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Lyubov Orlova plays two roles at the same time and speaks to herself in the frame. Read about how one of the most technically difficult Soviet post-war films was shot in this article.

In the summer of 1947, the musical comedy “Spring” by Grigory Alexandrov appeared on Soviet cinema screens. The film about the filming of a film about a woman scientist who had a double among Moscow actresses surprised the critics of that time: good, funny, but … what is it about? The main characters give a hint at the end: this is a movie about how important it is sometimes to look at yourself from the outside and realize that you are a good person. And this is especially important when it is spring on the street, when “the streams are murmuring, the rooks are screaming, and the snow is melting, and the heart is melting,” as Lyubov Orlova sings in Spring.

Viewers who weren’t looking for complex meanings, like critics, probably got the message intuitively. It was the third year after the Victory, and everyone wanted to see simple and kind stories in the movies. Appreciated “Spring” and in Europe: in 1947 at the Venice Film Festival Aleksandrov received the International Prize for original plot and direction.

Science, cinema and love

An absent-minded citizen in a hat is running along the spring streets of Moscow. He does not look under his feet, runs out onto the roadway, seeing someone in the crowd. Almost falling under the wheels of one car, he happily looks into the open window of another: in it sits exactly the one he was looking for. A serious blonde woman in round glasses looks at him with displeasure, her car pulls away, and a man in a hat rushes after him. This is the assistant to the film director, and the famous scientist Irina Nikitina (Lyubov Orlova) is sitting in the car. The film studio is about to start filming a film about her, and the directors want to chat with the prototype of their heroine.

Nikitina works at the Institute of the Sun, located in a fantastic spherical building, where Soviet scientists are looking for a new type of renewable fuel. It is not so easy to get to the secure facility, but the filmmakers nevertheless penetrate the fence. In vain: Nikitina considers filming a movie about herself a stupid idea and refuses to help director Gromov (Nikolai Cherkasov). On the other hand, an employee with the speaking surname Bubentsov, a chatterbox, who “wherever he works, just not to work,” offers his services as an expert (Rostislav Plyatt). He gladly supports Gromov’s mistaken idea of ​​scientists as hermits who have renounced the world.

Meanwhile, actress Vera Shatrova (she is also played by Orlova) appears at the studio – a sweet, cheerful girl in a hat who sings beautifully, dances tap dance and, as it turns out, has a striking resemblance to Nikitina. The director approves her for the main role and schedules a rehearsal for the next day. At the same time, Vera has a dress rehearsal at the theater. Not wanting to lose any of the roles, she embarks on an adventure: she goes to Nikitina herself and asks to go to the studio instead of her.

Strict Nikitina, left unrecognized, argues for a long time with the director about the script, and then suddenly shows interest in what is happening around. Among the scenery, lighting fixtures and cameras, she will spend an amazing evening. From the world of cinema, Irina will return home in the morning – for the first time in her life – in love with the director and completely happy. Soon Shatrova will also drop by, who, under the guise of Nikitina, spent the evening among scientists, and ended it with a romantic walk arm in arm with journalist Roshchin (Mikhail Sidorkin). The next day, all four will meet at the institute, where the confusion will happily be resolved.

Special effects film

Spring became the most technically difficult Soviet film of its time. And the point here is not only in the mysterious devices of the Institute of the Sun, which Nikitin deftly activates. They look quite impressive, but, of course, they are not nearly as amazing as the presence of one actress in two images at once. Nikitina and Shatrova talk, pass objects to each other, and at the end of the film they even sing while standing next to each other! The audience wondered: how is it done? For a long time, the filmmakers also thought about a way to shoot Orlova in two roles at the same time. The solution was simple and elegant: the same scene was shot twice on film.

For example, the final song “Spring is Coming” was filmed, which is sung by two happy couples: Nikitina with Gromov and Shatrova with Roshchin. First, the scene was filmed with the first two, placing it in the left half of the frame and covering the right side of the lens with a special shutter. Then the film was loaded into the camera again, the second pair was positioned in the right half of the frame, and the left side of the lens was closed. At the end of the song, Orlova “exposes” the technique: both heroines take a step towards each other and seem to fall into the center of the frame, where the shutter is.

