The film of Esther Shub Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (1927) is one of the exemplary compilation films where archival footage is used in a specific manner. The film dwells upon the last years of the reign of the Romanovs. It is necessary to add that the film is very propagandist as it shows the dynasty and the entire society as totally evil. It is clear that the film was to promote ideas of communism and the Soviet party.
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The film consists of archival footage that comes from different sources. There is the part that represents official materials used for news or archives. There are also private home movies that show the everyday life of the royal family and nobility. These pieces are different from the official sources as they have a different mood and different quality. The library shots used are of different length. Each library shot is proceeded by a note where the events are explained or rather where the director shows the way to think about the events shown.
As has been mentioned above, the length of the shots is different and it often serves a particular purpose. For instance, when showing the military people the director uses longer shots. This conveys the ideas that there were lots of soldiers and guards to support the czar’s regime.
Another interesting usage of a lengthy shot is a depiction of the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the dynasty. The royal family, as well as numerous noble guests, go through a kind of the live corridor. It becomes clear that there were quite a lot of rich people who oppressed the poor. Shorter shots provide an idea of certain events (preparations to the war, technological advances, and economic issues) or introduce certain historical personalities (for instance, rulers of other countries and so on).
It is necessary to add that the film has a coherent structure and the director creates sequences that convey a primary idea. First, the director shows different classes of people existing in the society at that time (for example, the royal family, nobility, priests, soldiers, working people, peasants and so on).
Then, different episodes from these groups’ lives are shown. For instance, a very suggestive part of the documentary is a set of shots that start with dancing on a boat where rich people dance for a while and perspire. The next sequence of shots shows the hard work of poor people. This contraposition serves to convey a particular idea.
The shots are used to stress the idle life of privileged classes and harsh conditions the people had to live in. The same technique is used when the war is shown. On the one hand, the rich are shown as those who are totally responsible for the war as they have plants and factories producing weapons. On the other hand, horrors of war and sufferings of the poor are shown to stress the price of the war.
On balance, it is possible to note that the film Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (1927) is a compilation of archival footage. The director uses certain notes to ‘help’ people understand the value of the events. One of the major techniques used was contraposition as the director tried to show the wrongs of the society prior to the revolution. The length and content of the shots help convey this idea and create a special atmosphere in the documentary.