three films by yevgeni bauer
alone in a society of dependants
V. Demert (script), Yevgeni Bauer (director) Sumerki zenskoi Dushi (Twilight of a Woman's Soul) / 1913
Watching the several silent films I did in the summer and fall of 2011, I discovered something that I am sure aficionados of silent films have long known, namely that the fewer titles that a film has the more interactive it is with its audience. In Bauer's ground-breaking 1913 film Twilight of a Woman's Soul, we are given very few points of dialogue, and when credits appear, they represent simple statements of location or suggestions on the character's state of being ("Love and Conscience," for example.) The viewer, accordingly, must be very attentive to the acting, the facial and hand gestures, the complex bodily movements of the actor, to gain an understanding of the story. Indeed much of the dialogue between various figures must be imagined, created in conjunction with the acting and the viewer's imagination. This bond is a far more intense experience than when, as in many Hollywood films, everything is sp0ken, the acting is a sidebar rather than the focus of our attentions. Even more exciting, to my sense of taste, is that sometimes the viewer gets it all wrong; he later comes to perceive that he has misunderstood—mis-invented—the dialogue or did not properly comprehend relationships. There is a kind of joy in having to go back and rethink the series of events uncoiling before one. Many viewers, of course, may find such a process in which they are actively involved in the work of art as a tiresome, even unnecessary activity; some moviegoers prefer to sit back and have the images and the worlds they create flow over them. This all certainly explains my preference, in talking films, for the cryptic, the dissonant, the disjunctive, and works of highly complexity over easy and straight-forward narratives.
Los Angeles, October 2, 2011
by Douglas Messerli
Yevgeni Bauer (script, based of Ivan Tugenev's Klara Milich), Yevgeni Bauer (director) Posle smerti (After Death) / 1915
In the two years since he had filmed Twilight of a Woman's Soul, Bauer had clearly learned the craft of filmmaking, and expanded on techniques with which he had previously experimented.
by Douglas Messerli
Zova Barantsevich (writer), Yevgeni Bauer (director) Umirayushchii lebed (The Dying Swan) / 1916
Like After Death, The Dying Swan is very much caught up in subject of death and dying and carries forward much of the Edgar Allan Poe tone of the earlier film. But here there are also links to Twlight of a Woman's Soul, particular in the strengths of the female character Gizella, a mute dancer (again played by Vera Karalli).
Los Angeles, October 3, 2011