As Vasili in Dovzhenko’s EARTH (1930) Semyon Svashenko secured his niche in film history — secured the niche he had established the year before in the same director’s ARSENAL (1929) in which he played Timosh the Ukrainian (Svashenko was Unkrainian as was director Dovzhenko). Today’s writing on film (and on just about everything else under the sun) ridiculously overuses the word iconic; but it is the word that suits the photograph on this page from ARSENAL, one of the most internationally recognizable stills from the silent era and a memorial of a stirring performance.
But Svashenko’s portrayal in the lyrical EARTH is in and from another dimension, and no one who has seen him dance down the road in the moonlight is likely to forget him.
Semyon Svashenko was still acting in 1957 and receives a credit in AND QUIET FLOWS THE DON (directed by Sergey Gerasimov). And he has a role, though not the lead, in BALLAD OF A SOLDIER ( directed by Grigoriy Chukhray, 1959), a popular film in the United States at the time of the Cold War thaw and Russian-American cultural exchange. And he was billed as Old Ukrainian in the 1966 Russian WAR AND PEACE (directed by Sergey Bondarchuck).
He died in 1969.
ARSENAL is available from Kino Lorber in a beautiful digital remastering by David Shepard. Kino also offers EARTH, not a remastering but an acceptable print.
NEXT FRIDAY POST July 8
See you at the movies,