Mother (1926): Pudovkin’s Revolutionary Film (Film Theory; Montage)

Vsevolod Pudovkin directed Mother, a seminal expressive-realist silent film about one woman’s struggle against Tsarist rule during the 1905 Russian Revolution.

Our Grade: A (***** out of *****)

The film is based on the 1906 novel “The Mother,” by Maxim Gorky.

It is the first film in Pudovkin’s “revolutionary trilogy,” alongside The End of St. Petersburg (1927) and Storm Over Asia (aka The Heir to Genghis Khan) (1928).

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Film poster

            

The film underwent restoration in 1968 in the Mosfilm studio and a sound track was added with music by Tikhon Khrennikov.

Pavel Vlasov’s mother is drawn into the conflict when her husband and sson are on opposite sides during a workers’ strike. After her husband dies during the failed strike, she betrays her son’s ideology in order to save his life. He is arrested, tried, and sentenced to labor in a prison camp.

During his incarceration, his mother aligns herself with his ideology and joins the revolutionaries.

In the movie’s climax, the mother and the masses march to jail to free the prisoners, who have planned their escape. But the Tsar’s troops suppress the uprising, killing both mother and son.

Pudovkin later observed in his book Film Technique and Film Acting: “In my earlier film, Mother, I tried to affect the spectators, not by the psychological performances of an actor, but by plastic synthesis through editing.”

Pudovkin provides an epic sense of the Revolution through its brilliant use of editing, aimed at conditioning the viewers’ emotions.  Well before Hitchcock, he understood that one of the unique properties of the film medium is the ability to guide (and manipulate) the psychology of the spectators.

Through his films, and theoretical pamphlet, Pudovkin’s style of montage proved to be most influential on future filmmakers.

Unlike Eisenstein, Pudovkin placed strong emphasis on acting.The two main roles were played by professional actors, Vera Baranovskaya as the Mother and Nikolai Batalov as the Son, of the Moscow Art Theatre. Pudovkin himself played the Police Officer.

Cast

Vera Baranovskaya as Pelageya Nilovna Vlasova, the Mother
Nikolai Batalov as Pavel Vlasov, the Son
Aleksandr Chistyakov as Vlasov, the Father
Anna Zemtsova as Anna, a Revolutionary Girl
Ivan Koval-Samborsky as Vessovchtchnikov, Pavel’s Friend
Vsevolod Pudovkin as Police Officer
V. Savitsky as Isaik Gorbov, the Foreman
N. Vidonov as Misha, a Worker

 

Credits:

Directed byVsevolod Pudovkin

Written byNathan Zarkhi based on Maxim Gorky’s novel

Music: David Blok (1935 version); Tikhon Khrennikov (1970 version)

Cinematography: Anatoli Golovnya
Production company Mezhrabpomfilm

Release date: October 11, 1926
Running time: 89 minutes (1,800 meters)
Russian intertitles

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