6.75/10 (Average — worth watching for those interested in foreign silent films)
Bed and Sofa (1927) was directed by Abram Room and remains his most well-known film. It tells the story of a ménage à trois (a very daring plot for Soviet cinema in the 1920s) between one woman (Liuda) and two men (Volodia and Kolia).
Brief Plot Summary (spoilers)
Volodia and Kolia were friends during the Revolution and meet up accidentally when Volodia attempts to find living space in Moscow, where Kolia and Liuda live a married life with a tabby cat. Kolia treats his wife as a child (perhaps without realizing how degrading he is being) and she lives entirely within the domestic space and seldom ventures outside.
Volodia begins an affair with Liuda. He participates in the housework, brings her magazines, and takes her on plane rides. Kolia, an extremely backbone-less man still lives in his same house with the other two. Most of the film takes place in the one-room apartment and the film’s plot revolves around the changing fuctions of this domestic space.
Liuda is portrayed as entirely fixated by the bourgeoisie past (objects fill every corner of the cramped room and she does not have a job as a Soviet woman should). The plot comes to fore when Liuda declares she is pregnant and neither man knows for certain if it is their child. Both try to force her to have an abortion and she finally makes her own decision.
There was much controversy about the ending of the film. Is it positive that Liuda finally makes a decision without influence of both of the men in her life?Or, is it reprehensible that she abandons her “family” without asserting herself in that sphere? One gets the feeling that Abram Room is going for the former.
This is an interesting and rather minimal little film and probably has a very limited audience. I suggest seeking it out if you’re interested in Russian history or the history of silent film. The cinematography is above average at points but lacks the extreme experimental character of similar films of the period which really speak to me (Vertov’s works for example). Or even just the super uncanny feel of vaguely contemporary films such as Medvedkin’s Happiness (1935)… The extraordinarily controversial subject matter really saves the film from the swamps of boring melodrama. And of course, the ultra-ambiguous ending is worth pondering.
In the Russian cinema class I took years and years back, I remember reading Julian Graffy’s book, “Bed and Sofa: The Film Companion”. I suggest this work for people who are serious about this genre and its permutations in Russia at the time. She makes some fascinating observations about the meaning of the objects in the room, difficulties in production, the actors, the government response, etc.
I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised…
But, I might be divorcing “historical/social importance” from “overall cinematic experience.”
9 thoughts on “A Film Rumination: Bed and Sofa, Abram Room (1927)”
Might have to pass on this. Doesn’t sound like my cup of tea.
Yeah, lacks the visual/experimental umphh necessary for truly interesting silent cinema (in my opinion). It only functions since it has an interesting social message at a historically interesting time (i.e. the historian in me occasionally divorces “historical importance” from overall “cinematic experience”)… As a film, ehh, average…
Have to confess that the only silent film I’ve ever actually enjoyed was ‘Battleship Potemkin’, though ‘Bed and Sofa’ sounds interesting – do you know if this film would have been seen by audiences outside Russia? Or even whether its subject matter would have been acceptable in Russia either?
Well, the 1920s in Soviet cinema (and the arts in general) were intensely avant-garde and vibrantly ideological. It’s only in the 30s that major curtailing of Soviet cinema occurred. So, if this movie was made 10 years later he would have gotten in a lot of trouble and might have been killed.
I don’t know about its circulation outside of Russia…
Although I appreciate the overtly political Soviet era cinema for its artistic merit, I don’t find films such as Battleship Potemkin, Strike, etc., all that entertaining. This looks like an interesting alternative.
Oh, I really enjoyed Strike, and especially Man With a Movie Camera (which you must see if you haven’t). This was quite definitely interesting but not exactly my cup of tea…
Strike was technically pretty cool, but I really do like Man with a Movie Camera – probably my favorite Russian silent film.
I thought that Strike actually managed to succeed to creating some genuine emotional response for the strikers as a single entity… It’s my favorite of Eisenstein’s — well, maybe the Ivan the Terrible movies are better. Have you seen them?