Saturday, April 10, 2021

Vsevolod Meyerhold and Mikhail Doronin | Portret Doryana Greya (The Picture of Dorian Gray) / 1915 [lost film]

the picture of dorian gray (1915) 

Vsevolod Meyerhold and Mikhail Doronin (text, based on Oscar Wilde’s fiction, and directors) Portret Doryana Greya (The Picture of Dorian Gray) / 1915 Lost Film

Perhaps the most prestigious of the now lost Dorian Gray films was the 1915 silent, 22-minute film directed by Vsevolod Meyerhold and Mikhail Doronin in 1915. That film, with Aleksandr Levitsky serving as cinematographer featured a woman, Varnara Yanova as Dorian Gray, emphasizing the beautiful young man’s androgyny, and featured Meyerhold himself as Lord Henry Wotton. Other members of the cast included Paola Belova, Gustav Enriton, Yelizaveta Uvarova, Alexandre Volkoff and Doronin playing other unnamed characters. The art direction was by Vladimir Yegorov.

       A long essay on the script has been published which basically describes the film as introducing biographical information about Dorian Gray as well as linking the creation of the character with Wilde himself, based on his notion that a work of art always most resembles the artist himself.

       Meyerhold’s company was noted for its international theater productions of plays by Ernst Toller, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Emile Verhaeren and numerous others along with two other films by fin-de-siècle authors. But at this point in his career Meyerhold had not yet found his audience, most the films being ignored also in the West, and, accordingly, “lost.”

      As one unnamed commentator put it:

 “...we can only imagine what this film was like, based on the few stills in circulation. Meyerhold frequently made use of modern art trends, in particular Constructivism, German Expressionism and Cubism (employing the likes of Aleksandr Rodchenko and Aleksandra Exter to design sets),  and it is likely that he did so with this picture. Indeed, one critic has claimed that if Dorian Gray had been seen in the West before Wiene's Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari, then it might have won similar acclaim and exerted a much higher level of influence.

     As it stands, the film was not noted until it was too late, and now it, like Meyerhold's film of Stanislaw Przybyszewski's novel The Strong Man, no longer exists. However, Meyerhold's theoretical works on theatre have survived, despite the director's execution under order of Stalin in 1939-40 (due to his refusal to toe the Party line during the 1928-32 Cultural Revolution), and they are probably the most useful tools for anyone wishing to inform themselves about the works of this great director.”

      Above is a poster for the film and a frame from the film itself.

 Los Angeles, April 10, 2021

Reprinted from World Cinema Review (April 2021).

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