Noch pered Rozhdestvom (1913)
aka Christmas Eve
Article 5550 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Wladyslaw Starewicz
Featuring Ivan Mozzhukhin, Olga Obolenskaya, Lidiya Tridenskaya
What it is: Literary adaptation
On Christmas Eve, a blacksmith woos the daughter of a Cossack, who will only marry him if he brings her the shoes of the tsaritsa.
This short is based on a short story by Gogol; the title translates directly as “The Night Before Christmas”, but since that title conjures up an association with a poem that has nothing to do with this story, I’ve opted for the “Christmas Eve” translation. Unlike most of Starewicz’s work, this is not animated; outside of a short segment where a tiny devil jumps into the blacksmith’s pocket, it’s all live action. As such, it’s not quite successful; in this form, the story is a bit confusing , which is apparently not an issue with the original story (which I’ve not read), and though the make-up and costume for the devil are fun, overall it lacks the magic of Starewicz’s other work. It may have assumed a certain familiarity with the short story, which was probably much better known in Russia at that time than it is here today. Actually, I’ve reviewed a number of movies that have been based on Gogol’s works; he might be an author worth exploring further.