͞An immortality that Soviet Russia has heretofore allotted only to Lenin and Marx is bestowed upon the country’s greatest writer, Maxim Gorky.͟
͞One of the noblest achievements of pre-war Soviet cinema,͟ (Jay Leyda, Kino), this haunting, unforgettable film is based upon Maxim Gorky’s 1913 autobiography My Childhood and shows a twelve-year-old’s journey in life against the tumultuous backdrop of 19th century Russia. With tableaux beautifully vivid and forceful, it recounts the touching relationships which develop when Gorky is put into his grandparents’custody. His grandmother, the consummate incarnation of good and truth, is a simple woman who knows how to make people laugh. She presents the genuine beauty of optimism in the direst situations, of honesty in a world of deceit, of unselfishness and total sacrifice around treachery and hatred, of fighting spirit in defense of values and dignity. His multi-faceted grandfather, who can be fiercely brutal and childishly tender, senile one moment and wise the next, etches another indelible memory.
Gorky's poverty-stricken childhood formed his life-long compassion for the underdog, and the film is filled with powerful portraits of lower-class people whose qualities of integrity and dignity shine through their hopeless circumstances. Among many others are the half-blind Grigori who works at the grandfather’s dye factory and who is taunted by his co-workers before finally succumbing to total blindness to become a down-and-out beggar, and Gorky’s little orphaned friends, who live out of garbage cans dreaming of a Utopian Neverland. From these portraits come an inspiring, panoramic view of human conditions and conflicts.
This edition is restored from a fine grain master and includes the original 1938 soundtrack by Lev Schwartz, as well as new English subtitles. Presented at the end of the main feature is the bonus short newsreel, Moscow Clad in Snow, which shows scenes of the pre-Revolutionary city during winter. It was shot in 1908 and directed by Joseph-Louis Mundwiller, who would later go on to be one of the cinematographers on Abel Gance’s Napoleon.
The Childhood of Maxim Gorky
Length: 99 minutes
Director: Mark Donski
Starring: Aleksei Lyarsky, Varvara Massalitinova, Mikhail Troyanovsky, Yelizaveta Alekseyeva
Music: by Lev Schwartz
Adapted by: Ilya Gruzdev from My Childhood by Maxim Gorky (1913)
Moscow Clad in Snow
Length: 7 minutes
Director: Joseph-Louis Mundwiller
Produced for DVD by David Shepard
From the Blackhawk Films Collection
Presented by Flicker Alley