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The Childhood of Maxim Gorky (1938)

Detstvo Gorkogo (original title)
A drama reveals the great writer's inauspicious early years as an orphan raised by conniving relatives.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Aleksei Lyarsky ...
Varvara Massalitinova ...
Mikhail Troyanovsky ...
Elizaveta Alekseeva ...
Vyacheslav Novikov ...
Uncle Yakov Kashirin (as V. Novikov)
Aleksandr Zhukov ...
K. Zubkov ...
Old Grigori
Daniil Sagal ...
Ivan, aka 'Gypsy'
Sergey Tikhonravov ...
The Lodger (as S. Tikhonravov)
Igor Smirnov ...
Alexei, aka 'Lenka' or 'Lex', a crippled boy
E. Mamaev ...
Sacha Kashirin, nephew
V. Korochentchikov ...
Mikhail's son, also named Sacha
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Storyline

This haunting, unforgettable film, based upon Maxim Gorky's 1913 autobiography, shows a twelve-year-old's journey in life against the tumultuous backdrop of 19th century Russia. With tableaux beautifully vivid and forceful, it recounts the touching relationships which develop when Gorky is put into custody at his grandparents' home. His grandmother, a simple woman who knows how to make people laugh, represents optimism in the direst situations, honesty in a world of deceit. Gorky's poverty-stricken childhood formed his life-long compassion for the underdog, and the film is filled with powerful portraits of lower class people whose qualities of integrity and dignity shine through their hopeless circumstances. Among many others are the half-blind Grigory, who works at the grandfather's dye factory, and Gorky's little orphaned friends, who live out of garbage cans, dreaming of a utopian neverland. From these portraits come an inspiring, panoramic view of human conditions and conflicts. Written by Anonymous

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Genres:

Biography | Drama

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Details

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Release Date:

27 September 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

My Childhood  »

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Connections

Referenced in The Final Cut: Episode #1.3 (1995) See more »

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Oh, what people
27 December 2013 | by (Denmark) – See all my reviews

This shows the early life of Maxim Gorky(Lyarsky, who brings to life his observant, kind and, yes, stubborn, ways). He lives with grandparents, surrounded by other relatives, as the sons of the patriarch each try to talk him into leaving them with more. But why should he divide it up at all? They'll drink it up! He worked so hard to... sure, he doesn't need it all himself... still...

And there we have one of the many rich themes in this: when one among the poor is rich. He becomes greedy and paranoid, whilst those who want it the most turn from brothers into bitter enemies. With so little to go around, any pile of it will draw everyone's attention. The Christ symbolism is equally compelling - a foundling who spreads love and joy, a cross-shaped mast on a man-drawn ship, and easily the most well-off seen are the churches. Who in this most follows Jesus' teachings, and who merely pays lip-service? One can appreciate it without having faith in it. We see several praying, and it's one of many places in this where different people's actions, words and attitude contrast those of others. Though it is vital to know the historical context of this, with that in place, it can be appreciated without the deep analysis required to even keep up with a Tarkovsky piece.

Whether one reads this as social realism, revolutionary romanticism(Stalin undoubtedly pointed to this as reason to do away with the Tsar) or both, it's undeniably haunting. The way it mixes the tragic and comical. Its love of the underdog(which, indeed, stems from the titular author of this auto-biographical work; while I have not read the novels, I understand that this is an adaptation that stays very true to its source), seen in the numerous portrayals of such: those who have not let their pitiful situations get to them, who hold their heads up high, look others straight in the eyes and retain their integrity and dignity. Some of the members of the family, the neighbor, some children. My father watched this in a theater, in the 60's. He's never forgotten about it since. Only now have I seen it, and I understand how it can stay with someone for half a century.

Every aspect of this is expertly done. The acting and characterization is amazing and entirely consistent - so much so that you will remember and tell apart the dozens of people in it. Cinematography and editing are impeccably done, letting us follow what goes on, injecting metaphors and subtly working on the viewer(notice how cramped it makes the home feel, whilst the open nature seems infinite). The 96 minute running time flies right by, yet leaves so much intellectual stimuli to further ponder that it simultaneously feel like a lot more. So many developments, such credible depictions of relationships, environments and work, all of it from the perspective of a child. One has to connect dots and fill in blanks in this, without it lacking a rough edge, in part due to discipline dished out by authority figures, and the harshness of their poverty-stricken life. Unless you can't tolerate it otherwise, make sure not to get a dubbed version of this.

There is some brutal disturbing content in this(little of it graphic). The Hyperkino annotated DVD comes with a lot of informational (written!) commentary by Jeremy Hicks. I wholeheartedly recommend this to everyone. 10/10


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