Posted: 03.04.2024 16:01:00

Chronicler of the era

In the year of 100th anniversary of Belarusian cinema, we remember film director Vladimir Korsh-Sablin

In light of the approaching anniversary, it is worth remembering the names that stood at the origins of national cinematography. On March 29th, film fans celebrated the birthday of one of the founders of Belarusian cinema, People's Artist of the BSSR and USSR Vladimir Korsh-Sablin. The director shot films of various genres, worked as the artistic director of our film studio, brought many talented ideas to life and helped others.

Vladimir Korsh-Sablin, film director, People's Artist of the BSSR and USSR   

  Famous ancestors

The future film director was born in Moscow on March 29th, 1900 in the family of the famous publisher, Vladimir Sablin. His grandfather was a prominent theatrical figure, Fyodor Adamovich Korsh, the creator of the first private theatre in Russia — the Russian Drama Theatre, now the Theatre of Nations is located in this building.
After graduating from the Moscow real school, Vladimir worked in his grandfather’s theatre for some time, having reviewed the entire repertoire. As the legend goes, Fyodor Korsh was so impressed with his grandson’s talent that he allowed Vladimir to use his famous surname on stage. The young actor was a seeker by nature: he also worked in theatres in Simferopol and Melitopol.  

The Red Army volunteer

During the Civil War, Vladimir volunteered for the Red Army. He served, among other things, as an assistant in the cavalry, adjutant to the regiment commander. His military service is an extremely impressive episode in his biography. 
After the war, the young actor worked at the Kazan Drama Theatre. In 1923, he was invited to the Yalta Film Studio as a military consultant to shoot a film dedicated to the events of the Civil War. At that time, the cinema did not arouse much interest in him, but the cinema itself, like some invisible force, firmly decided to draw Vladimir into its embrace.

In tandem with Pyryev

Since 1925, he worked as an assistant director and actor at the Goskino film studio [the USSR State Committee for Cinematography] in Moscow. Film director Yuri Tarich, the husband of his maternal aunt, offered his nephew to try his luck in the cinema once again, inviting him as an actor and his assistant in the new film The Wings of a Serf. In 1926, Vladimir Korsh-Sablin and Ivan Pyryev, the future director of the legendary films The Swineherd and the Shepherd, Cossacks of the Kuban and many others, became assistants to Yuri Tarich again. At that time, Tarich began filming Tale of the Woods at the newly organised Belgoskino film studio. In this film, Korsh-Sablin also played the role of an adjutant. 

Friendship with Dunaevsky and discovery of Smirnova 

The same film Tale of the Woods featured for the first time the arrangements of Belarusian folk and soldier songs by Isaac Dunaevsky, whose friendship Korsh-Sablin retained for life. The composer wrote music for almost all of his films — the next one was Seekers of Happiness. In the comedy My Love that also had music by Isaac Dunaevsky, the director revealed for the big cinema an outstanding actress, Lidiya Smirnova. By the time she met Korsh-Sablin, she had got somewhat disappointed in cinema, like Boris Babochkin. The role of Shurochka in the film became her star ticket to the profession.    
It is amazing how fresh and easy My Love by Korsh-Sablin looks today. It is often shown on different TV channels. It was in this film that the song Do Not Call for Love by Isaac Dunaevsky, which became extremely popular, was played.

My Love

The fire years

The Great Patriotic War occupies a special page in Korsh-Sablin’s biography. From June to November 1941, he was the director of the Lenfilm studio and at the same time the platoon commander of the workers’ fighting squad from the Petrograd District Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks). From December 1941 to June 1943, he was the director of the Central United Film Studio, which operated in Alma-Ata. From June 1943 to October 1945, he was the director of the Soyuzdetfilm studio, the director of the Central Documentary Film Studio and at the same time the head of the film group at the headquarters of Belarus’ partisan movement. For managing the front-line film group, he received the Partisan of the Patriotic War 1st degree medal. Together with Nikolai Sadkovich, Korsh-Sablin became the author of the full-length documentary Liberation of Soviet Belarus. His post-war film Konstantin Zaslonov was awarded the Stalin Prize. 

Tale of the Woods

A taste for literature

Korsh-Sablin made a heartfelt film about the revival of the village titled The New House. The film-essay The Girls Sowed Flax turned to the scenes of a modern collective farm life. Vladimir Vladimirovich promoted Belarusian literature in his creative work in every possible way. He was friends with many writers, and filmed plays by Kondrat Krapiva The Skylarks are Singing (in liaison with Konstantin Sannikov) and Who Laughs Last. Based on Yakub Kolas trilogy At the Crossroads, he shot the film The First Trials.  

Scale in everything  

Vladimir Korsh-Sablin, together with Pavel Armand, took part in the creation of a large-scale film by director Alexei Speshnev Moscow — Genoa, dedicated to the first steps of Soviet diplomacy in the international arena. The film won an award at the All-Union Film Festival and the State Prize of the BSSR in the field of cinematography. 
The setting of the film Remember This Day by Korsh-Sablin took the audience back to 1917, as well as the last work of the master — the historical drama The Fall of the Empire (in this work, Nikolai Kalinin became the co-director). 
Korsh-Sablin was the artistic director of Belarusfilm during two periods: 1945-1960 and 1969-1974, and headed the Union of Cinematographers of Belarus from 1957 to 1974. In his personal life, there was always a beloved woman nearby — Nadezhda Brilliantshchikova, who used to be the wife of writer Mikhail Zoshchenko.
Vladimir Korsh-Sablin passed away on July 6th, 1974. He was buried at the Eastern (Moskovskoye) Cemetery in Minsk. One of the streets of our capital is named in his honour; memorial plaques are installed on the house where he lived as well as on the façade of the Belarusfilm studio. The high humanistic message of Korsh-Sablin’s works, his ability to work with actors, and the visual culture of the frame have defined for many years the face of Belarusian cinema, which is moving towards its 100th anniversary.
Every film director is a son of his time. And Korsh-Sablin responded wholeheartedly to all its challenges and problems… It is not strange that for him, a witness to many historical events, a participant in several wars, the historical-revolutionary and military themes were especially close. They were reflected in his feature films The Fire Years, Konstantin Zaslonov, Red Leaves.

Red Leaves

The Wings of a Serf

By Valentin Pepelyaev