There were 22 people left in the city, employees of the Leningrad newsreel and Lentekhfilm. The key figure among them is Valery Mikhailovich Solovtsov, head of the Leningrad Front film group, and since 1943, head of the Leningrad United Film Studio. This was a person who gave instructions to the cameramen on what and where to film, he was responsible for his way of life, for his families. He responded to the Leningrad leadership, to the Main Political Directorate of the Red Army.
He had an interesting film career. Born in the Don Cossack region in 1904, after graduating as a sailor in Arkhangelsk, he was a sailor on the icebreaker “Rusanov”. Then suddenly I became interested in cinema. Handsome, tall, textured, he immediately began acting in leading roles. Critics called him “the standard silent movie villain.” In the list of films where he played the roles of handsome seducers: “Katka the Paper Runet”, “The Parisian Shoemaker.”
But when sound appeared in the cinema, Solovtsov became a documentary filmmaker. His first war film was “The Manerheim Line”, filmed during the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939-1940.
The widow Larisa Alexandrovna Solovtsova (she is 39 years younger than her husband, they had great love at first sight), says that when she analyzes her husband’s notes, she falls more and more in love with him.
– Here are the yellowed notebooks, where every day of the blockade records are kept about the filming. “1. Transfer of the armored train – operator Stradin. 2. Classes began in schools – Blazhkov. 3. Selection in MPVO, Shot down Yu-88 – operator Stankevich, Observers – Slavin, Demolitionists – Stradin. 4. Presentation of the Order from the Hero of the Soviet Union – Belyaev. Release date November 10, 1941”. And at the bottom, in a firm handwriting, it is signed: Valery Solovtsov.
And already on November 20, 1941, the standards for bread were again lowered. The workers now received 250 grams each, the rest 125. The operators were starving, like all the inhabitants of Leningrad. Solovtsov this terrible winter, with a height of 178 centimeters, weighed 48 kilograms. And the “Ai Mo” camera weighed about 5 kilograms. A weakened person could hardly hold it, the cameras were transported on sleds.
How did they work, how did they film the city? To show only corpses and horrors, it will look like the city is dying. Focusing on front-line victories and heroic work by workers is telling a half-truth. Filmed with handheld cameras, there was no electric drive, a spring mechanism. Before each engine it is necessary to cock and remove for 15 seconds. A thirty meter reel is one minute. They were responsible for the film with their heads, it was impossible to spoil it, light it up.
In November, shelters were dug on the Kirov Islands to keep cameras and film there during raids. They lived in a barracks position, they left at the first signal with the MPVO brigades.
Every fourth front-line operator was killed, every second was injured. The operator Pechul was killed first, he went to the militia. Fomin and Sinitsyn took part in the Tallinn crossing, Fomin barely being spared. Sinitsyn drowned. Blazhkov fell ill with a hungry psychosis.
“Valera told me that they were going to the Ensk part, on their way to filming,” recalls Solovtsov’s wife, Larisa Aleksandrovna. – And when they got there – the commander’s eyes were square: how did they get past? – And? “You were walking through a minefield!”
On December 15, there was no electricity in the city anymore, the operators filmed what is called on the table. When electricity was given, Moscow began to demand from Solovtsov and his material subordinates that they would be combat, demonstrated clashes, battles. The idea was to make a great movie.
– As soon as they gave birth, Moscow began to demand material, and above all heroic, which is understandable: wartime, – says film historian Mikhail Trofimenkov, – This is not the time to show pain and suffering, and death, you need to inspire people, for this propaganda film and agitation and work. And Roman Lazarevich Karmen, number one in Soviet documentary cinema, was sent from Moscow to unite everyone and organize the filming of the Battle of Leningrad. But in general, it turned out that everything has already been filmed. Carmen only had to represent in Smolny, and then in Moscow before the authorities. At first it was the Leningrad Regional Party Committee, then the Military Council of the Leningrad Front, then the Main Political Directorate of the Red Army.
The Leningrad authorities demanded that some frames be removed, the film be cut, so as not to show suffering, hunger and death. But such shots, nevertheless, were included in the film “Leningrad in the fight”, the name of which was invented by Vsevolod Vishnevsky. The picture was released in the summer of 1942, the whole country, the world saw it, people sobbed.
Solovtsov and his colleagues received the Stalin Prize.
At the end of the war, when Solovtsov and his friend, cameraman Stradin, were filming orphan children in one of the orphanages, the three-year-old Volodya hugged the director by the leg and said: “You are my dad!” Solovtsov replied without hesitation “You will be mine!” and he adopted a child. Unfortunately, Volodya died in 1949 from injuries received during the shelling of the blockade.
During the siege years, the United Film Studio in Leningrad released 120 films, half of them directed by Solovtsov. He himself became the director of three major films: “Leningrad in the struggle”, “Ladoga” and “The great victory near Leningrad.” The picture “Ladoga” is also interesting in that four front-line cameramen who came to film the everyday life of the Road of Life, by chance found themselves in the center of the battles for the island of Sukho on Lake Ladoga in October 1942.
After the war, Solovtsov was sent to Yugoslavia, and this may have saved him from repression, from which he would hardly have escaped in the era of the so-called “Leningrad case.”
Then for many years, until his death, Solovtsov worked at the studio, which after the war was called Lendokfilm, as a director and director. He was the ideological inspirer of the Leningrad documentary.
At one time, memorial plaques were hung in St. Petersburg, as if shingles were being laid. There was even a plaque to Marshal Mannerheim, who led the Finnish army, which took an active part in the blockade of Leningrad, the battles with the Red Army, and the shelling of the city.
But neither on the facade of the Lendokfilm studio, nor inside it, there is a commemorative plaque to the great documentary film director Valery Solovtsov. The Solovtsovs’ daughter, director and actress Maria Solovtsova, who tragically passed away at the age of 44, dreamed of such a board.
I think that the 80th anniversary of the lifting of the blockade of Leningrad is a real reason to thank the person who captured him in tragic footage and install a memorial plaque for him in St. Petersburg.
From the unpublished memoirs of Valery Kurbatov on the shooting of the film “Mannerheim Line”
“In December ours reached the Mannerheim line, it was a heavily fortified area with many firing points, bunkers and bunkers, and for some time it delayed the advance of our troops. It was difficult to immediately break through the Finnish defenses and the command of the army. was developing the possibility of a breakthrough. character. Journalists, writers, cameramen and photographers were removed from the front. The command prohibited filming at the front. My proposal to create a film about the military operations of the Red Army in battles with the white Finns was approved. Glaucus allowed us to make a three-part film. We started working on the film three together “I, Varlamov and Komarevtsev, such a decision was made by the head of the headquarters Vasilchenko …. No noise, camera groups were slowly sent to shoot in the army. It was necessary to film the fortified areas well – the Mannerheim line, they attached special importance to filming one of the largest pillboxes – Murilo near Teriokami (now Zelenogorsk) was the first to be bypassed. and captured, this envelope largely decided the fate of the entire defense of the Finns. Our troops were actively advancing, fighting big battles on the outskirts of the city of Vyborg, crushing the White Finnish formations. Near Vyborg, the operator Sokolsky was seriously injured and soon died from his injuries in the hospital. This was the first loss of our military group in the Finnish war. ..”
Zinaida Kurbatova, a well-known journalist, works for the Kultura television channel. She is the granddaughter of academician Dmitry Sergeevich Likhachev.