6.7/10
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The Dying Swan (1917)

Umirayushchii lebed (original title)
A grief-stricken ballerina becomes the obsession of an increasingly unhinged artist.

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Cast

Cast overview:
Vera Karalli ...
Gizella - mute dancer
Aleksandr Kheruvimov ...
Gizella's Father
Vitold Polonsky ...
Viktor Krasovsky
Andrej Gromov ...
Valeriy Glinskiy - the artist
Ivane Perestiani ...
Glinskiy's friend
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Storyline

When Viktor meets Gizella one day beside the lake, he takes an interest in her and begins to call on her regularly. The one passion in the life of Gizella, who is unable to speak, is dancing. When Viktor deceives her and she finds him with another woman, she moves away and begins a career as a ballerina. Later, as she is on tour performing "The Dying Swan", the artist Glinskiy attends her performance. Glinskiy, whose own obsession is to depict death in his art, becomes fascinated by Gizella, and he is determined to use her as a model for a special project. Written by Snow Leopard

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Drama

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Release Date:

17 January 1917 (Russia)  »

Also Known As:

Der sterbende Schwan  »

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User Reviews

 
Enjoyable first Russian film
10 December 2015 | by See all my reviews

As Evgenii Bauer's first film, Twilight of A Woman's Soul shows much of the techniques and aesthetics that his later films would become known for. The acting is particularly strong on Nina Chernova's part, and her journey back to her home after committing a murder is jarring, slow, and haunting. She portrays the confusion and numbness and pure instinct that Vera surely feels after the altercation with Maxim. Natural lighting is utilized to its fullest, showing a dingy peasant world and a glimmering, dreamlike upper-class society. As the plot progresses, it's clear that the film lingers a little too much. However, it's worth the wait. Bauer makes a clear visual transition in the last 8 minutes; the only technical scene prior to this transition is a tinted nighttime sequence in Vera's bedroom, which adds a dreamy quality to the shot, and the gauzy curtains that cordon off the bed provide a delicate but clear boundary to separate Vera from the grittier world beyond it. The peasant Maxim breaks this wall to deliver a letter, as he will do so again when his actions thrust Vera into a darker, less fragile existence after he assaults her. In the last minutes of the film, Bauer creates a visual twilight as all of Vera's scenes are tinted; after facing the emotional trauma of rape and Dolskij's rejection of her, we see a darker soul than the aimless girl at the beginning of the film. Vera's wardrobe, too, shows this shift. Whereas earlier she wore white gowns suggesting purity, the first view the audience gets of her after her foray into acting is garbed in a metallic gown with a headdress; one can't help but be reminded of the appearance of armor. She is surely stronger than she was as a girl, as she tells Dolskij that she pities him when he cannot accept she is not chaste. While heavy on melodrama, the aesthetic value is worth waiting through the slow boiling and skimpy plot. It skims over heavy emotional issues, such as Vera's rape and the murder of Maxim, but at the time even the suggestions of these events were probably edgy; one also cannot expect the dialogue on rape victims' experiences to be very developed in 1917. Bauer sticks to his flair for the dramatic, and although an impressive cinematic debut, in modern times it appears as fluff, albeit aesthetically pleasing fluff.


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