Trapped in “Black Russia”

Source: Ruth Pierce, Trapped in “Black Russia”: Letters June-November 1915 (Boston/New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1918) pp. 118-119

Text: Yes, we go from café to cinematograph and try and keep warm.

I’ve never liked moving pictures before. Here they are presented differently than in America. Some of the plays I’ve seen have the naïveté and simplicity of a confession. Others interpret abnormal, psychopathic characters whose feelings and thoughts are expressed by the actors with a fine and vivid realism. There is the exultation of life, and the despair, the aggression and apathy, the frivolity and the revolt. The action is taken slowly. There are no stars. You look at the screen as though you were looking at life itself. And the films don’t always have happy endings, because life isn’t always kind. It often seems senseless and cruel and crushes men’s spirits. I wish we could have these films in America instead of the jig-saw puzzles I’ve seen.

Comments: Mrs Ruth Pierce was an American living in Russia in 1915, but little else seems to be known about her. Her book is ostensibly a set letters written to her parents while she and her husband tried to get out of war-torn Russia. At the time of the cinema trip described here she was living in Kiev (then part of the Russian Empire). Russian films of the period were indeed distinguished by their psychopathic elements and tendency towards unhappy endings.

Links: Copy at Internet Archive

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