In order to allow another servant to go home to be with her children, Nastya agrees to serve in her place, as a maid in the household in which Nastya's grandfather is a porter. Soon ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Aleksandr Chargonin ...
Aleksandr Kheruvimov ...
The porter
Dora Tschitorina ...
Nastya, his grand-daughter
Viktor Petipa ...
Baron von Rehren
Elsa Krueger ...
Yelena, Kostrizyn's bride
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Andrej Gromov
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Storyline

In order to allow another servant to go home to be with her children, Nastya agrees to serve in her place, as a maid in the household in which Nastya's grandfather is a porter. Soon afterwards, the woman who owns the house goes on a trip, leaving her son Pavel at home. Pavel is engaged to Ellen, but Ellen flirts openly with other men. Nastya and the servants quickly realize that Ellen is having an ongoing romantic affair with Baron von Rehren. This puts the servants, and especially the sensitive Nastya, in a painfully uncomfortable position. Written by Snow Leopard

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Drama

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29 April 1914 (Russia)  »

Also Known As:

Mute Witnesses  »

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1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Resourceful, Effective, & Often Striking Psychological Drama
14 March 2005 | by (Ohio) – See all my reviews

This psychological drama has an interesting story, and just in itself it was an achievement to film it so effectively in silent movie form. It is also quite a resourceful movie, as well as quite striking in several respects. The content is interesting in itself, and also as a reflection of its era. The way that the story is told demonstrates both skill and feeling on the part of Yevgeni Bauer and his cast.

The central theme of the story is the interplay between the servants of a large household and the upper classes whom they serve. It's a theme that has often produced interesting drama, but here it is used in a particularly effective and realistic way. The theme of the servants as "Silent Witnesses" could hardly have been developed more skillfully, or used to greater effect, than it is here.

The events in the opening sequence are just incidental, in themselves, to the main story, but the sequence nicely sets up the themes that are later used to great effect in subsequent plot developments. In this opening sequence, a servant's personal difficulty is resolved only by the generosity and sacrifice of another servant, in the face of insensitivity on the part of the servants' mistress. It introduces what becomes a rather fascinating look at the Russian class structure of its time, almost on the eve of the outbreak of the Great War that would lead to the overthrow of that structure.

Dora Tschitorina is very endearing as Nastya, the sensitive maid who is the central character. Elsa Krueger is also quite effective as the attractive, cold-hearted, manipulative Ellen, whose liaisons cause such discouragement for the servants, and especially for Nastya. The primary male characters – the innocent, weak-willed Pavel and the repulsively oily Baron, have less depth, but they are rendered believably. A less important, but interesting, aspect of the characters is the striking resemblance that Nastya's grandfather bears to Emil Jannings's character in Murnau's "The Last Laugh".

As the finale nears, Bauer makes use of an effective overhead shot of all the characters in various corners of a room, in such a way that it depicts quite cleverly their attitudes and their relationships with one another. The movie leaves you with considerable sadness, but it also creates a satisfied feeling that everything fits together and rings true, an unusual combination.

Along the way, Bauer also effectively uses some other techniques, such as split screens. From a technical standpoint, it gives the impression of a film-maker who could be a lot fancier if he wished to be, but who prefers to allow the story, and his convictions about the characters in the story, to speak for themselves. In that and in other respects, "Silent Witnesses" works very well.


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