Knyazhna Tarakanova / Princess Tarakanova
R: Kai Hansen / Maurice Maître. B: Cheslav Sabinsky, Ippolit Shpazhinsky (play). K: Joseph-Louis Mundwiller, Toppi. Ba: Mikhaylov, Cheslav Sabinsky. P: Pathé. RUS / Fr 1910
“Tarakanova claimed to be the daughter of Alexei Razumovsky and Empress Elizabeth of Russia, reared in Saint Petersburg. Even her place of birth, however, is not certain, and her real name is not known. She is known to have traveled to several cities in Western Europe; she became a mistress of Philipp Ferdinand of Limburg Stirum and lived off his money in the hope that the count would marry her.
She was eventually arrested in Livorno, Tuscany by Alexei Grigoryevich Orlov, who had been sent by Empress Catherine II to retrieve her. Orlov seduced her, then lured her aboard a Russian ship, arrested her, and brought her to Russia in February 1775. She was imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress, where she died of tuberculosis that December. She was buried in the graveyard of the Peter and Paul Fortress.
A popular theory postulates that her death was faked and she was secretly forced to take the veil under the name “Dosifea.” This mysterious nun was recorded as living in Ivanovsky Convent from 1785 until her death in 1810.”
“Over all, the production here is very stagey, with stationary cameras and scenes shot in single takes. The movie is based on a stage production, and most of the actors make no effort to adapt their acting style for the lack of sound – they just seem to mouth their lines and make the same kinds of motions they would on stage. The exception is V. Mikulina, who played the hapless princess. For most of the movie, we get the impression of a sort of haughty assurance that everyone will realize their mistake, and finally she hams it up gloriously, especially for her (first) death scene, where we get the impression that it was the untimely visit by Orlov that brought about the tubercular attack. Another issue with the movie is that it depends a great deal on written documents to replace the dialog. Every few minutes, Orlov is ending a letter, or Catherine is issuing a decree, so that the audience can be informed of what is happening. Later Russian filmmakers, such as Evgeni Bauer, would avoid such devices where possible.”
Century Film Project