A Drama on the Volga

Doch kuptsa Bashkirova / Drama na Volge (Frgm.)
(The Merchant Bashkirov’s Daughter / A Drama on the Volga)
R: Nikolai Larin. B: Nikolai Larin. K: Ianis Dored. P: Grigorii Libken. RUS 1913
Engl. subtitles

“Produced by a small provincial film company in 1913, this movie was quickly purchased by the Pathé Frères Company, which maintained an office in Moscow. Supposedly based on a true story, the plot had been staged for the theatre in 1894 as ‘The Murderess: The Merchant Osipov’s Daughter’. A merchant family named Bashkirov objected to the film’s title, prompting it to be distributed as Drama on the Volga. The thematic intertwining of the conflicts between generation and gender keeps this movie fresh today as a window to the past. Costumes code the class structure: the patriarchal merchants in their caftans wear beards and part their long hair down the middle, in sharp contrast to the stylish Egorov. The mother is also particularly interesting, as she tries to help her daughter despite her inability to challenge her husband’s authority. The peasant-rapist contradicts any possible nostalgia for the provincial sublime, despite several evocative outdoor shots of the river. Nor does he inspire socialist sympathies, reminding viewers instead of the visceral and brutal anger that fuelled many from the underclasses. Politics aside, this film also fits into the growing popularity of cinematic violence. Natalia’s collapse into a hysterical fit in the last scene was at the time also becoming a familiar trope of feminine frustration. Director Larin did not move far professionally after this in Russian cinema; his last known film was The Father-in-Law Killer and Nastia, the Beauty (Svekor-dushegub i krasotka Nastia, 1916), based on a novel by Aleksei Pazukhin, one of the most prolific writers of serialized sensational novels published in the tabloid press. After emigrating in 1920, Larin continued as a filmmaker in Bulgaria and Germany.”
Louise McReynolds

“Merchant Bashkirov’s Daughter offers a remarkable insight into the sociology of the early Russian cinema industry. For Libken based his first production closely on an actual murder scandal — apparently with the intention of blackmailing the Bashkirov family! Whether they paid up or threatened legal action, the result was a solemn announcement in the trade press that the film would be released under the less specific title, Drama on the Volga, ‘because the heroine’s surname is identical to that of some well-known merchants in a certain town on the Volga — by sheer coincidence of course.'”
Milestone Films
Early Russian Cinema, Volume 4: Provincial Variations