«No Path through Fire» 1967
1967 / USSR / 95 min / drama / Lenfilm studio
Director – Gleb Panfilov
Inna Churikova – Tanya Tetkina
Format – 35 mm / DVD
For more information about rights for theatrical and DVD distribution please contact “Vera Films”
1969 Locarno International Film Festival (“Golden Leopard” – Gleb Panfilov)
1969 Locarno International Film Festival (Best Female – Inna Churikova)
A story of a timid nurse Tanya Tetkina, who amidst the troubles of the Civil War, suddenly discovers a talent for painting, makes an attempt at being happy despite the overwhelming hardships, and finds death in the hands of a White Army colonel.
About the Film
The first feature of Gleb Panfilov demonstrated that Soviet film has discovered a true artist, a visionary, who is capable of combining lyrical and epic tones, finding the right balance between subtle psychological tensions and powerful shock tactics. This unique ability has immediately placed him on one pedestal with some of the most distinguished directors of the 1960s. Taking the story of Evegny Gabrilovich as a starting point, Panfilov managed to find a new angle in depicting a historical-revolutionary theme. He utilises a rare at the time device of revealing an epic story of the Civil War through a portrayal of an individual character – Tania Tetkina, a completely unremarkable, unheroic young girl, a junior nurse of a hospital train. Half-insane, half-holly, she turns out to be a person of a unique soul, an inimitable distinctive artist.
Tanya does not entirely understand the reasons for the Revolution, but she senses that it was necessary. She turns to her mentor, Comissar Ignatich, again and again wanting to understand with her mind what she feels so strongly in her heart. She does not know how to formulate her ideas and feelings eloquently, therefore she finds a way to express them nonverbally through the means of artistic expression.
Panfilov’s film is completely devoid of nationalistic and political pathos, as the creators manage to avoid the cliché inherent to films which depict the Revolution.
The iconic images of the Civil War, so familiar to the Russian viewer, are absent from the film. They only exist in Tanya’s mind, and are presented on the screen in an expressive form of her primitive paintings. Thus the Great Soviet history is not treated as the central character, which overpowers the rest of the protagonists, but it is presented as an inseparable part of Tanya’s life, work and art.
Tanya believes that the Revolution requires sacrifices, and she is ready to make one herself. She confidently tells the white army colonel, that she is ready to make a sacrifice any day, even tomorrow. However, the Great Revolution cannot wait for so long, and Tanya falls victim to the colonel much sooner.
Panfilov presents the character of the white guardist in a realistic manner, without falling into exaggerations and caricature; a rather unusual directorial decision for the time. Such objectivity and sobriety in representation of the seminal historical material is a great achievement of a young filmmaker, and the unconformity and freshness of stylistic devices deployed in the film do not cease to impress the viewers today.
“[…] The directorial debut of Gelb Panfilov, who graduated from the Higher course of directing, impresses by the maturity of artistic thought and competence of professional execution”
[…] The greatest achievement and a true revelation of the film is Inna Churikova in the part of Tanya Tetkina. She had an extremely complicated task to portray an unattractive, untidy provincial girl, who might even seem imbecile at a first glance. However, she gradually unveils the emotions, the intelligence and the artistic gift hidden underneath the rough façade. Churikova’s performance was brilliant. I have rarely seen a young actress so selfless and willing to sacrifice all for the sake of her performance.
- Victor Bozhovich, “Soviet Screen”, n.30, 1990
“When Panfilov came into filmmaking with his lead actress, he resurrected a classic Russian character of the eternal martyr, of a headstrong fanatic, who will save us all at the cost of her own life, of her ruined youth. She will save the revolution, Russia or the Soviet order, but not her own home, her children, or her love […]
- Zara Abdullaeva, “Art of Cinema”, n.11, 1990
Geb Panfilov – director
About the concept of the film: I was looking for a theme for my diploma film. I came across a short story by Evgeny Gabrilovich written in a 1936 journal “The Red Virgin Soil” entitled “A story at the battlefront”. What a character, what a girl – unexpected, paradoxical! So I called the writer and asked him to write a screenplay. Gabrilovich refused. At the end, he agreed to the idea on a condition that I would write the script myself. If it works, he’d be willing to act as a co-author. If not – no hard feelings. I began writing and forty three days later the script was ready.
I was always moved by and interested in the characters like Tanya Tetkina. This was a determining film for me. I have met Inna Churikova. I have found an actress who was absolutely adequate for the part.
About Inna Churivoka: I was working on the screen play in Sverdlovsk and searching for the lead actress at the same time. I have imagined her so clearly, that I even drew her portrait. One day I switched on the TV and saw a young woman, who was dancing with a guy. And there she was, my Tanya Tetkina! The programme ended but there were no credits. So there I was left with this strong impression. I was in Sverdlovsk and the TV programme was aired from Moscow.
Later on, I contacted my friends in Leningrad and Moscow with a copy of my drawing and asked them to search for her. Meanwhile I was auditioning other parts. I have invited Rolan Bykov to play the part of the commissar. He was busy making his film Aibolit, so he refused. But he liked the script a lot and said that he knew an actress who would be ideal for the part of Tanya Tetkina. Her name was Lydia Churikova from the Moscow Youth Theatre. I have sent my assistant there immediately. And he brought her back; not Lydia, but Inna Churikova. I can still see this moment very clearly: I enter a room, there is a young girl, she turns to face me, and it is Her! That same face from the TV programme. That’s how I met my dear Inna. It was a gift from above.
Most of all, I was stunned by her eyes, by their expression. It is true what they say that the eyes are mirrors of the soul. I immediately sensed her individuality, her talent. And later on my expectations were fulfilled and even surpassed.