Mezhrabpom-Film skilfully sought to meet the state's demand that it support the Soviet power's anti-religious propaganda – and with this comedy the studio struck it lucky.
The amusing balance between a supposed saint, who has to take himself and his helpers seriously, and a gifted clown who loves putting on an act, lends this film its charm – a feature that is also intensified by the actors' delight in costumes, metamorphoses, posing and disillusionment. Some of the spectators will have been aware of the profounder sense of playing with being and appearance, between staged illusions and reality. However, the film carefully avoided any references to prevailing Soviet reality, a discrepancy that could only be kept in check with a sense of aesthetics and taste – and the ability and desire to create comedy.
The question remained as to the many believers in the film: most of them peasants and ordinary people who were hoping to find consolation and edification, but were unable to see through the illusion. The people's longings could not be satisfied with anti-religious materialism alone. But comedy made a lot of things possible …
Print courtesy of Filmmuseum im Münchner Stadtmuseum, Munich