This space in the blog is for a number of questions I have about Barnet that in these very early stages of reserach I have not yet been able to find out. I’d like it to be an interactive part in which if anyone has more information on this they could send me leads, links or any other suggestions as to where I could find the answers to these questions, or information about this subject.
1) In a 1929 book entitled Film Problems of Soviet Russia by Bryher (the pen name of English novelist, poet and magazine editor, Annie Winifred Ellerman), the author devotes a few pages to Boris Barnet and his early films. There’s always been a certain amount of uncertainty about the exact role of Barnet in the making of Miss Mend. For what it’s worth Bryher states that Barnet took part in the construction of that film “in the capacity of actor, joint manager and joint scenic artist”. After noting that he acted in The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr West in the Land of the Bolsheviks, sh states, intriguingly, that he acted afterwards in the physical culture film ‘On the Right Track’. Fascinating because this film is not mentioned elsewhere (certainly not in Mark Kushnirov’s filmography). Although we do have a note in the Locarno booklet produced for the retrospective of Barnet that took place there during the film festival in 1985. The brochure goes on to state that direction of this film has also been attributed to Boris Barnet. By whom? And what would be the Russian title?
2) There are a number of references to Boris Barnet’s trip to Berlin and Paris in 1933 where he went to promote his film Okraina (Outskirts). We know that Barnet met some of his former actors and colleagues there (Anna Sten, Fyodor Otsep) as well as others who chose to leave the Soviet Union (such as Valery Inkizhinov who was the Heir to Genghis Khan in Pudovkin’s film and where Barnet played a minor role of a British soldier). Yet there still do not seem to be any detailed description of his three months between France and Germany. A rather long journey abroad in 1933 for it so be so neglected in any account about Barnet.
3) There are a number of films that we know that Barnet was in some way involved with but did not eventually get to shoot. For example, Bezhin Luk, which eventually Eisenstein filmed (but which was then censored and eventually destroyed) was initially a Barnet project. Equally, the film Nashestvie (Invasion) based on a Leonov script and shot during the war years by Abram Room and featuring a lead character who is quite clearly a political prisoner returning from imprisonment (the gulag) to become a heroic figure of resistance to the Nazi onslaught was also originally a Barnet project. Then there are the others. For example, a film project that Barnet had been planning to realize for a number of years during the latter part of his career about the Nineteenth Century People’s Will revolutionary organization. And then there is an intriguing and tantalizing suggestion that Barnet was eager to make a film on Lenin in 1964 but that the head of Mosfilm Studios categorically stated that Barnet would never make a film about Lenin. This tale is reported by Fyodor Razzakov, hardly a respected film historian. Nonetheless, it would be interesting to find out where this tale comes from and whether there was ever a plan by Barnet to film his own Lenin film (of course his 1927 film Lenin in October included Lenin, too. And then there are surely more unfinished Barnet projects…