In the history of Soviet directing, there were many women to whom Soviet and Russian cinema owes resounding successes, including international ones. Women started making big movies in the 1910s, and half a century later they completely took over the industry. 11 outstanding women directors, whose works are rightfully considered classics of Soviet and world cinema.
Soviet women directors: Olga Preobrazhenskaya
Yakov Protazanov introduced the first domestic female director to the nascent film industry: in 1913 Olga Preobrazhenskaya began acting in films of the Timan and Reinhardt film studio. Her first work as a stage director was with the actor, screenwriter and director Vladimir Gardin – in 1916 they filmed Alexander Pushkin’s The Young Peasant Woman.
“The film turned out, it was praised, but since it was the first production of a female director, it was treated with suspicion, and often on posters and reviews my name was written with a male ending or attributed to other directors.”
In the first years after the revolution, Olga Preobrazhenskaya also became the first woman to teach directing: she taught classes at the State School of Cinematography (modern VGIK).
The most successful work of Preobrazhenskaya is considered to be the drama Babas of Ryazan (1927), which the writer Theodore Dreiser who visited the USSR at that time called a “miracle”. The film told about the hard life of an ordinary Russian peasant woman in the village on the eve and after the revolution. This picture Preobrazhenskaya shot together with director Ivan Pravov, like many of her other films, sustained in the spirit of brave socialist realism: “Quiet Don”, “Stepan Razin”, “The guy from the taiga.”
Despite the steady audience success, the films of Preobrazhenskaya and her co-authors were often subjected to consistent, and sometimes harsh criticism.
If the main director-storyteller of Soviet cinema is considered Alexander Row, then the main storyteller is Nadezhda Kosheverova. Despite the fact that the director tried herself in different genres, from the realistic (“Galya”) to comedies (“The Tiger Tamer”), her talent was most fully revealed in the fairy tale.
The most famous of her ten works in this genre is “Cinderella” in 1947, filmed with Mikhail Shapiro and written by Yevgeny Schwartz. “Cinderella” became, perhaps, the first fairy tale in the history of Soviet cinema, completely devoid of an ideological touch, but at the same time with a light satire reflecting the features of Soviet life. For example, the stepmother, brilliantly performed by Faina Ranevskaya, is easily recognizable as an exemplary communal activist. And also for the first time in Soviet cinema, aristocratic heroes – King Erast Garin and Prince Alexei Konsovsky – are portrayed not as caricatured negative characters.
Another important work by Kosheverova is “An old, old tale” in 1968 with Oleg Dal and Marina Neyolova in the lead roles.
Margarita Barskaya is the first director who managed to show the world of a child and the world through the eyes of a child as honestly and naturally as possible. In 1933, her drama Torn Shoes, the first dubbed children’s film in world cinema, was released. She talked about children who grew up in a conditional European country where a fascist regime came to power. After the release of the picture, Barskaya was immediately talked about as a new, original talent, and much later – almost as a forerunner of Italian neorealism. The audience was amazed at how naturally the children behave in the frame, as if not noticing the lens – this was the merit of Barskaya the teacher, who developed her own system of working with young actors.
Margarita Barskaya was the initiator of the opening of the world’s first children’s film studio “Soyuzdetfilm”, where the feature film “Father and Son” was shot. He never appeared on the screens: critics branded the picture as “false”, since Barskaya, true to her style, reflected in it the life of a Soviet family without embellishment. The director was no longer allowed to shoot – mainly because of her friendship with the disgraced oppositionist Karl Radek, so the film “Father and Son” became Barskaya’s last work ..
Film director Yulia Solntseva, before becoming a famous director, managed to become famous as an actress thanks to the main roles in the silent films “Aelita” and “Cigarette from Mosselprom”.
The most famous work of Solntseva was “Poem of the Sea”, filmed in 1958 according to the script of her husband, director Alexander Dovzhenko, in which the director submitted the construction of the Kakhovska hydroelectric power station in the style of the ancient Greek epic. The film will be remembered by the viewer as a dialogue between a pensioner and a minor student. The boy was going to become a prosecutor, and when his grandfather asked how one can judge people without the ability to do this, he confidently answered: “In court, abilities are not needed, the main thing is to know the articles – who is what.”
Solntseva’s other notable work was Europe’s first large-format film The Tale of Fiery Years (1960), which won the Best Director award in Cannes.
Iskra Babich, a 1958 graduate of VGIK, was a favorite student of the director and teacher Ivan Pyriev. In her filmography, there are only four full-length films – melodramas. Babich made poignant films about love, conscience and kindness, but without over-expression and eccentric plots.
