Early Russian Cinema, Vol. 3: Starewicz’s Fantasies
Directed by Ladislas Starevich
This collection includes examples of the three main strands of directors Ladislas Starevich's early work. First, The Dragonfly and the Ant (1913), based on a fable by the classic writer Krylov, reveals the poetic elegance of Starevich’s debut. The film was shown at court and rewarded by a gift and praise from the Tsar — which also reflected well on Starevich’s patron, Khanzkonkov.
Adaptations of Gogol were another constant thread running through Starevich’s work up to 1919, giving full rein to a love of the grotesque and the macabre which is also evident in the animal puppet films. Christmas Eve (1913) — which includes one of Mozzhukhin’s oddest character roles, as the devil — was apparently a great success, hailed by a contemporary reviewer as “sparkling with pure Gogolesque humor and ... accompanied by continuous laughter from the public.”
Russia’s entry into the Great War produced a wave of patriotic propaganda from artists in many media. One of Starevich’s contributions was the curious and touching The Lily of Belgium (1915). This uses one of his favorite techniques of mixing live-action with stop-frame animation to create an unashamed allegory of the German siege of Belgium.