aka The Overcoat
Article 5317 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg
Featuring Antonina Eremeeva, Emil Gal, Sergey Gerasimov
Country: Soviet Union
What it is: Stylized drama
Two stories are told. In one, a clerk becomes obsessed with a woman only to discover she’s a prostitute. In the second, another clerk (or possibly the same one) dreams of getting a fine overcoat, and his wish comes true… but for how long?
I found a copy of this one on YouTube, and even though it did not feature English subtitles, it’s based on a couple of stories by Nikolai Gogol, and I was able to read summaries of the stories to help me in negotiating the movie. I don’t know if the movie I saw is complete; IMDB lists a running time of 84 minutes, but mine only ran 63 minutes. The copy I found also features a bizarre modern soundtrack that is in some ways rather appropriate for a movie this stylized, but I didn’t find it well-incorporated with the action.
The highly stylized acting is the primary attraction here; at times it reminded me of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, though it doesn’t get quite that bizarre. For those familiar with the stories from which this was adapted (“Nevsky Prospekt” and “The Overcoat”), the latter in its original story form is the one with the fantastic content; a ghost plays into the story near the end. Alas, this adaptation ends at a point before the ghost appears, but there are a couple of dream/fantasy sequences (including a stop-motion overcoat moving of its own volition) that make up for it a bit. It’s an interesting movie, though I don’t think it’s quite as effective as it could have been. Still, there are memorable moments; in particular, I like the way the movie transitions between the two stories, which raises the question as to whether the events happen to two different clerks or to the same one at different times in his life.