Sunday without Intertitles

No intertitles here, in the only surviving fragment (that we know of) from THE PORTRAIT (1915), a Gogol adaptation attributed to the great Ladislas Starewicz (though the IMDb knows nothing of this). Echoes of Cocteau and RINGU.

It’s proper terrifying. The projector whirr it comes fitted with is annoying though, so I suggest muting this video, setting it to full screen, but in another window playing Aaron Copland’s Grohg, which is here. Watch it alone after dark, and stuff will happen to you.


It’s interesting to see a Starewicz film (if that’s what this is), or part of one anyway, that’s deliberately scary. Most of his children’s animations are creepy without seeming to intend it. Even his other Gogol adaptation is more humorously grotesque than sincerely spooky, to my mind.

Lenny Borger informs me that Starewicz’s producer was Louis Nalpas, who went bankrupt with his 1929 MONTE CRISTO. As his finances failed and he traded the film industry for the yoghurt industry (People Will Always Need Yoghurt), Nalpas gifted Starewicz’s films back to him, a kindly gesture which seems to have resulted in nearly all of them surviving (although who knows how many fell through the cracks of film history like this one?).

9 Responses to “Sunday without Intertitles”

  1. Wonderful! And the Copland is well chosen – thanks to the Dark Side of the Moon/Wizard of Oz effect, it sounds as thought it was written specifically for the film.

    Wish I could see the rest.

  2. That is the heartbreal and also the allure of the film fragment.

    I first encountered Grohg in a piece recommending it as a perfect accompaniment to Nosferatu, but this section is just about the right length for The Portrait.

  3. Fascinating. Something rather Polanski-like about it I find.

  4. What is the object he gets from the man in the portrait? I couldn’t quite see, found myself assuming the film would give us a close-up of it later on… But then of course it finished.

  5. Could it be a roll of coins? Maybe that’s my financial anxiety speculating ahead of the facts. I would like it to be a roll of coins.

    The Polanski feel — well, Starewicz was Polish. And the flat painting becoming 3D may remind you of the scene in The Tenant where Polanski’s bedside chair becomes 2D.

  6. Randy Cook Says:

    Roll of coins, I think. Great to see a “new” Starewicz. LS directed some live action features, the first being A TERRIBLE VENGEANCE, adapted from a Gogol work. His 1915 filmography in a book I have on him (pamphlet, really) lists THE PORTRAIT (1915) as another Gogol adaptation. featured players: Gromov (some of these Russian actors used one name, like “Fabian”…which might explain Boris K’s early billing), Maria Tokarskaya, Ivan Lazarov, and Nicolai Vasiliev. Apparently it was a feature.

  7. Seemingly over forty minutes, so what they would consider a feature and what we would consider plain awkward.

  8. That’s right. I was thinking of The Tenant

  9. I have to read the story now. I like Gogol, and I probably already have a copy…

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