What a pleasant surprise. I wasn't expecting much from a "lesser" Soviet film of the 1920s when "Women of Ryazan" proved to be a little treat. Don't get me wrong : Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Barnet, Vertov, etc. were certainly more important filmmakers than Olga Preobrazhenskaya. However, this film has many of the qualities of the first Soviet "heavyweight" films without being precisely heavy. The fact that the film is almost free of any type of Communist propaganda certainly helps. If there is a message here, it is not a political but a feminist one. But even this message is subtle.
The first interest of the film is its depiction of a rural community just before and after WWI (yes, the time of the Russian Revolution). However, unlike other Soviet films, "Women of Ryazan", while being lyrical and beautifully photographed, has a real plot and never leaves it aside. The plot is mostly about the fate of two women (blond Anna and dark-haired Wassilissa), the first being a dutiful (if not submissive) doomed soldier's wife, the latter, more lively and energetic, who will openly defy the old way of life.
Preobrazhenskaya was obviously not afraid to deal with bold subjects (cohabitation, the right to choose one's spouse, rape) but never pushes them down into the viewer's throat. Also, good acting from (I suppose) non-professional actors. An interesting curio, for those who have already seen most of the prominent works of the Soviet-era cinema.
PS : The version I saw was longer than the running time mentioned on the presentation page (almost 90 minutes).
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