Louise McReynolds and Joan Neuberger
Not one of the books that later made Nikolai Nikolaevich famous was
yet written. . . . He passionately sought an idea, inspired, graspable,
which in its movement would clearly point the way toward change, an
idea like a flash of lightning or a roll of thunder capable of speaking
even to a child or an illiterate. He thirsted for something new.
—Boris Pasternak, Doctor
Sirk has said: you can’t make films about things, you can only make
films with things, with people, with light, with flowers, with mirrors,
with blood, in fact with all the fantastic things that make life worth
living.—Rainer Werner
Enter the world of Russian filmmaker Evgeny Bauer and you enter a
world of things. Each of his popular turn-of-the-century melodramas is
crammed with objects: clocks, telephones, gadgets, and statuettes clut-
ter his desks; rooms overflow with sofas, chairs, and tables; long, deep-
focus shots create corridors of fashionably dressed, swirling figures who
occupy spaces that seem to stretch infinitely toward an interior hori-
zon; and planes of empty space are broken up by so many artificially
placed architectural columns that contemporary critics ridiculed him
for it. Bauer’s cult of the object, his romance with things, signified more
than a Victorian cliché of accomplishment and acquisition. It was an
antidote to the Russians’ nineteenth-century cult of the idea, a string of
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