The Magic Mirror: Moviemaking in Russia, 1908-1918 (New Technology) (review)
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 30, Number 2, 2000
- pp. 87-88
- Additional Information
Book Reviews | Regular Feature The text is divided into three parts, dealing respectively with Robin Hood in "History," "Story and Song," and "Screen." Each section is organized chronologically to assist in following the development of the central theme. At the end ofthe book are three appendices listing major films about the English Robin Hood, Scottish Robin Hoods, and Robin Hood Westerns. The book concludes with a list of chapter notes, a bibliography, and a comprehensive index. In Part I, Nollen tackles the formidable task ofproviding a brief summarization of approximately 1,000 years of history. His account is clear and concise, with the exception of a fewapparent proofreading errors, which though not historically significant, are confusing. Similarly, one wonders at the paucity ofmaterial on Hereward the Wake, whom Nollen acknowledges as "the first major English outlaw." As Hereward's life predates the first mention ofRobin Hood in literature and manifests many events similar to those in the legend, it is likely that some adventures were later attributed to him. Next, Nollen discusses the growth ofthe Robin Hood legend through musical and literary influences. Nollen delves into the ballads, poems, and plays with gusto and presents a fascinating array ofmaterial that contributes significantly to understanding the development of the legendary character. Chapter Five seems curiously out ofplace, as it relates the history ofRob Roy McGregor in the same factual format employed in Part I. In Chapter Six, he introduces material about Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, showing that the work contains most of the major themes of the Robin Hood stories. Finally , Nollen presents the cinematic history of Robin Hood from the first silent films in 1908 through the 1995 epic Braveheart. Here, Nollen really shines. From knowledgeable insight concerning film techniques to amusing anecdotes, Nollen provides a plethora of valuable information. His account of Douglas Fairbanks' archery demonstration for the press is hilarious and the background information he provides on each photoplay makes the reader want to go out and rent the film. Each movie is made more enjoyable when watched after reading Nollen. In conclusion, the work is a valuable addition to any library on film, and a great asset to anyone teaching about the Robin Hood legend. Ifthe book has a flaw, it is the inclusion material that deviates from the central theme. One can understand the section on William Wallace, who the author points out "includes more parallels to the legend than any other outlaw on record." The inclusion of substantial material on Rob Roy is less defensible. If all of the historical parts ofthe plot were omitted from the movie, there would be no story at all, and as a leader, Rob failed miserably in his one opportunity to take men into battle (showing up late and prompting some rumors of cowardice). As for an entire chapter devoted to Robin and the Seven Hoods, why not? As one wag exclaimed, what is the harm in modernizing the Robin Hood legend? Lawrence Crider Uscriders@earthlink.net Denise J. Youngblood. The Magic Mirror: Moviemaking in Russia, 1908-1918 (Mew Technology). The University of Wisconsin Press, 1999. 197 pages; $49.95. During the closing days of the nineteenth-century, life was anything but normal in Czarist Russia as two diametrical, political parties—the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks—clamored, in their own obstreperous fashion, for economic, social, and political reform. By 1905, most things seemed out ofcontrol. The recent Film Reviews Japanese victory, proving the weakness ofNicholas ' rule, soon led to strikes, mutinies, and peasant revolts. Unrest , anger, and outrage were everywhere. Clearly this nation was in trouble. Nevertheless, not everything was pessimistic. In the summer of 1896, the first movies were imported from France and, now, the Russians were exposed to a new technology that—for better or worse—would alter their perceptions. These early French titles, running about one hour and shown only in St. Petersburg and Moscow, depicted the events of the day, highlighting dress, manners, and mores. Within months, these silent motion pictures had taken hold and, as in other countries, the new medium was here to stay. Of course, not everyone saw these early moving pictures as public screenings only attracted society's higher echelon...