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By the Law

Lev Kuleshov
Po zakonu
USSR 1926 / 80’
USSR: Early Days
silent movie with live music

Three men, one couple, one dog; all searching for gold on the banks of the Yukon, during the gold rush. Everything goes smoothly until one of the men shoots the other two. The couple subdues the murderer and keeps him under constant guard. None can leave, as the ice and snow have begun to melt, flooding the Klondike Fields.

By the Law was the cheapest film ever produced in Russia. It is also absolute masterpiece, whose greatness stems from minimalism. The minimum amount of effort required for story development, a minimum number of characters, a bare minimum of inter-titles and dialogue.

One can label By the Law a formalist action film, a Western psychodrama or an experimental study in bigotry. When it comes to taking artistic styles and genre conventions and playing around with them, Kuleshov remains the master.

Barbara Wurm / Rotterdam IFF

The film will be presented with laptop music live by Franz Reisecker.

Lev Kuleshov

Born in 1899, died in 1970. Filmmaker and film theorist who taught at and helped establish the world’s first film school (the Moscow Film School). He studied art in Moscow. When the Russian revolution began in 1917, he joined the Bolshevik army and covered the war with a documentary crew. Beginning 1943, Kuleshov served as the academic rector of The Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK). His students included Eisenstein and Pudovkin. Kuleshov may well be the very first film theorist as he was a leader in Soviet montage theory. For Kuleshov, editing is the essence of cinema - the juxtaposition of one shot with another. To illustrate this principle, he created what has come to be known as the Kuleshow Experiment. In addition to his theoretical work, Kuleshov was an active director of feature-length films through 1943.

Selected filmography

1918 Projekt inżyniera Prajta / Proekt inzhenera Prayta / The Project of Engineer Prite

1920 Na czerwonym froncie / Na krasnom fronte / On the Red Front

1924 Niezwykłe przygody Mr Westa w krainie bolszewików / Neobychainye priklyucheniya mistera Vesta v strane bolshevikov / The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks

1925 Promień śmierci / Luch smerti / The Death Ray

1926 Według prawa / Po zakonu / By the Law

1932 Horyzont / Gorizont / Horizon

1943 My z Uralu / My s Urala / We from the Urals

Cast & Crew

director Lev Kuleshov
screenplay Viktor Shklovsky, Lev Kuleshov, based on a short story by Jack London
cinematography Konstantin Kuznetsov
cast Aleksandra Khokhlova, Sergei Komarov, Vladimir Fogel, Pyotr Galadzhev, Porfiri Podobed
production Goskino
sales Österreichisches Filmmuseum
language Russian
colouration b&w