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falderal : a moving images blog

Archive for the ‘Soviet Union’ Category

Shakhmatnaya goryachka (Chess Fever) ; 1925

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Director: Vsevolod Pudovkin, Nikolai Shpikovsky
Actors: Vladimir Fogel, Anna Zemtsova, José Raúl Capablanca
Country: Soviet Union

During my email conversations with my friend, K, I asked her what her personal favorite films were and she mentioned Chess Fever. I was very glad that she recommended it to me because it was a joy to watch! The film had everything that I loved about silent film comedies: slapstick and visual humor.

I think that this is one of those films that is great for introducing people to silent films because it is short, funny, and really cute. The male protagonist was adorable with his many cats, pockets full of chess boards and pieces, and his clothes reflected his obsession with chess; his hat, handkerchief, socks, and even his sweater resembled a chessboard. My favorite scene is definitely the one that I chose for this entry, when the male protagonist tries to woo his fiancee back, but then he ends up playing chess on his handkerchief.

Despite it being very funny, I did find the movie to be quite unsettling. Maybe I am over-analyzing, but it felt as if the movie was a reflection of movie making. In the movie, the only character that dislikes chess is the female protagonist, Vera (Zemtsova). However, everyone in her life, from her mother, her grandfather, is obsessed with chess and so is the rest of the town. In the end, she ends up loving chess by falling in love with the world champion of chess, and she is reunited with her lover (Fogel). Coming back to the idea of movie making, what made me think of that idea was that actors are like chess pieces and don’t have a will of their own: they are the chess pieces and the directors are the players controlling them. Even though actors may say what they want, most likely they will have to succumb to their director’s wishes, and this is just like Vera who in the end becomes like everyone else in the movie. Also, I don’t know if Pudovkin and Shpikovsky were trying to say something about the dangers of group mentality through this movie or if they were just having fun with the idea of chess, but that thought was a bit unsettling too.

Nevertheless, before I started thinking a BIT too much about this movie, I had a lot of fun watching it. It reminded me of Ernst Lubitsch’s silent comedies, which is probably why I enjoyed watching this so much. Also, I FINALLY watched something by Pudovkin, phew!

IMDb Link: Shakhmatnaya goryachka