Synopsis by Sandra Brennan
This entry in the British Film Institute-sponsored international centenary celebration of cinema, in which noted directors presented a documentary or feature film exemplifying their country's cinematic history, represents Russia and was directed by Sergei Selyanov. A personalized entry, it features film clips of some of the country's greatest films between the late 1800s and 1940 including those of Eisenstein, Dovzhenko and Pudovkin. The only post-1940 clip comes from Tarkovsky's 1979 film Stalker. The clips are grouped together in eight segments and are designed to illustrate the Russian character as described by Nikolai Berdayev in his turn-of-the-century book Russkaja Ideja. According to Berdayev, to be Russian is to be simultaneously cruel and kind, despotic and anarchistic, religious and atheistic, eager to serve and equally rebellious. Selyanov found Berdayev's theoretical paradox in the Russian soul inspirational and it led him to try and illustrate it through film.