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The topic will be time as a tradition.

Documentary cinema is the model of all life, may be mainly because is operates time cuts. And in this sense it continues the world’s thinking, world’s tradition since the earliest times. To follow in what sense the tradition, use, and conception of time lives on documentary screen is the topic of my report.

Today it’s no secret that the attitude to time, the way of its use is the way of attitude to all its manifestations. Recently a new book of philosopher Grigory Pometanetz has been published, where he gives, to my mind, an absolute example of attitude to time: in one of the communities in Nigeria time wasn’t observed, it went by naturally, and it wasn’t cut in parts. A calendar and a clock - the evidence of culture - were placed at every house of the community. It turned out, that in the houses where these things came in use, an absolutely different culture had appeared, t. i. there started a motion of life. In the houses where people tore off all the sheets of a calendar at once or didn’t tear them off at all, and where they didn’t pay attention to the clock,- a thousand-year stagnation, to which everyone got used, was still going on. So it becomes clear that the attitude to time is the major attitude in life. The Russian tradition of time, in the sense of its progressive movement, dates back to the origin of Christianity, which brought  writing and therefore chronicle. When we habitually say - cinema chronicle, we forget that we use an archaic expression, which originally was connected to what does Pimen in «Boris Godunov». It turns out, that this at first sight word repetition: there - chronicle, and here - cinema chronicle - is getting filled with a very important traditional content.

If we turn to the Russian chronicle, the «The Tale of Ancient Years» - we’ll find a lot in common with what we, documentary makers, know. Just imagine a chronicler, who step by step describes events which take place in Kiev in 10th-11th centuries; when we get the result of his work - «The Tale of Ancient Years» - two very important circumstances occur. The first is that the text is inseparable. It seems that nothing can be more documentary than the chronicle, whereas the chronicler tells all the history of mankind since the Creation according to the Bible. The Russian chronicle starts with a story about how God created Earth, sky, and man, then there is the banishment from Paradise - all the Bible’s story, which leads to the shore of Dnieper and therefore to the Russian history. For the chronicler there’s no difference between what he observed himself and what he reads in the Holy Writ, the text is identical. Here our historians separate due to the religious conception, because, let’s say materialists usually sort out the text, they separate tales about miracles from the prices of bread on Kiev’s markets in conventionally taken 1113. That didn’t happen, and this did. By the way, it was Chesterton who remarked on how can we separate one origin in two unequal parts when it has one author, who wrote in all the same circumstances. So it becomes clear that to the essence of documentary narration intrude the elements which a materialist would not consider documentary, t. i. the tradition of some idea having nothing to do with the visible events already exists in the Russian chronicle. That’s why keeping the chronicle isn’t already just a documentary chronicle, but some documentary formal art. Therefore I am saying so firmly that chronicle foregoes our documentary cinema chronicle in absolute sense. These are actually similar texts, similar stuff.

Secondly: it turns out that the early Russian chronicle knows such type of structure as montage, which very well can be viewed on the example of «The Tale of Ancient Years», the original early Kiev chronicle. It didn’t reach us in the original, we have several dozens of its copies, included in the later chronicles. When the Kiev Russia falls apart into many principalities - Smolenskoye, Ryazanskoye, Yaroslavskoye, Suzdalskoye, etc., in every principality they keep their own chronicle, which starts with «The Tale of  Ancient Years» just like «The Tale of Ancient Years» start with the Creation. So we have the first original chronicle in the copies or, if you like, in the counter-types. When we compare these chronicles, we can see that there are many variants on the original Kiev’s general chronicle. When a chronicler from Smolensk or Ryazan takes the material of the early chronicle, he edits is «for his Prince». He adds there his complimentary considerations and in general overestimates all the ancient history of Russia from the point of view of his landlord, his Prince. Therefore, we have several «Tales of Ancient Years», originating from the early general Kiev’s chronicle, which are essentially different from each other. And when you realize this situation, you come to the 20th century very quickly.

Didn’t such characters as Dziga Vertov and Esphire Chub do the same with the Tsar’s chronicle? They took the similar chronicle and edited it according to the demands of that time, t. i. They served their new «Prince», altering the preceding manuscripts, and coming to a new understanding of them. Of course, they went much further than early chroniclers, who followed some rules influenced by the patriarchal traditions, religion, etc. Nevertheless, their main principle (for example, Esphire Shub’s version of the Tsar’s chronicle) goes back to the early Russian chronicle. This tradition, which may be subconsciously went through the centuries, connects the early chronicle itself with such works as Vertov’s history of the Civil war, or Shub’s film «The Fall of the Romanov’s Dynasty». T. i. bringing the earlier shootings together with the new ancient written interpretation is based on the principle of chronicle. In this sense I see the greatest unity of ancient written chronicle and cinema chronicle - a tradition, coming through the centuries.

After the period when Christianity finally takes over in Russia, the understanding of rime also changes. The natural pagan time becomes a part of the past, and a Christian starts to understand time as neutrally as it is understood in the documentary. Again, this is a traditional view on time, which is best of all determined by the system of religious holidays. It is known, that a Christian lives 365 days a year totally according to the ecclesiastic calendar, according to what day, what saint, or what holiday is celebrated. This yearly cycle is the main understanding of time in Russian Christian world. Lots of books are written about it, which prove, that time of the Middle Ages actually is cyclic, and therefore circled. Such characteristic of time also ties the medieval  ideas with our documentary cinema, because the time of every film is also limited. It has the beginning and the end. 