The audience liked the film not only for the special effects, but also for the comic situations – the heroine of Faina Ranevskaya is primarily responsible for them. Ranevskaya plays the housekeeper Nikitina, a little flirtatious lady Margarita Lvovna. Unlike her mistress, Margarita Lvovna thinks not only about business. Pouring her coffee at the beginning of the film, she dreamily asks: “Arinushka … Have you ever burned with love?” Later, noticing Nikitina’s fashionable hat, which she was sent from the House of Models, asks for permission to go to the Tishinsky market and to the cooperative in it.

“Yes. Beauty is a terrible force! ” – she concludes, picks up an old Dostoevsky’s edition with a pre-revolutionary spelling in the hallway and leaves with the words: “I’ll take ‘The Idiot” so as not to get bored in the trolleybus. ” At the entrance, she will secretly open a book – it contains a photograph of Nikitina’s negligent colleague, comrade Bubentsov – and it will become clear to the audience who is the subject of her sighs.

Closer to the finale, seeing at home Nikitina and Shatrova, similar to each other like two drops of water, the heroine of Ranevskaya decides that she has lost her mind. Probably, in 1947, her short monologue at the telephone caused bursts of laughter in the hall: “Ambulance? Ambulance assistance. Delirium tremens. White fever. Who is the patient? I am sick. Margarit Lvovich. Lev Margaritovich “.

Another comic scene that deserves attention unfolds at the film studio, where Nikitina, disguised as Shatrova, sits down in the make-up chair. The make-up girl (played by Rina Zelenaya), without ceasing to chat about her work failures, at the same time showered Irina with machine-gun bursts of reproaches: what did she do with her face? Finally, announcing that “they no longer wear such lips,” she begins to apply transparent plates with painted lips to the indignant Nikitina’s face. Finally, the desired shape and color are selected. “Average plump, sexy number four,” she says to the assistant.

An unprincipled picture

The script of the film is based on the play by Alexander Raskin and Maurice Slobodsky “Screen Star”, first published in 1945. In 1946, the musical performance of the same name was staged at the Moscow Theater of Miniatures (now the Hermitage Theater). The performance was successful, but did not remain in the repertoire for long: it was quickly filmed as empty and too entertaining.

Similar claims were made to the future “Spring”, presented to the art council of the Ministry of Cinematography in October 1946. After reading the script and watching the footage, the members of the artistic council were unhappy. A simple funny story about twin women was called unprincipled, false and harmful; the scenes that Grigory Alexandrov had already managed to shoot were recognized as marriage. The director’s main mistake was called “imitation” of Hollywood canons, transferring images and situations from American cinema to Soviet soil. As a result, the script was rewritten several times, but it did not lose its lightness and humorous tone. At least the audience received the film with enthusiasm.

Interesting fact: “Spring” is the first film in which the famous symbol of “Mosfilm” appears – the sculpture “Worker and Collective Farm Woman” by Vera Mukhina. However, the main shooting of the film took place not at Mosfilm, but at the Czechoslovak film studio Barrandov. At that time Mosfilm was still being restored after the war. The scenes in which Gromov argues with Nikitina at the Institute of the Sun, where she controls the heavenly body, were filmed with sets collected at several European film studios.

Moscow in the film

However, there is a lot of Moscow in this film. Most of the city scenes are filmed in the very center. The film begins at the Bolshoi Theater. Here the assistant director begins his pursuit of Nikitina. Upstairs – the workers: on the occasion of the arrival of spring, they are covering the Apollo quadriga, which adorns the portico of the Bolshoi, with fresh paint. A cheerful crowd is walking down the square – this is a May Day demonstration. The column passes through Manezhnaya Square, where we see a double-decker trolleybus – these really ply in Moscow from 1938 to 1957. The demonstration turns to Tverskaya, we see the building of the Central Telegraph – a girl runs in the door.

The key part of the day, during which both Orlova’s heroines find love, is a walk in Moscow at night. Shatrova and Roshchin, having met at an evening at the Institute of the Sun, wander along the Sofiyskaya embankment – the Kremlin towers are visible in the distance. The Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed, Vasilyevsky Spusk appears in the frame. Boats float along the Moskva River, which turns it almost into a Venetian Canal. The Association is supported by Orlova’s long white dress – the couple seemed to have just left the La Fenice Theater.

It is not easy to determine exactly where Nikitin and Gromov, who left the film studio, are walking – their walk was filmed in medium shot. However, one sign gets into the frame – not place, but time: the poster of the film “Admiral Nakhimov”. The historical picture of Vsevolod Pudovkin, filmed at the end of 1946, was released in January 1947 and did not leave the repertoire of Soviet cinemas for a long time.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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