I have viewed a nitrate print of this silent film ... which was incomplete, and so seriously deteriorated that I hand-cranked it through a Steenbeck viewer rather than using a motorised projector. This movie is a piece of Soviet propaganda which takes a weirdly ambivalent attitude towards Russia's Jewish citizens.
The main character is Motele (played by Ygor Mindler), a poor young Jewish tailor in a remote Russian town during the reign of Czar Nicholas II. (Motele seems almost identical to the character named Motel in 'Fiddler on the Roof': I wonder if this was originally a stock character in Yiddish folklore.) Despite the Czar's ongoing oppressive policies against the Jews, Motele is conscripted into the Czar's army. Meanwhile, Motele's impoverished sister Rosa is forced to marry the lecherous son of the prosperous owner of the local shoe factory. To help his sister, Motele goes AWOL (or whatever they call it in Russia). The last reel was missing, so I don't know how the film ends.
This movie was made by the post-czarist Soviet regime, so (as in the much better 'Potemkin') there are frequent efforts to depict the Czar's ministers as corrupt and his soldiers as thugs. Interestingly, much of this film depicts Russia's Jews as hard workers and dedicated tradesmen, innocent victims of the Czar's policies. And yet there are also some extremely anti-Semitic sequences, showing wealthy Jews exploiting the peasantry. When the Czar's men order the Jews to leave town, we see several Jewish characters loading up immense trunks filled with gold and banknotes.
The filmmakers seem to want to have it both ways ... getting credit for being sympathetic to the plight of Russian Jewry, whilst enforcing the usual stereotypes about money-grubbing Jews. Frankly, the print which I viewed was in such an advanced state of deterioration that I'm reluctant to make any definite statement about the filmmakers' intentions ... and so I shan't give this movie a rating. In the post-Soviet era, we now know that Jews in Russia were oppressed much more by the communists than they were by any of the czars.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?