"Father Sergius"
a.ka. "Otets Sergii"

Produced by Mosfilm, the Vermoliev Company, Moscow
Directed by Yokov Protazanov
Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy
Released May 14, 1918.

Cast: Ivan Mozhukhin, Vladimir Gaidarov, Vera. G. Orlova, Natalie Lisenko, Pyotr Baksheyev, and Nikolai Panov.

The Story

This is Tolstoy's story of a Prince Kasatsky who joins the Czarist army as a promise to his dying father. At the court of Czar Nikolai I, he meets and falls in love with a beautiful young lady-in-waiting. She has been the Czar's mistress, and when he hears the gossip of his liaison with the young lady-in-waiting, the Czar orders her to marry, and she selects the Prince.

The only person at the court who isn't aware of her liaison with the Czar is her fiancé, Prince Kasatsky. The lady-in-waiting decides to tell him two weeks before their wedding. The shocked and disillusioned young man decides to become a monk, and the story follows his adventures as acolyte, priest, hermit, healer, a wandering holy man begging for bread and a seducer.

A Faithful Interpretation

The overthrow of the Czar led to a complete separation of church and state in the fall of 1917, and in January of 1918 the Bolsheviks began filming anti-clerical films directed particularly towards the younger people. A film crew and cast were stoned while filming a satirical version of a religious procession in Kostroma. It was the last and most important film made between the February Revolution and the October Revolution. A faithful interpretation of Leo Tolstoy's novel containing all of the intimations about the private life of Nikolai I and its revelations of corruption and ordinary human weakness in the priesthood made the novel a literary scandal at its time.

Protazanov had considered filming it before 1917, but a film of this highly censurable material was an invitation to trouble and probably exile to some remote corner of Siberia. The February Revolution had loosened the bonds of some of the earlier restrictions, particularly those on religion, as the bonds between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Government were not as tight as in tsarist days. "Father Sergius" was finished months before the October Revolution, but for some reason it was not shown until May, 1918. Perhaps the Provisional Government's censor hesitated to expose to a nervous public such a frank denunciation of the official church.


Ivan I. Mosjoukine (Mozzhukhin), was one of the leading Russian actors during the silent era and before the complete takeover of the Russian cinema by the Bolsheviks. A law student, Mosjoukine began acting on the stage before he turned to the screen playing comic roles in 1911 and then leading roles in the films of Yevgeni Bauer's films. He often portrayed distraught demonic characters caught between duty and passion. One of his greatest successes was in the leading role in "The Queen Of Spades."


Yakov A. Protazanov studied at the Moscow Commercial Academy, and during a trip to Paris he visited the Pathé Film studios. Upon his return to Moscow, he joined the Gloria Company. In 1911 he directed his first film and eventually directed 73 films before the Revolution in 1917. One his most famous pre-Revolution films was "The Departure Of A Grand Old Man" depicting the last days of Tolstoy. After the Revolution, he emigrated to Paris and gave René Clair his first chance as an actor. He eventually returned to Russia where he filmed the Soviet
science-fiction film "Aelita" in 1924.

copyright 2001 by John DeBartolo. All rights reserved.

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