Complicated Relationships Between High Or Low Ranks
From his early silent works, the great Russian film director, Herr Yakov Protazanov, made literary adaptations from equally great Russian writers, as is the case with "Chiny I Lyudi" ( Ranks And People ) (1929) in which three short stories by Chekhov, "Anna On The Neck", "Death Of A Petty Official" and "Chameleon" were assembled for the silent screen.
"Anna On The Neck" tells the story the young and beautiful Anna ( Dame Mariya Strelkova ) who has just married an old but rich civil servant. Anna thinks her marriage will rescue her father and her two brothers from a miserable life of poverty. Anna becomes disenchanted fast when her rich husband turns out to be an avaricious and severe man. Anna's sad life changes when she attends a posh ball and every man there, including the mayor, is charmed by her. Anna's husband hopes to get business advantages through this but Anna is thinking of revenge.
The second episode, "Death Of A Petty Official" depicts the story of Herr Cherviakov ( Herr Ivan Moskvin ) who together with his wife attends a ballet; during the performance, the civil servant sneezes on a functionary of high rank and offers apology after apology all during and at the end of the spectacle. The general pays no mind to the incident but is harassed by this minor official who won't let the matter drop and, time after time, keeps on apologizing, writing letters asking for forgiveness or visiting the functionary at home.
In the third film episode," Chameleon", a small dog bites the finger of a passer-by. The furious man seizes it and asks two policemen to charge the owner of the dog. Both agents begin to draft the report but a change of attitude occurs at once when a man comes to tell them that this dog belongs to the mayor.
In the year 1929, to construct a film made of different episodes was an exciting idea and the successful final result ( very fanciful in this kind of film ) depends basically on the film structure. Although it's not really necessary for the different stories to be interconnected, this German count feels it's very advisable artistically to have a theme-even a minor one- linking the episodes within the film.
Like a "matryoshka" doll ( those Russian set of dolls of decreasing sizes placed one inside another ), in "Chiny I Lyudi", little by little Herr Protazanov goes deeply into the complicated relationships between high or low ranks, or the everlasting and subtle fighting among different social classes. He studies in depth and with sobriety and skill, troublesome and basic human instincts and behaviours such as hypocrisy, fearfulness or forgiveness, (no need this time to be strictly and obviously incisive in such criticism). This is a solid oeuvre with complementary and enlightened meanings that will linger in the minds of the viewers long after the silent show has ended.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must close ranks with his fellow aristocrats.
Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien http://ferdinandvongalitzien.blogspot.com/
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