4,000 soldiers, including cavalrymen, were loaned by the Latvian army to portray the Russian and Tartar armies, and the battles were filmed outside Riga on large plains, which simulated the Siberian steppes. See more »
This is a gorgeous and visually exciting film, which has held up exceptionally well in the 80 years since it was made. The story is quite fast-paced, considering its length and the absence of dialogue except for the titles. Since silent movies have to depend on much more physical acting to get across the story, moods and personalities of the characters, they can often lapse into sluggish spells, with actors piling up the emoting to get the message over. Not this film. The acting for the most part is very natural, and Mosjoukine is so sensitive and accomplished that he can convey every type of emotion as easily and efficiently as a modern actor, with all the advantages of sound. I really can't say enough about his performance; he does everything - humor, shyness, pride, rage, shame, love - you name it.
There's one scene where he's overjoyed that his horse has managed to find him in the midst of a warzone, only for it to be shot dead a moment later by attacking Tartars. The way he goes in a few second from a sort of quiet joy to heartbroken grief over this poor horse is just breathtaking. He was obviously a professional of the highest quality, and it's a pity he's nearly forgotten today. At least this film is beautifully restored, and may introduce people to an actor who deserves to be counted among the great performers of silent film.
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