“Giving no damn about losses,
With a deadly cigarette in their mouths,
Officers of top bearing
In the gaping ditches of plains...”
This poem by Osip Mandelstam was inspired by the movie Chapaev. A classic, this movie is one of the first and best works of the Soviet cinema. One of the hundred best movies of all time in a list compiled by international movie critics.
Chapaev premiered on November 5, 1934, in the Titan cinema in Leningrad. And in this case, cinema again confirmed the thesis about it being the most important of the arts in an overwhelmingly illiterate country. The country enthusiastically lined up in columns and, parading the slogan “We are going to see Chapaev,” headed for the nearest movie theater. And it would always find Chapaev on the screen – the screening continued for up to two years, like it did in another Leningrad movie theater Saturn.
The script titled Chapay was written by Anna Nikitichna, the widow of the commissioner and writer Furmanov, based on the book and diaries of her late husband. The two Vasilyevs reworked the material, retaining only four out of the fifty-seven scenes in the original script. The rest was written by the directors, and the result was excellent and has been a source of numerous quotes for the past seventy plus years. “Quiet! Chapay is going to think.” “The Whites came and robbed us, the Reds came and robbed us too. What is the peasant supposed to do?" “Brother Mitka is dying, asking for some fish soup.” “What about the global scale, Vasily Ivanovich, could you do it? No... I could not. I don't speak any languages.” “I didn't study at no academies. I never finished them.” Everything we know about Chapaev came not from a history textbook or from Furmanov's novel, but from that movie by the Vasilyevs starring Boris Babochkin in the title role.
Not many directors can claim that they had created characters that became part of folklore: Lioznova created Stierlitz, Ryazanov created Poruchik Rzhevsky. But before them all were the Vailyevs. Who weren't brothers, by the way, just namesakes.