Saturday, July 3, 2010

Movie Night with Shostakovich; The Girlfriends (1934) Part Two of Two

The annotations for the first part of this movie were posted on July 4, 2010.





We left our unlikely ensemble on the edge of a great success. The entire bar joins in singing "Zamuchen tiazheloi nevolei (Tormented by a Lack of Freedom)" with evocative counterpoint.

At [1:42] the militia come in to stop the celebration. One wonders how these "song-cops" found out about this event so quickly in an age without text messages.

The locals sing in defiance of the militia and a fight breaks out.

As a codetta to the first large section of the movie [5:00] we flash to the date July 19, 1914; which is the day that Germany declared war on Russia and Russia entered World War I. Bells sound. The girls tell their grandmother what they heard in the town then walk off together to serve their country.

We are beamed into 1919 with diagonal sweep of the screen [6:15] and the girls are still walking together in step. Take a good look at them in this picture: Zoya is on the outside, Natasha in the middle, and Asya closest to the camera. A fanfare in C major sounds.

At [6:25] we enter a new world, a new conflict (the Russian Civil War), a new timbre (organ with trumpets still sounding), and the new key of F major. The solo fanfare acts as a dominant to this new tonality. The girls walk along the edge of a trench and through town to arrive at a rally where Andrey addresses the gathering from the top of a staircase. They have enlisted as nurses. Since we last saw Andrey on the riverbank he has become a political leader of some significance.

Zoya sees Senka in uniform [8:51] and signals him using a bird call. He responds and Andrey smiles in recognition [9:14].





As the rally breaks up, a band plays the Russian national anthem (the Internationale) in B major! In the first parallelism with the first part of the movie, Senka once again moves in for a kiss--this time with much better results [0:42]. The girls say goodbye to their grandmother who has come to the rally to wish them well [1:32].

The action sequences of the movie begin [2:27]. The girls are bandaging the wounded. At [4:05] a sombre cue in F minor trails into the "dies irae [4:36]." Asya moves onto the tracks to see if the way is clear. There is a lovely scene as she sits on the track itself looking toward the battle line [5:29].

The key of E major sounds to announce that the enemy has captured the town. A train comes to evacuate the wounded soldiers. Sylich is on board and sees the girls for the first time since the riverbank [8:55]. They load the injured onto the train and depart.





The next music cue is remarkable. The steam whistles on the train inspired Shostakovich to score a Theremin solo [0:55]. The music alternates between the diatonic Russian national anthem and out-of-control Theraminese. They reach safety [2:37].

As the wounded are brought into the new camp, a dying solider whispers to Zoya that she should meet an "important connection" in a nearby cabin.

Zoya travels over snow [4:31] to find the cabin with elusive, drifting music scored for viola with pizzicato accompaniment. Violin joins the viola as Zoya finds the cabin. The "important connection" is Senka. The music turns major [6:34] but remains elusive and restless as the two of them spend time alone in the cabin. Natasha and Asya find the cabin and walk in on a kiss [9:40].






Silych and the rest of the crew in camp are unhappy about the impractical rendezvous.

Andrey is so significant at this point that every time he appears or leaves there is a fanfare. The fanfare at [0:42] is in B major, which links it by tonality to the band music during the rally. Andrey says hello to the old gang and gives everyone instructions before leaving to a fanfare of cross relations [3:28].

The girls get the cabin ready for more wounded troops [4:32], and a domestic scene takes place in which they find a live chicken [6:01] and cook it [6:26]. Natasha starts singing [9:16] the folktune "Where are those warm nights?" and the girls join her in harmony.






While they are singing, two enemy soldiers sneak into the house. Natasha is able to sneak behind them and get help [1:08], but they hold the other two girls at gunpoint. The soldiers get distracted by thoughts of eating chicken [1:48].

At [3:15] the first cue for full orchestra is a chase scene, with snare drum rattling in classic Shostakovich form. The soldiers line up to shoot the girls. A counterattack [4:01] with plenty of gunfire as Sylich and the troops arrive on site. Both enemy soldiers are killed, but Asya has been mortally wounded. Asya speaks to her friends and Sylich is able to make her laugh [6:02] before she dies. At [6:44] a fanfare announces that Andrey has arrived. He launches a political speech [8:55] accompanied by an orchestral music of hidden ironies.





Andrey now makes direct eye contact with us and gives us the moral of the story. In the final scene [1:35], our friends are riding horses in front of flag-bearers, still fighting for the cause.

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