A short Anna Sten film from 1928 called “Moi Syn (My Son)” surfaced recently at the Museo del Cine Pablo Ducrós Hicken, and the curators at the museum made a quick DVD copy to present at the 2012 Pordenone Silent Film Festival. The Russian film features Sten as a new mother who tells her husband that her newborn son is not his. This throws the husband into a tailspin as he loses interest in his work, ignores his wife and child and strikes back at the man he suspects is the father.
Paula Félix-Didier, the Director of the Museo, appeared on stage during the festival showing on October 10 to explain that the quick and dirty transfer to DVD is only the first step towards restoration. We lost the Russian copies of Moi Syn in a fire during the siege of Leningrad in 1942, and the discovery of a 16 mm copy in Buenos Aries created wide interest. The director of the film, Yevgeni Chervyakov, created a different kind of Soviet cinema that strayed from the familiar quick cutting and montage motifs displayed by Sergei Eisenstein and others.
The 49 minute film presented in Pordenone moved swiftly to its concluding sequence, when a fire engulfs the couple’s home and a fireman (the real father) risks his life to save the baby. In Soviet films, one senses the constant message of “collective responsibility,” and Chervyakov manages this with many closeups and no scenes of farms, factories and happy children. Anna Sten, as the mother, embraces her role of motherhood; the husband recoils from her in shame and frustration. In the end, society works to save the baby.