Yelizaveta Svilova

Yelizaveta Ignatevna Svilova (Russian: Елизаве́та Игна́тьевна Сви́лова, rendered in Latin as Elizaveta Svilova) (5 September 1900, Moscow – 11 November 1975, Moscow) was a Russian filmmaker and film editor. She is perhaps best known for making films with her husband Dziga Vertov and her brother-in-law Mikhail Kaufman. She is also known for her documentaries about World War II and for appearing in and editing Man with a Movie Camera (1929).[1]

Yelizaveta Svilova
Елизаве́та Игна́тьевна Сви́лова
Elizaveta Schnitt

(1900-09-05)September 5, 1900
DiedNovember 11, 1975(1975-11-11) (aged 75)
(m. 1923; died 1954)


Yelizaveta Ignatevna Svilova (born Elizaveta Schnitt) was born on September 5, 1900, in Moscow. Starting at age 14, she began film editing for Pathé. She worked with Vladimir Gardin and with Vsevolod Meyerhold.[2] From 1918 to 1922, she worked at Narkompros.[2] From 1922, she worked at Goskino.[2] She met Dziga Vertov while working as a film editor. They married in 1923.[3] After her husband fell out of favor in the Soviet film industry, Svilova continued to work in film and supported both of them. They continued to work together until Vertov's death from stomach cancer in 1954.

Though she began as an editor, Svilova moved away from doing fiction films and onto montage documentary. Her directorial debut was For You at the Front (1942). The Fall of Berlin (1945), co directed with Yuli Raziman, won the 1946 Stalin prize.

She was the director-editor of over 100 documentaries and newsreel episodes from 1939 to 1956.[2]

Following her husband's death, Svilova left the industry. She carefully watched over her husband's legacy by publishing his writings and cataloging his manuscripts. She died in 1975 in Moscow and is buried in Novodevichy Cemetery.[4][5]

Council of ThreeEdit

She was part of the "Council of Three," with her husband and brother-in-law, cinematographer Mikhail Kaufman. They were regarded as montage theorists and together, they "proclaimed a 'death sentence' on the cinema that came before, faulting it for mixing in 'foreign matter' from theater and literature."[6]

The group is known for "pioneering montage documentary".[7] Their film Man with a Movie Camera (1929) features Svilova editing film and Kaufman filming the movie. The film is regarded as "a landmark in experimental cinema".[8]

Shortly after Man with a Movie Camera, Kaufman and Vertov had a falling out over artistic differences resulting in the two brothers never working together again. One suggested reason is prominence of Svilova in the film and her subsequent notoriety.[9]

The trio was known for their avant-garde and futurist ideas. Vertov's work was condemned for being too formalist and not adhering to the socialist realism expectations of the time. In 1927, he was fired from Sovkino Studio. In the late 1930s, it was nearly impossible for Vertov to find work in the state-run film industry.[4]

World War IIEdit

She covered the opening of Auschwitz in German-occupied Poland by the Red Army in January 1945. She filmed a documentary, which included reenactments, titled Auschwitz, part of an exhibition titled "Filming the War; the Soviets and the Holocaust (1941-1946)" (9 January 2015 – 27 September 2015) in Paris, France at the Memorial de la Shoah.

In 1946, her film Fascist Atrocities was used as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials. She later directed a film about the trials, condemning the warmongering and atrocities present in World War II.


Year Title Notes
1920's Kino-Pravda 23 issue newsreel series
1924 Cinema Eye Editor
1925 The First October Without Ilich 2nd Unit/Assistant Director
1926 A Sixth Part of the World 2nd Unit/Assistant Director
1926 Shagay, Sovet! 2nd Unit/Assistant Director
1927 Bukhara Director
1928 The Oath of Youth Director
1928 The Eleventh Year 2nd Unit/Assistant Director
1929 Man with a Movie Camera Editor
1929 Enthusiasm 2nd Unit/Assistant Director
1934 Three Songs of Lenin 2nd Unit/Assistant Director, Order of the Red Star winner
1938 In Memory of Sergo Ordzhonikidze Assistant Director
1942 For You at the Front Director
1944 Klyatva Molodykh Director
1945 The Fall of Berlin Director, won the 1946 Stalin Prize
1945 Auschwitz Director/Writer
1946 Fascist Atrocities Editor
1946 Parade of Youth Director
1947 Nuremberg Trials Director


  1. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 4, 2009). Man with camera invents new style. Chicago Sun-Times
  2. ^ a b c d Penfold, Christopher (2013). Elizaveta Svilova and Soviet documentary film (Ph.D. thesis). University of Southampton.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b "Vintage Viewing: Elizaveta Svilova, Mastering Montage | Bitch Flicks". Retrieved 2017-12-22.
  5. ^ "Elizaveta Svilova | Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos | AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 2017-12-22.
  6. ^ Lim, Dennis (April 8, 2011). Machine Age Poet, Born in Revolution, Stifled Under Stalin. New York Times
  7. ^ "Elizaveta Svilova Biography | Fandango". Fandango. Retrieved 2017-12-22.
  8. ^ "Svilova, Elizaveta (1900–1975) - Dictionary definition of Svilova, Elizaveta (1900–1975) | FREE online dictionary". Retrieved 2017-12-22.
  9. ^ Salys, Rimgaila (2013). The Russian Cinema Reader: Volume I, 1908 to the Stalin era. Boston: Academic Studies Press. p. 182.
  10. ^ "Elizaveta Svilova". IMDb. Retrieved 2017-12-22.

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