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Film Review: Mother
Did you know there are over 60 movies with the title, Mother? So, which ‘Mother’ am I talking about? Is the French one from 1991, starring Omar Sharif? Is it the South Korean thriller from 2009? Is it the comedy from 1996 starring Albert Brooks and Debbie Reynolds? Or is the one of the many films from India, Iran, Japan, Turkey, West Germany, Finland or Italy? Nope, this review is about Vsevolod Pudovkin’s silent film epic Mother from 1926.
It should be no surprise that this movie, from the newly founded USSR, is about revolution. In this case, it uses Maxim Gorky’s novel (same title) and depicts the 1905 Russian Revolution though a family in turmoil. The son, Pavel Vlasov, finds himself drawn into the revolutionary cause while his father, Vlasov, supports the Tsarist regime. The mother, Niovna Vlasova, is caught between the two.
The beauty about this film is Pudovkin’s editing techniques and his implementation of the Montage theories. When you watch this movie, check out how he intercuts scenes that, seemingly, have little to do with each other. As modern viewers, we often overlook abrupt cuts, because we are accustomed to directors like Quentin Tarantino or Oliver Stone who aren’t afraid to break standard visual.
Though other films, such as Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein, 1925) and The Man with a Movie Camera (Vertov, 1929) get much of the attention for being leaders of the Montage Movement, it is Pudovkin’s Mother that stole the hearts of the workers and everyday people of the USSR.
Watch part one of Mother on You Tube. The sound isn't terribly great, but the entire movie is available in 11 parts.
- Russian Cinema: 1918-1920 the Editing Revolution
The silent era of Russian cinema was one of the most vibrant. Not only did they succeed through lack of funds and equipment, they found a new way to study film. Learn about the Kuleshov effect and how it influences film today.
- Russian Cinema: 1921-1930 Making Movies That Changed the World
During 1921 through 1930, the Russian film industry made their mark on the film industry. The montage movement came to the forefront and made movies that would forever alter the way people looked at films. This era is highlighted and must be remember
- Pudovkin didn’t use professional actors for the major roles in this film since he wanted to enhance their realism. Instead, he used montage to emphasize emotions and angst.
- D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance changed Pudovkin’s life and in 1919 he stopped going to school to be a chemist to work in film.
- Because of the success of Mother, Pudovkin was the most successful and lauded from the government of all the Montage directors.
- Much of what Pudovkin learned about editing was from Japanese scripts (or what he called hieroglyph) and from Japanese masks. He saw that when you put two fragments together, the whole gains more meaning.
- Pudovkin fought in World War I and was a prisoner of war, hold in a German camp.