An Unusual Soviet Silent
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 03/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Abram Room's Bed and Sofa is quite different from the most famous Soviet silent films such as Battleship Potemkin, Earth or Mother. The Great Russian silents are usually full of propaganda, with stylised characters representing archetypes rather than individuals. Such films, while undoubtedly brilliant, can at times appear to be an exhibition of a director's particular theory of filmmaking. While Bed and Sofa uses typically fast "Russian editing", it is used unobtrusively and doesn't overwhelm the narrative. The characters in this film are believable individuals rather than revolutionary heroes or villains. The story is more about subtly exploring the way men and women treat each other, than about expressing propaganda points. The film begins with Kolia and his wife Liuda living in a one room apartment. It is apparent that their marriage is not particularly happy. Kolia meets an old army friend Voldoia, who has come to Moscow to work. Without even asking his wife, Kolia offers to put him up on their sofa. When Kolia has to go away on business, Volodia takes the neglected wife out on some trips. It soon becomes apparent that an attraction has developed between them. The story is involving, often amusing and at times poignant. Each of the characters has faults, but they all remain sympathetic. The three main actors give fine performances, using gestures and slight changes in facial expression to suggest their emotions. It is easy to care about these characters and this makes the film all the more moving. Bed and Sofa is not only an entertaining film, it also shows something of the details of daily life in Moscow during the 1920s. It is continually fascinating to observe the customs and routines of this period. Moreover the film provides a valuable record of the Moscow streets and landmarks which have changed or been destroyed since the film was made. This is a really fine DVD. It has two discs one with English and one with Russian titles. It has in addition to the main feature a bonus short film, Chess Fever, which runs just less than half an hour. This film is a comedy about the Russian obsession with chess and was directed by the great director Vsevolod Pudovkin and Nikolai Shpikovsky. Chess Fever is pretty funny and anyone interested in the history of chess will find it fun to spot some of the Grandmasters from the 1920s who crop up during the course of the film. Both Chess Fever and Bed and Sofa have fine scores played by Rodney Sauer and the Mont Alto Orchestra. This music is both appropriate to the period and to the mood and action of the films. There is also a very useful commentary to Bed and Sofa provided by Julian Graffy. He is clearly an expert on the film and speaks in an informative and entertaining way. The prints of both films are very good and much better than many Soviet films I have seen from this period. The images are sharp, clear and detailed with only a small amount of apparent print damage. The two films on this DVD are both enjoyable; Bed and Sofa may well be an unsung minor masterpiece."
Two excellent Soviet silent films!
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 10/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I found this 2-disc DVD set even better than I anticipated, and I was impressed not only by the films themselves but by the musical score and optional commentary to "Bed and Sofa". The second disc even has the original versions of both films with Russian intertitles, but besides Russian letters and recognizable scenes of Moscow, there is nothing else in these films that smacks of Soviet propaganda. In fact, "Bed and Sofa" is a very human story everyone can relate to, thanks to the excellent direction by Abram Room who captures the moods and feelings of three people living in a small basement flat. The attention to details of domestic matters and the characters' emotions and reactions very effectively draws the viewer into their world so that a certain suspense of the outcome develops. And just when you are fully involved in their lives and think you know what will happen next, the final outcome is surprising and actually quite refreshing. For even deeper insight into the thoughts and feelings involved, and the director's techniques to express them, the optional commentary is very informative. Alternatively, the musical score by Rodney Sauer is among the best I've heard, being lovely classical music perfectly suited to the film throughout.
Last but not least, the second film "Chess Fever" is a real gem and not to be underestimated. It is only 28 minutes long, but tells an amusing and delightful story - perhaps not too far removed from fact - about people's obsession with chess during the World Championships held in Moscow in 1925. It focusses on one young man whose obsession with the game causes him to neglect his fiancee - with the predictable outcome, yet the end has a lovely twist to make you smile. It is a clever comedy with many genuinely funny moments which I thoroughly enjoyed and can highly recommend."