The End of St. Petersburg (1927)

The End of St. Petersburg (1927)
  • 1489
  • Not Rated
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release year: 1927 ()
  • Running time: 85 min
  • Original Title: Konets Sankt-Peterburga
  • Voted: 1489

A peasant comes to St. Petersburg to find work. He unwittingly helps in the arrest of an old village friend who is now a labor leader. The unemployed peasant is also arrested and sent to fight in World War I. After three years, he returns ready for revolution.

1Aleksandr ChistyakovA worker
2Vera BaranovskayaHis wife
3Ivan ChuvelyovPeasant boy
4V. ObolenskyLebedev
  • The singing, collective eye by 7

    Pudovkin, it is said, would visit Eisenstein late at night to discuss theories of montage. They were both key figures of the movement, but polar opposites; so one can imagine how heatedly - how excitedly, at the prospect of discovery - the ideas must have been debated back and forth, and is montage the means of collision between images that scream or the scaffold that builds into song?

    But whereas Eisenstein was grounded into Freud, Joyce, Banshun and Japanese poetry, Pudovkin - as a British journalist puts it - argued theory like a schoolteacher. So, it makes some sense that he hasn't endured in critical thought like his more famous counterpart, or like Vertov and Dovzhenko. But having read some of Pudovkin's writings, he was indeed one of the great engineers of cinema, at the time when cinema was truly engineered; his theory of human perception as a series of edits, thus how the objective world is arranged movie-like into the mind into a narrative, has far-reaching imports. It implies a way out of the editing mind, and back into the eye.

    It's something that I have been looking for in my meditation - how to extinguish these lapses, edits, of mind narrative so that only the silence behind the forms echoes. This is a literal thing btw, I'm not talking about a fancy metaphor. In meditation, you become tangibly aware of intruding thoughts as narratives, lapses during which the surrounding reality is dimmed into a haze. Back into Pudovkin though.

    But with the advent of sound, he petered out; the last significant experiment we find is in his first talkie, Deserter, and it is about subjective sound. Here though, he still mattered. The two friends and theoretical rivals were commissioned by the Soviet state to make films that commemorated the ten years since the Revolution. Eisenstein turned out a film on the grand scale, Pudovkin on the other hand something more intricate.

    Oh, eventually there is battle and revolutionary spirit rippling through a society of oppressed, exploited proles. Flags are waved from balconies, the streets festively rained with paper as the Reds turn the tide against both Germans and White Russians. By the end, the enemies of the people are shown to have been really few, a handful of pathetic officers scattered in a field. St. Petersburg turns eventually, joyously for the film, into the City of Lenin.

    But there is stuff that matters before we get into the simple paean, all pertaining to the mechanisms that control the eye.

    I don't know what you will be looking to get out of these films, but to me they matter because these people, erudite engineers of film, were hard at work devising ways by which to unfetter the eye from narrative. Oh, the perception they enabled was the farthest thing from true, but we can discard the politics and focus on the actual engineering; how to make film in a way that seeing and what is seen become one, unmediated by any thought between them?

    Look, for example, how Pudovkin edits the scene with the young man at the police headquarters, arguing the release of a man from the same village as he; individually the images may not make perfect sense, the intertitle seems to be a disembodied voice that belongs to no one in particular, but it precisely this scaffold rigged for the eye that makes it resonate. It is only upon seeing, and seeing only, that it translates.

    Painterly beauty elsewhere, fields of hay rolling in the distance, the shots of windmills and overcast skies that predate later poetics of Soviet cinema. Or, once in the city, the stark desolation in empty cityscapes that could only be so purely expressed by a film tradition, rooted in Marxist politics, that rejoiced at the sight of masses and crowds.

    It is fine, fine stuff. As with other Soviet films of the era, I recommend that you see as 'films', not as 'agitprop' from where we, enlightened viewers of the West, are called to salvage a few cinematic notions of historic importance. Oh yes, the imports of good and evil are simple-minded, but were they any more intricate with the expressionists in Germany or contemporary Hollywood?

  • Startling early Russian silent by 10

    Wow!! I wasn't expecting something like this. Quite frankly, silent Russian directors make American directors of the same era look anemic by comparison.

    Nearly every shot in this film is poetry - beautifully composed, lit, not over-acted (like so many silents), simple, and brutally powerfully. The faces, the atmosphere. Vsevolod had an AMAZING eye for composition. The close-ups are gorgeous and intense and fiery and the wide shots are breathtaking in the way they emphasize man's fragile diminutive size.

    Of course, this is a propaganda film, so the upper class are portrayed as fat, hysterical beast-people and the lower-class are all rough-hewn and beautiful, but WHO CARES when the movie is this good! And this is during the age of Eisenstein so the quick-cut editing comes into play during the end with the big overthrow of St. Petersburg with great edits that are nearly subliminal.

    Wonderful stuff

  • They don't make 'em like they used to by 10

    The End of St Petersburg was another landmark of Soviet realist cinema, as good as if not better than Battleship Potemkin, Strike, or Storm Over Asia. It's incredibly powerful, with many absolutely stunning montage sequences that make today's quick cut edits look like like child's play in comparison. The language of cinema was invented in Russia and Germany by artists like Pudovkin, Eisenstein, Murnau, and Lang. Anyone interested in cinema history needs to see films like this one to appreciate how weak our current crop of auteurs truly are.

  • Cinema in its finest form by 9

    This silent 1927 masterpiece is truly brilliant. To me it embodies everything that cinema is meant to be; it's visual art in motion, literature with pictures, history with emotion; all those and much more. It really is at the peak of film-making.

    I say that, but that is not to say it is a perfect film. Just that the intention in creating this bleak and powerful look at poverty in early 20th-century Russia is absolutely spot-on: It wants to tell a tale, create an image, and to breathe life into history. The intention is not simply to entertain like so many awful films of the past ten years, which is a good thing, since "The End of St. Petersberg" is great without actually being entertaining.

    There are some very powerful scenes and some frankly unforgettable visual sequences - the scenes of the first world war for example, or the beginning of the workers' strike. Take it from me, Pudovkin's direction is absolutely masterful and I think it's sad that seemingly so few people have discovered him. But with all that said, by today's standards this doesn't quite have the staying power of Chaplin or Keaton.

    It's quite wonderful to behold, but it can really only captivate the interest of people who are interested in details of history, or who know little of the events leading up to the Russian revolution. Unfortunately for me I'm neither very interested nor entirely ignorant and so while I'm very glad to have witnessed this grand-scale piece of master craftsmanship it couldn't completely peak my interest.

    That's unimportant though in the great scheme of things, and I don't mean to say that I don't thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys film or art. ****1/2 / *****

  • Pioneering portrayal of urban poverty by 8

    Pudovkin makes use of revolutionary techniques, especially montage, as he narrates the story of the storming of the Winter Palace in Skt. Petersburg, 1917. The plot centres on two families, one rural and one urban, whose paths cross as they engage passionately in the uprising. The film is a masterpiece in silent film narration.

1Vladimir Lurovskicomposer
2Alfred Shnitkecomposer
3Andrey Shnitkecomposer
4Vsevolod Pudovkindirector
5Mikhail Dollerdirector
6Nathan Zarkhiwriter