Then in the Christian tradition goes the conception of eternity, where there’s no time. That’s why the cyclic yearly cycle of going through the holidays is the basis of the medieval time. Unfortunately, this tradition isn’t realized much in the cinema. If we take a look at Kosakovsky’s film from this point of view, we’ll have to admit, that Kosakovsky exhibits himself as some saint, whose birthday is celebrated at a certain time, and all the characters of his film, born the same day, are the people whom the author patronizes as the saints. In fact, he breaks the tradition, because a person takes his birthday for a great religious holiday, which is not common.

Again, I understand, that the author didn’t think over such things, because it simply was interesting, but I am trying to think about how it looks from the point of view of the traditional conceptions of out culture. When you refer the cyclic time, it turns out that a lot is based on this principle. For example, Vyacheslav Kiselev’s work has been published about the cyclic time even in «Eugene Onegin». It turns out, that it is all not by chance - for instance, Onegin and Tatiana’s  conversation is directly related to Kupala’s day, to summer holidays. When Onegin spends a winter in a closed space and can’t do anything because he is waiting for spring - when he’d be able to meet Tatiana - there is a fast, so becomes clear that even Eugene Onegin’s time is regulated precisely according to the religious calendar. All our native culture is full of it. But for documentary cinema more important are not such correlation of the yearly cycle holiday, but some montage principles, which come out of understanding of  the correlation of idea in general, between some idea and time.

I’ve already had a chance to talk about the documentalism of Pushkin’s «The Journey to Arzrum» from this point of view. This thing is very tricky, because every one knows, that those are the trip notes, Pushkin went to the war 1829 with Turkey, so he wrote down what he had seen on his way. This is an illusion, because with the same success you might say that a documentary film is when they shoot separate parts and then glue them in a chronological order. We all know that it is not so, and it turns out, that Pushkin’s «The journey to Arzrum» is arranged according to the laws of montage in the documentary. I’ll give you just one example which to my mind clarifies the cinematographic method of arranging a thing. Well, every one knows about Pushkin’s cinematographism, Romm and Eisenstein wrote  about is. Right now the topic is Pushkin’s real methods of arranging a documentary piece. When Pushkin approaches the Caucasus, he writes down what he has seen at the horizon of a cloud, he already knew that those clouds are the peaks of the Caucasus mountains. On his way back he also ends with the clouds. He tells about a monastery on Kazbek which has risen above the cloud and writes it in prose in «The Journey to Arzrum», then in the poem «A Monastery on Kazbek», which he finishes with the lines: «I’d like to hide in that cell above the cloud, near God...» It may seem an incident that Arzrum starts and ends with the clouds. I can’t give you all the arguments right now, but actually I mean that the clouds are understood metaphorically, it’s an analogy of that cloud, which leads Moses and the chosen people through the desert. The cloud shows the way and moving across the desert is precedes the people, who are searching not only for the Promised land, but also for something more important - faith in one God. So, at the end of his way Pushkin tells about this monastery on Kazbek above the cloud, where he wants to hide near God. It is the end of his wandering across the Caucasus deserts.

Why do I insist that these notes are cinematographic? The thing is that together with «The Journey to Arzrum» remained Pushkin’s notebook, where everything he had seen is written down is a chronological order. So, the monastery on Kazbek above the cloud Pushkin had seen not on his way back to Russia, but on his way to the Caucasus. Pushkin transfers this landscape to the end, because he needs a biblical ending of his wandering beyond the clouds. There are many cases like this in «The Journey». Because Pushkin’s notes are bases on some inner idea, they do not depend on the direction his carriage moves in. The story is written neither in chronological, nor in topographical order. It is arranged in a different way, we can imagine Pushkin working on his notebook as a director, who is watching the parts of his film, arranging them not in a shooting order, here he is led by the idea. I can prove it by «The Captain’s Daughter» - here is a classical part about how Petrusha Grinev gets into a blizzard. Remember this conversation?

«-Come on!

-Why return - there, the sky is blue, everything is fine.

-See that cloud - right there?-says the coachman.-It’s like a warning about a blizzard, we’d better return.

-No, we’ll go,-says the master.»

            It turns out that this cloud, just like the one in Arzrum, leads the hero his only possible way, there is even Savelyich’s reply:

            «-Why hurry, we aren’t going to a wedding.»

            But it turns out that they are hurrying to a wedding. And this cloud brings the hero to happiness in the only possible and complicated way, through lots of adventures. The Caucasus clouds starting and ending the journey, are of the same kind. Here the documentary material and the artistic method join, that’s why I am simply saying that in our documentary cinema except it’s own tradition the literary and religious tradition is very easily and directly used.

Somebody follows this tradition unconsciously, although it’s time to look for the origin of our art in the classical literature, in conceptions of time, montage, in all other manifestations of this art. In fact, for many years I’ve been telling all the same: how exactly documentary cinema is based on the classical traditions of Russian thinking, Russian literature, Russian art.

It seems to me that this way of researching the documentary is one of the most fruitful.

            Thank you.