Chapaev (Russian: Чапаев, IPA: [tɕɪˈpaɪf]) is a 1934 Soviet biographical war film, directed by the Vasilyev brothers for Lenfilm.[1]

Official film poster
Directed byGeorgi Vasilyev
Sergei Vasilyev
Written byDmitri Furmanov (book)
StarringBoris Babochkin
Boris Blinov
Varvara Myasnikova
Leonid Kmit
Music byGavriil Popov
Release date
  • 1934 (1934)
Running time
95 minutes
CountrySoviet Union

The film is a heavily fictionalised biography of Vasily Ivanovich Chapayev (1887–1919), a Red Army notable commander of the Russian Civil War. It is based on the novel of the same name by Dmitri Furmanov, a Russian writer and Bolshevik commissar who fought together with Chapayev.[2]

According to president Vladimir Putin's statement in 2014, Chapaev is his favorite film of all time.[3]

Russian stamp commemorating the 30th anniversary of Chapaev

Plot edit

The film centers around a Red Army division commanded by Vasily Chapayev in their fight against White Army troops commanded by Colonel Borodzin. A Commissar named Furmanov is delegated to the division from Moscow, and although he initially does not get along with Chapayev, he proves his worth by resolving a conflict that arises when Chapayev's men steal from local peasants and the two become good friends.

With the help of Chapayev's adjutant Petka and the machine gunner Anka (who develop a love interest over the course of the film), and with intelligence provided by Borodzin's defecting aide Petrovich, the division manages to repel an attack from the White Army troops.[4]

Higher – ups in Moscow reassign Furmanov to another Red Army division, and the situation soon deteriorates. Under the cover of darkness, Borodzin and his men attack Chapayev's headquarters. Despite their heroic efforts, Petka and Chapayev are killed. Their sacrifices are avenged, however, as Anka alerts the rest of the division and a counterattack is shown to be successful in the final shots of the film.

Cast edit

Boris Babochkin as Vasily Chapayev

Style edit

Chapayev follows the socialist realist style, the dominant form of art in the Soviet Union during the time period. To maintain a "realistic" depiction of the world, the camera work is predictable and repetitive, almost mechanical.

The relationship between Chapayev and Furmanov, which is central to the plot of the film, is typical for a Soviet socialist realist film. Both men are supremely competent in their respective roles as commander and commissar. Chapayev is a heroic figure who represents the common Russian man; he is uneducated, he swears, and he acts disorderly. In contrast, Furmanov, who represents the Party and Communist ideology, is more orderly and domineering; in scenes where the two interact, Furmanov is positioned higher in the frame to indicate his superior status.[5]

Reception edit

Chapaev premiered on 6 November 1934, in the Leningrad cinema "Titan"; it quickly became one of the most popular films in the Soviet Union. Within the first year it was watched by 30 million people in the USSR alone. Such was the popularity of the film that an editorial in Pravda on 21 November proclaimed, "The whole country is watching Chapaev".[6]

It was awarded "Best Foreign Film" by the US National Board of Review in 1935 and the Grand-Prix of the Paris World Fair in 1937.[7]

In a 1978 poll of cinema critics, the film was considered one of the best 100 films in history.

Influence edit

After the release of the film, Chapayev and his assistants Petka and Anka became Russian folklore characters.[8] These three, together with their political commissar Furmanov, are present in a large number of Russian jokes.[9][10]

The real Chapayev was already a war hero, but the film increased his heroic status further. When boys would play Reds vs. Whites, they would often imagine themselves to be Chapayev or his heroic adjutant Petka.[11][4]

Bibliography edit

  • Children of Chapaev: the Russian Civil War cult and the creation of Soviet identity, 1918–1941. Dissertation PhD (Doctor of Philosophy). University of Iowa. 2009. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help) [12]
  • Stites, Richard (1992). Russian Popular Culture: Entertainment and Society Since 1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 86. ISBN 0-521-36986-X.

References edit

  1. ^ Beumers, Birgit (2015). Directory of World Cinema: RUSSIA 2. Intellect Ltd. pp. 38–40. ISBN 978-1-7832-0010-8.
  2. ^ Rollberg, Peter (2008). Historical Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Cinema. Scarecrow Press. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-8108-6268-5.
  3. ^ Президент РФ назвал «Чапаева» своим любимым фильмом
  4. ^ a b Stites 1992, p. 86.
  5. ^ Bulgakova, Oksana (2013). The Elements and Consciousness: The Commander and the Commissar. Boston: Academic Studies Press. pp. 242–245.
  6. ^ Haynes, John (2000). "Brothers in Arms: The Changing Face of the Soviet Soldier in Stalinist Cinema". The Modern Language Review. 95 (1): 154–167. doi:10.2307/3736378. JSTOR 3736378.
  7. ^ ""Чапаев" на сайте russiancinema". Archived from the original on 28 November 2011. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  8. ^ Roger Manvell, ed. (1949). Experiment in the Film. The Grey Walls Press Ltd. p. 167.
  9. ^ "Анекдоты про Чапаева сочинял специальный отдел КГБ". Komsomolskaya Pravda. 27 March 2013.
  10. ^ "Настоящий Чапаев. Легендарный комдив генералом не стал, но им стал его сын". Argumenty i Fakty. 20 February 2013.
  11. ^ Bogdanov, Nikolai (1961). "Literary Characters Influence Life of Soviet Children". The Journal of Educational Sociology. 35 (4): 162–164. doi:10.2307/2264826. JSTOR 2264826.
  12. ^ Salys, Rimgaila (2013). The Russian Cinema Reader. Boston: Academic Studies Press.

External links edit