A man, his wife, her lover – divorce is out of the question. There is only one way out: the agony of a feigned death. Fyodor Otsep’s film version of Leo Tolstoy's play is a classic example of the “East-meets-West” perspective adopted by the Mezhrabpom-Film studio and its German producer, Prometheus. This classical melodrama about a divorce that is prevented by both the church and the state is interwoven with avant-garde montages to create a social critique of pre-revolutionary Russia.
A double exchange of roles: Otsep, the author, switches to directing once and for all; he emigrates to Germany and also embarks upon an international career in France and the USA. Vsevolod Pudovkin, in contrast, one of the most famous directors in Soviet film history, gives a commanding performance in his only leading role. The film's international perspective ensured its great success worldwide after it was premiere in Berlin in 1929. It has been handed down in diverse copies, but never in its original form. The new reconstruction – based on six different versions – by Österreichisches Filmmuseum and Deutsche Kinemathek is being shown at the Retrospective for the very first time.
Print courtesy of the Austrian Film Museum, Vienna
Germany (through 1945) / UDSSR 1929, 121 min