15 June 2005 | Cineanalyst
This is the second time I've watched this film, "Father Sergius", which seems rather rare. I remember being very bored. Viewing it a second time causes one to face such questions as: am I a masochist? Am I trying to avert myself of cinema? Perhaps, I'm just too thorough in viewing these old silent films.
It's based on the Tolstoy novella, but literature and cinema are very different media, so that's no guarantee of any success. The story of Prince Stepán Kasátsky discovering his fiancée was the mistress of the Czar, so he then becomes a monk--eventually Father Sergius is faithful, but I don't consider that enough or even necessarily important in an adaptation. Co-director Yakov Protazanov was a prolific filmmaker not of the montage school, who made the curious communist sci-fi film "Aelita: Queen of Mars" (1924). Ivan Mozzhukhin was probably the major Russian actor of the day. As well, the settings of "Father Sergius" are lavish enough.
The major problem is that the film consists of static, long takes. The camera placement and film technique are common for the day, although prosaic, but the pacing is too ponderous. The bad acting and theatricality certainly don't make up for it. The scenes that remained in my mind over the years before seeing it again were those of Father Sergius's seclusion and his torment over lust. I didn't remember the finger incident, just the dullness. I've given the film a second chance, only to add nearly two more hours of boredom to my life.