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Fragment of an Empire

(Oblomok imperii)
USSR 1929. Dir: Friedrich Ermler. 72 min. DCP

A young man who lost his memory during WWI regains it years later in Friedrich Ermler’s impressive attempt to render the process of remembrance on film. Filimonov (Feodor Nikitin), the protagonist, suddenly sees the world of 1928, and the new Soviet society, through the eyes of Tsarist-era 1915. Nothing is as he remembers, including the fact that St. Petersburg is now Leningrad and modernized. Recalling too that he had a wife (Lyudmila Semyonova), he sets out to find her. The film is a winning mix of political parable, social satire, and complex psychology, and displays terrific location photography. Director Ermler was described by esteemed French critic Georges Sadoul as “a major filmmaker” and by the Film Society of Lincoln Center as “one of the many Soviet-era artists in need of serious re-evaluation, or just plain discovery.”