox priests and NEP-men are transformed into pantomime-style figures of fun, and there is a figure modeled on popular images of the Grim Reaper, who carries a placard bearing the words “Fascism” around his or her neck. Such images were the typical accoutrements of festive celebrations as inaugurated in the early years of the Revolution (von Geldern 1993: 134-74). In essence, they were dramatic performances that bore traces of the conceptual influences of theatre specialists, among them those, like Valentin Smyshlaev, director of the theatrical section of the Moscow Proletkul’t, who were keen to conceptualize the mass demonstration as a form of visual spectacle (von Geldern 1993: 144-46).
Bearing in mind the Proletkul’t’s involvement in debates about the conceptualization of public festivals, it should come as little surprise to find elements in common between the material which constitutes Glumov’s Diary and the actuality footage of the May-Day parades as showcased in Spring Ciné-Truth. The overall trajectory of Vertov’s newsreel, which moves from the serious (the sufferings of children) to the fun-loving (the carnival discourse of the May-Day parades), seems to encourage the inclusion of comic material. Both the third part of the newsreel and the fragments of Glumov’s Diary, including the cameos of the actors, are characterized by the “concept of the smile.” Furthermore, both rely on elements belonging to the realms of carnival culture: the cartoon-style caricatures of negative “types,” in particular foreign political figures; the occasional display of (relative) vulgarity; and the performative discourse of the clown. Notwithstanding the responses of some contemporary viewers, who were clearly confused by the juxtaposition of serious and comic material, the presence of the material from Glumov’s Diary seems entirely consistent with the conceptual underpinning of the newsreel. The strategic, albeit informal, alliance between Eisenstein and Vertov is further suggested by the fact that in the planned reorganization of his documentary unit within Goskino Vertov aimed to introduce “comic feuilletons” that would “expose the shortcomings of NEP” (“Proekt reorganizatsii Kino-Pravdy” 1922: 21).
This article has attempted to establish the artistic logic of Eisenstein’s Glumov’s Diary and to assess its significance as a contribution to the proletarian culture of the early revolutionary period in the Soviet Union. The achievement of this goal has necessitated a thorough examination of the circumstances of its survival and the dispelling of the confusion that has clearly arisen in relation to the boundaries of its individual parts, their sequence order, and even the identities of the protagonists. What emerges is a cultural document, the importance of which stretches beyond its historical value as a record of an experimental theatrical exercise. Although less radical and ambitious than the spectacle of which they formed a part, and although initially dismissed as cinematic “trifles” by Eisenstein’s colleagues within LEF—for example Aleksei Gan, the Constructivist artist, and Esfir’ Shub, the archivist and documentary film compiler (Eizenshtein 2000: 255)—the surviving fragments of Glumov’s Diary intended for screening within the Ostrovskii production are nevertheless rich in terms of parodic scope and intertextual dimension. Furthermore, they contain their own record of creative evolution: what started life as a series of relatively static tableaux, albeit involving the trick shot of the dissolve (the comic résumé), clearly graduated into a more complex piece of filmmaking (the parody of the American detective film), one that involved a multiplicity of camera positions and angles, as well as, very possibly, borrowed actuality footage. The fact that the surviving fragments have been mistakenly reconstructed by archivists obscures the record of this creative ambition, and thus also Eisenstein’s increasing fascination for the medium of film at this crucial turning-point in his career.
University College London
1] Glumov’s Diary was discovered in the Krasnogorsk Central State Archive of Film and Photo Documents (TsGAKFD) and subsequently premiered in Riga at a special screening on 27 January 1978 to commemorate the eightieth anniversary of Eisenstein’s birth. Private email to the author from Naum Kleiman dated 4 September 2009. I owe a debt of thanks to several individuals for their help during the research for this article: Valerii Bosenko, head of international liaison at the Russian State Film Archive (Gosfil’mofond), who kindly arranged for a copy of Dziga Vertov’s Spring Ciné-Truth (Vesenniaia Kino-Pravda, 1923) to be made available to me; Naum Kleiman, film historian and director of the Muzei kino and Eisenstein Centre in Moscow, who responded to enquiries about the rediscovery of Glumov’s Diary with unfailing patience and courtesy; and Alexander Howarth, Adelheid Heftberger, Thomas Tode, and Georg Wasner at the Österreichisches Filmmuseum in Vienna, who were extremely helpful in answering queries in relation to the archive’s Vertov holdings. My thanks go also to Oleg Bochkov of Gosfil’mofond for permission to use the clips. Unless otherwise stated, all translations from the Russian are my own.
2] Miliukov was the founder of the Russian Kadets. He emigrated to France after 1918 and subsequently became associated with the White movement abroad. During the First World War he had advocated annexation of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles (Turetskie prolivy) as part of Russia’s war-aims.
3] The act in which Glumov seeks to flatter Joffre, the third act in the play, is the furthest removed from Ostrovskii in the sense that Krutitskii’s project has been transformed into a revanchist diatribe which seeks reparations from Germany.
5] The version held in Gosfil’mofond, for example, was donated to the Österreichisches Filmmuseum in 1978 and exhibited for the first time in 1983, although this screening did not contain the footage pertaining to Glumov’s Diary, which was donated to the museum only in 1993. Tode and Wurm 2006: 282.
7] This version was released in 2008 by the French film company Bach Films as part of its “Les chefs d’oeuvre du cinéma Russe” series. The edition in question includes a number of Soviet films from the 1920s, most prominently Aleksandr Dovzhenko’s Love’s Berry (Iagodka liubvi, 1926). An identical version, apparently sourced from La Cinémathèque de Toulouse, appeared in 2011 courtesy of Kino Lorber as part of the bonus material accompanying its release of Eisenstein’s Strike (Stachka, 1924).
8] This version was first released in 2004 courtesy of the French company Films sans frontières. It is presented by Galeshka Moravioff, the owner of the company, and is included as bonus material on his two-disk edition of Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (Bronenosets Potemkin, 1925) and The General Line (General’naia liniia, 1926-29). An identical version, with the same presentation by Moravioff, belongs to the supplementary materials which accompany Vostok video’s 2009 release of Dovzhenko’s Zvenigora (1927).
11] Stills from the Huntley Carter collection, one of the rare photographic records of this production, show the stage assistants wearing these same cards on their backs at certain moments during the exchanges in Act IV. See Carter 1924: 92-93 & plate 14.
12] It had been adopted by regiments of the German Freikorps during the Kapp putsch of March 1920 and was associated with reactionary plotting against the Weimar Republic. One year later it had become the emblem of the emerging National Socialist (Nazi) Party.
13] For one reviewer, writing anonymously in Pravda, the inclusion of Eisenstein’s fragments was incomprehensible: s/he criticized the footage for being “insufficiently serious” and condemned its frivolity when compared to the important political events shown elsewhere in the documentary: mention is made of Vatslav Vorovskii’s funeral, which took place on Theatre Square in early May 1923, although this footage does not exist in the surviving versions of the documentary. Z 2004: 47.
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Phil Cavendish © 2013
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