Father Sergius

A classic of silent cinema, this adaptation of leo TolstoyÕs story is one of the rare surviving films (and certainly the most famous example) of the pre-Soviet era. An elaborate, highly sensational drama, it tells of a fascinating man’s eventful life in Czarist Russia. Prince Stefan Kasatzky, a handsome young officer in Czar Nikolai I’s court, aspires to a position in the highest circles of society. On the eve of his wedding to a desirable countess, she reveals that she has been the Czar’s mistress. Angered and deeply disturbed, Stefan retreats from the world and becomes a monk. The film examines his years of self-denial and severe difficulties in his new calling. Known as Father Sergius, he rigorously devotes himself to God, but he is continually haunted by memories of the countess, and by fantasies of the flesh. In one of the most dramatic (and bizarre) scenes, a hedonistic woman comes to Father Sergius’ secluded hermitage, and tries to seduce him. Almost succumbing to the temptations of her beauty, Sergius punishes himself by chopping off his finger! Many years later, Sergius becomes a famous and respected miracle-healer, but when he attempts to help a mentally disturbed woman, be ends up making love to her. Realizing his imperfections, he renounces his position and wanders the countryside as a poor pilgrim, leading to a tragic conclusion. The implications in Tolstoy’s story about Czar Nikolai’s private life, and its revelations of corruption and weakness in the priesthood, made it a literary scandal. The film itself was controversial, and could only have been made after the February 1917 Revolution, which had set up the provisional government prior to the October Bolshevik Revolution, and had loosened earlier restrictions on theatrical representaÂtions of religious figures. Brilliantly acted by Mozhukhin (the most celebrated actor of the Czarist era), and lavish in its staging, costuming and photography, this has been called (by Jay Leyda, noted historian of Russian cinema) “the last and most important film made before the October Revolution.” A must for students of film history, and an intriguing work of distinctive entertainment. Silent film with music score, correct projection speed. 114 minutes. ÒSilentÓ Drama