Children of the Age (Yevgeni Bauer, 1915, Russia)

Yevgeni Bauer is largely unheard of Russian director. Born in 1865, Bauer directed more than 70 films between 1913 and 1917, of which 26 survived. For those aware of his oeuvre, he is considered a pioneer in terms of developing the psychological aspects of filmmaking. Composition, mise-en-scene, and pictorial aspects were all things that he placed in the foreground, most notably in his 1915 film Children of the Age. The film tells the story of Frau Maria, a middle-class life of a bank employee with a cozy life. Her child is cared for by a maid, so Maria has plenty of time on her hands. We see her going shopping. Through a mutual friend, Maria meets Herr Lebedev, a rich older libertine. Lebedev pursues Maria and begins to harass her, though she eventually falls into his clutches. 

The film is quite notable for its examination of classes in Russia in the pre-Revolutionary setting. Lebedev is meant to represent the decadent bourgeois who digs his hands into the lives of the middle classes, eventually destroying them. The story is very pessimistic, concluding with the conclusion of the middle-class life by the decadence of the upper classes. This class dynamic is noticeably absent from similar American films of the time and gives the film a distinctly Russian character. The story itself is a fairly basic melodramatic love triangle, although the sets are quite interesting and the performances are well-done, especially Vera Kholodnaya as Maria. Notably, there are not many flourishes cinematographically, but Bauer has a good command of cinematic language. Overall, Children of the Age will be of interest to fans of Russian cinema and history, though it may not necessarily be so interesting to general silent film fans. I am curious to seek out more of Bauer's work, as he seems to be very underrated in the silent film world. 



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