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The Queen of Spades (1916)

Pikovaya dama (original title)
While hosting a game of cards one night, Narumov tells his friends a story about his grandmother, a Countess. As a young woman, she had once incurred an enormous gambling debt, which she ... See full summary »

Director:

Yakov Protazanov

Writers:

Alexander Pushkin (short story "The Queen of Spades"), Fyodor Otsep | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Credited cast:
Tamara Duvan Tamara Duvan ... The Countess as a young woman
Ivan Mozzhukhin ... Hermann
Vera Orlova ... Lizaveta
Nikolai Panov Nikolai Panov ... Count of Saint-Germain
Polikarp Pavlov Polikarp Pavlov ... The Count (as P. Pavlov)
Yelizaveta Shebueva Yelizaveta Shebueva ... The Countess
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Storyline

While hosting a game of cards one night, Narumov tells his friends a story about his grandmother, a Countess. As a young woman, she had once incurred an enormous gambling debt, which she was able to erase by learning a secret that guaranteed that she could win by playing her cards in a certain order. One of Narumov's friends, German, has never gambled, but he is intrigued by the story about the Countess and her secret. He soon becomes obsessed with learning this secret from her, and he starts by courting her young ward Lizaveta, hoping to use her to gain access to the Countess. Written by Snow Leopard

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Genres:

Drama | Fantasy | Horror

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Details

Country:

Russia

Language:

Russian

Release Date:

18 November 1917 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Dama de Espadas See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Connections

Version of Pique Dame (1981) See more »

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User Reviews

Moments before Eisenstein
9 April 2012 | by chaos-rampantSee all my reviews

Here's an interesting film from the days before tireless proles dominated the Russian screens; army officers in impeccable attire gamble and drink and tell stories, pampered aristocrats stroll and saunter about in upscale establishments in Paris, and the only hint of poverty is that the poor young maid is dissatisfied by having to serve the old countess.

It is important to appreciate the significance of this apart from the screen, I feel. These characters and their decadent, opulent world are months away from actually being swept away from life, as are the filmmakers and actors seen here. Both the people who inspired the characters and actors portraying them, a lot of them at least, would be forced to go on the trail and into exile in France or Germany, and for a lot of the same reasons.

And this is what our film is partially about. A complacent upper class who gambles away its fortunes because there is nothing else to pass the time with, whose biggest worry is how to keep the husband count from getting to find out, or how to steal the secret way of quickly making easy money. Of course, how a countess can be in the position to have so much money to idly lose on the turn of a card is strategically absent from the film.

The games of cards as fate left to chance, transient life where playing your cards in certain order does not ensure control of the outcome, and karmic retribution on the closing end of this cycle.

For the most part, this is ordinary stuff right down to the supernatural visitation of guilt, except perhaps for two things.

Ordinarily, the young army officer eager to learn the secret of the cards would be portrayed in ways that immediately signalled to the audience the right distance to keep from him and a karmic downfall in the works. Mozzhukhin portrays him instead as a blank slate of pensive introversion, a folded card waiting its turn and perhaps bluffing. Kuleshov would make a lot of this once Mozzhukhin had been swept away to France and Soviets had taken control of images to build reality - including Mozzhukhin's.

The other is that this is not theatric, even though it seems so at first glance. Tchaikovksy had adapted the same story for the opera, and we may presume this derives from that stage. The camera is static, yes, but notice some very cinematic framing going on - a shot of the secret being whispered in flashback cuts to match the present time telling of the story among the officers. Also notice a second-hand narrator of the story and later an unreliable mind with unsure footing in the world, both these we encounter again in the films of Epstein - who, no doubt, would have come into contact with the Russian emigres in Paris, himself one.

This is far from Proletkult's radical space for the eye, but as with Bauer, it has a certain stately finesse.which, no doubt, comes from a foot in the complacent life shown here.


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