Archive of films The Beginning of an Unknown Era / Nachalo nevedomogo veka

1967, 71 min

Section: Tribute to Larisa Shepitko
Year: 2015

Two young directors adapted the short stories of two Russian authors whose works had been banned for decades, and so their film ended up in the censor’s vault as well – for twenty years. Both tales look back to the post-revolutionary era, and while Angel speaks tragically of the brutality and destruction of the time, The Homeland of Electricity captures its haunting grotesquery.


Very little compares to the chill one feels upon encountering the prose works of Andrei Platonov (1899–1951), whose darkly fantastical take on Soviet reality ensured a permanent publishing ban on all his works. And it hardly seems possible that, to mark the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution, Shepitko decided to adapt one of his short stories, The Homeland of Electricity (Rodina elektrichestva), in so doing painting a ghostly picture of post-revolutionary rural life in the Volga region. It’s the summer of 1921 and the impoverished villagers in their wretched hovels are tormented by drought and starvation, and Lenin’s great achievement – electrification – is barely enough to sustain the flickering light bulbs illuminating the wooden five-pointed star at the entrance to the village. The film’s narrator recalls the period when, back then, he was employed as a young electrical engineer who used a motorbike engine to power the pumping device that irrigated the cracked earth. The destitute inhabitants were thus given a glimmer of hope, yet it soon became apparent that liquor distilled from rotten corn wouldn’t keep the engine running for very long.… The film setting presents a version of reality distorted by dreams – the scenes are macabre and also severely derisive, bleak, highly expressive and artistically stylised. The unusually powerful impact of the work, which lay locked away in the censor’s vault for twenty years, is heightened by its sober film score incorporating brief jazz motifs and a closing song from Bulat Okudzhava. Equally compelling is the hard-hitting tale Angel by director Andrei Smirnov, based on the short story of the same name by Yuri Olesha. The two works taken together attest to the creative potential and courage of a generation of filmmakers who were soon to make their mark.

Zdena Škapová


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About the film

Black & white, 35 mm

Section: Tribute to Larisa Shepitko
Director: Larisa Shepitko, Andrei Smirnov
Screenplay: Angel: Boris Yermolayev, Ilya Suslov, Mikhail Suslov podle povídky / based on the story by Yuri Olesha; The Homeland of Electricity: Larisa Shepitko podle povídky / based on the novel by Andrei Platonov
Dir. of Photography: Angel: Pavel Lebeshev; The Homeland of Electricity: Dmitri Korzhikhin
Music: ​Angel: Alfred Schnittke; The Homeland of Electricity: Roman Ledenev
Art Director: Angel: Vladimir Korovin; The Homeland of Electricity: Valentin Konovalov, V. Kostrin
Production: Experimental Film Studio, Moscow
Cast: Angel: Leonid Kulagin, S. Volf, Georgy Burkov; The Homeland of Electricity: S. Gorbatuk, Alla Popovova, F. Gladkov, Ivan Gurtsenkov
Sales: Mosfilm Cinema Concern
Contact: BFI


Anton Klimov



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