The director’s most famous film is “Guys!” 1982, received a lot of awards and achieved truly national recognition. The last film in Babich’s biography was the drama Forgive Me, Alyosha (1983), after the release of which she moved to the village of Poplevino in the Ryazan Region, where she led an almost hermitic lifestyle.
A student of Mikhail Ilyich Romm, Dinara Asanova is known as a director who managed to accurately and without unnecessary preaching to show a contradictory teenage nature. Two of Asanova’s most famous films are the lyrical story of hopeless love “The Woodpecker Doesn’t Have a Headache” (1975) and the drama about young hooligans “Boys” (1983), in which not professional actors were involved, but real difficult teenagers. As Valery Priemykhov, the performer of the role of the head of the labor camp in Boys, recalled, after the release of Asanova’s film letters began to arrive in batches: people asked for advice, believing that the director was a qualified specialist in raising “difficult children”. However, Asanova’s only task was to show that the transitional period between adolescence and adolescence is not a rehearsal for a “real,” adult life, but an important part of our only, large, life.
Larisa Shepitko was one of the central figures in Soviet cinema in the 1960s and 70s. Among other things, she shot the iconic thaw tape – “Wings” in 1966, a film-reflection on the fate of front-line soldiers. The front-line soldier in the film was a woman, the former pilot Nadezhda Petrukhina (played by Maya Bulgakova). Who after the war became the director of the vocational school. The heroine, forced to literally descend from heaven to earth. Had to live according to new rules, which lacked the moral clarity inherent in wartime. Which ultimately led her to an existential dead end, like many sixties. “Wings”, on the one hand, became very popular with the public. And on the other hand, they caused close attention to Shepitko from the censors of the State Film Agency.
To shoot her main film, “Ascent” (1976), exactly the way Shepitko saw him, she had to literally fight to get permission from officials. This is how a war drama based on the story of the writer Vasil Bykov. Inconvenient for the authorities, appeared. Which became the first Soviet film to be awarded the “Golden Bear” at the Berlin Film Festival.
The phrase “Mulya, don’t make me nervous!” forever entered the history of Russian cinema – as well as the director of “Foundling” (1939) Tatiana Lukashevich. Her debut took place at the age of 24: Lukashevich’s film “The Crime of Ivan Karavaev”. Resembled an artistically designed film campaign rather than an artistic statement, but she nevertheless created interest in the young director. Subsequently, Lukashevich made mainly films that contributed to the “moral education of the younger generation” (“Gavroche”, “Foundling”, “Certificate of Maturity”). Despite the director’s strict adherence to the canons of socialist realism, humanity. And simple sincerity have always come to the fore in Lukashevich’s films, not burdened with excessive edification and didactics. This is most noticeable in the film “Foundling”. The main idea of which is expressed in the lines of a lullaby. In our big city, everyone is affectionate with a baby.”
For Aida Manasarova, almost the main thing in her work was the diligent avoidance of everything ideal and contrived. According to Manasarova, it was “much more important for her to show the real drama of the search for moral ideals. Therefore her characters were never one-dimensional positive. Almost all of her films were about people going through a deep inner crisis. “I like heroes who suffer from their imperfection,” Manasarova admitted. One of the director’s most striking works is the family drama Look Back (1983). About the difficult relationship between mother and son.
“Seventeen Moments of Spring” directed by Tatyana Lioznova immediately became the main Soviet serial hit. However, the director is known not only for the story of the popular Soviet film intelligence officer.
The key hero of all her works was a man who found himself in unnatural conditions for himself. A white crow, which tests itself for strength, and not always successfully. Limita Nyura from the 1967 film Three Poplars on Plyushchikha never found love; Nina from “Carnival” (1981) returned to her town, unable to become a great artist; Lenya from the painting “We, the undersigned” (1980) despaired of collecting the unfortunate signatures that only he needed. And this combination of stubbornness, humility, restlessness is a characteristic feature of many of Lioznova’s heroes.
Kira Muratova always shot only the kind of movie she wanted to shoot. Regardless of changes in the political agenda, regimes, aesthetic guidelines. Therefore, her first films – “Short Meetings” (1967) and “Long Farewell” (1971) – were put on the shelf, the third. Learning the White Light” (1979), was never released, and the fourth, “Among the Grays stones “(1983). Cut by censorship, she released under the pseudonym Ivan Sidorov.
Finally, “Asthenic Syndrome”, filmed in 1989, which came out in the way Muratova wanted, brought her worldwide recognition.
Muratova has always shot pictures that prove to be a test for the viewer, a difficult inner work. This is the only woman director who has successfully survived the decades of transformation of Russian cinema.