Film: 4505

Places + Locations | 1980 | Sound | B/W


A short look at the history of Leningrad now St. Petersburg in the post USSR period, at the turn of the twentieth century through a series of still photographs 1980's

The film opens with a close up of a Russian newspaper, the writing is all in Russian as is the voiceover. Astill photograph follows, it shows the river Neva as it flows through Leningrad (or St. Petersburg as it is now once again known), a palatial building is visable on the left-hand side of the picture, it may be the Winter Palace. The next photograph shows a street scene. A large, impressive building stands in the background, it is ornately decorated and could be a palace or some sort of official residence though this is simply speculation. More of the building is revealed as the camera pans right to show the rest of the photo. A statue (it is not clear who it depicts) stands infront of the building and two or three people appear to be admiring it. The next photograph shows a house of wooden construction, it is seen from the side on. The next photo shows a man in uniform, he is, it seems, a policeman. He wears black trousers and a white tunic, he also has a sword hanging at his side. The camera moves in for a close up of his face. An elevated view of the city is the subject of the next photo which shows a great many buildings of various descriptions (including a church or two). A large body of water is visable in the background, quite possibly the sea. It would appear that this picture was probably taken somewhere near the delta of the river Neva. At this point the voiceover changes, it is now a woman speaking instead of a man - she still speaks Russian. Next we see another street scene but this time the street seems to consist of a variety of shops each with its own Russian sign above the door. The street infront of the shops is lined with a number of horse-drawn carts. The next photo again shows a street scene. Several men stand to attention in the photo and they all wear the same uniform as the man previously identified as a policeman. The street also appears to be lined with tracks which suggests the presence of a tramway. The camera focuses in on the policemen.

The following photo shows a group of well dressed people sitting on a raised patio just outside of a large house or mansion. Steps lead from where they are sitting to a garden, though little of this can be seen. The following photo shows a large group of people, it is seen from close up and the camera pans right to show the continuing line of faces. A photographic portrait comes next. It shows the face of a woman who, I would guess, is in her mid- to late twenties; she wears a black dress with a white collar. The next scene takes us inside a house and we see a desk littered with open books and sheets of paper. As the camera explores the two rooms (we are no longer simply looking at still photographs) we see a great many more books on shelves, in cupboards, and again lying on various tables, this could perhaps be a small reading room in a library. The books seem to be the main center for our attention as close ups of them in their bookcases follow. The title page of Marx and Engels' 'Communist Manifesto' appears (needless to say the writing is all in Russian). Various pages from other books are then shown but no authors names or titles are instantly recognizable. A wooden house, much like the one seen previously, is now presented to our view, it may infact be the same house. The camera closes in on one of the upper storey windows and then cuts to a photograph of a young man, it is possible that he may have occupied the house at some time. The man has thick black hair and a goatee beard. Another photo follows, it appears to be Lenin as a young man but I cannot be totally certain of this. We are once again shown some overviews of the city of Leningrad followed by a picture of some small boats moored up by the side of the river.

The pages of a Russian book are steadily flicked past the eye of the camera, we are given enough time to see the words on the page but not to read them (though they are in Russian anyway). These pages fade out and are replaced by a photograph of a middle-aged Russian gentleman with a beard. Whilst we see this photograph the voiceover continues but it is a different narrator speaking which suggests that something either written or said by the man we currently see is being quoted. Slowly we come to a full close up of the mans face. Another voice then breaks in and the photograph which I believe to be Lenin reappears. The implication is that he is now being quoted. Once again the voice changes and we return to the previous photo of the bearded gentleman. The voice again switches to that which is associated with the photo of Lenin, but this time we once again see the group photo that has been shown previously. After this we once again see the photo of the house with people sitting outside on the raised patio. This is followed by a picture of a group of people standing by a fence in the grounds of a large white house (it may be another part of the house in the previous picture).

The next photo shows a large procession heading down a street. Several different banners and standards are being caried by people and the overall impression is one of a religious festival or parade. The next photo also shows a crowd scene but this one appears to be a gathering of people from the lower social orders. Some are on horseback and others appear to be holding rifles, though this is not certain. The following photo shows a group of labourers (possibly convicts or prisoners) laying train tracks. A series of photos follow which depict both young and old people at work in various workshops. There then appears the photograph of Lenin which is followed by another look at the wooden house that we`ve seen before. The next photo is also one that we`ve seen before, it is that of the policeman standing to attention. In the next shot we see a handwritten page.

Once again the voiceover changes which suggests that parts of the letter are being read out. The Winter Palace, as seen from the other side of the Neva is the subject of the next photo. We are then given a view which looks straight down the center of a street towards a large building topped with a tall spire. The camera closes in on this building. In the next shot we are looking across the Neva towards the buildings on the opposite bank, a small boat heads across the river in the direction of the camera. The next photo shows what appears to be a large church. Several wide walkways intersect outside this building. The camera closes in on a bridge at the bottom of the photo by which there is a stall of some description. We then move to a view of a waterway or canal, several bridges are visable and houses flank both the left and righthand sides of the canal. In the next shot the camera focuses on the buildings at the side of the canal. We then see a photo that shows what appears to be the Nicholas Bridge. This is followed by a photo of a young girl which is , in turn, followed by a shot of a headstone in the shape of a cross. A lingering shot of a tall leafless tree follows and the camera then moves to a view looking from the prow of a boat heading along one of the canals. As we join this shot the boat that the camera is on is just emerging from under one of the many bridges. As it does so the camera pans left to show the riverside buildings.

The next shot we are looking down a long corridor. To the left there are a great many windows and a statue, to the right there are cases fullof books which stretch as far as the corridor. A printed page is shown next, certain parts of the page are covered with handwritting. Similar shots of printed pages follow. The next photo shows a street scene, people, horses and carts can all be seen but the houses in the street are different from those in previous photographs. They are spaced furter apart and seem more like warehouses rather than domestic buildings. This leads me to believe that this area maybe a port or dock of some kind. As more of the left-hand side of the photo is revealed it becomes clear that this street is by the river. Many boats are moored at the bank . Several photos follow which depict men at work on boats and on the shore, the majority of them are either loading or unloading goods to or from the boats. There are more photographs that show people standing by the water`s edge and lined up along jettys and docks. The photo showing the riverside houses is shown once again and is followed by a photo of large crowds gathered on either side of a road; all the people are looking across to either the river or its opposite bank.

A quick succession of photos follows. They are all street scenes, in the first we can recognise a policeman by his uniform. The others focus mainly on various buildings (the other thing that one notices is the great width of the streets). The photo of Lenin is shown once again. It is followed by a photo that appears to be very old and shows a view looking down the center of one of Leningrad`s streets towards the Neva. There then follows a live action shot. It remains focused on the same patch of the river as the water flows steadily by. Next we see some sort of official form, it is typed and has beenfilled out in ink. Similar shots follow. The next photo shows an impressive building which stretches a long way from right to left, in the center there is a clock tower. The following photo shows a wide thoroughfare (possibly Nevsky Prospekt ?), a great many people are present in the street. A series of photographs follow that show 'industrial centers' such as factories with crowds of workers at the gates. A photo is then shown which depicts Lenin and certain of his revolutionary comrades.

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