Many people, even those with an understanding of film history, seem to think there were no Russian films before the rise of the Academicians in the 1920s. The Soviets had little interest in praising the works of the Tsarist period; little is available, except for those few works distributed worldwide by the Pathe organization; nor had Soviet cinema broken free of its roots in stage and portraiture.
There was a major industry, and Vasili Goncharov was a major player, until his death in 1915. Although the IMDb shows this film of the French occupation of Moscow as a short, in the era it was produced, it was a feature.
The modern viewer will have some issues with it. The acting, particularly by Pavel Knorr as Napoleon, is stagy and its format is that of the illustrated text that was beginning to go out of style even then. However, Goncharov and his co-directors clearly know what they are doing. Although the shots are held for what is today for an excruciatingly long time, the compositions are fine and there is plenty of movement within the frame (usually consisting of masses of soldiers). Viewed as a modern film, 1812 will not be particularly good. Viewed as an example of a different film grammar, it is very good.
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