Lev Kuleshov

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Lev Kuleshov
Lev Kuleshov
Born Lev Vladimirovich Kuleshov
13 January [O.S. 1 January] 1899
Tambov, Russian Empire (now Russia)
Died 29 March 1970(1970-03-29) (aged 71)
Moscow, Soviet Union (now Russia)
Occupation Film director, screenwriter
Years active 1916 – 1943

Lev Vladimirovich Kuleshov (Russian: Лев Влади́мирович Кулешо́в; 13 January [O.S. 1 January] 1899 – 29 March 1970) was a Russian and Soviet filmmaker and film theorist, one of the founders of the world's first film school, the Moscow Film School. People's Artist of the RSFSR (1969).

Life and career

Lev Kuleshov was born in 1899 into intelligent Russian family.[1] His father Vladimir Sergeevich Kuleshov was of noble heritage. He studied art in the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, despite his own father's disapproval. He then married a village schoolteacher Pelagia Alexandrovna Shubina who was raised in an orphanage, which only lead to more confrontation. They gave birth to two sons: Boris and Lev. At the time Lev was born, the family became financially broke, lost their estate and moved to Tambov, living a modest life. In 1911 Vladimir Kuleshov died; three years later Lev and his mother moved to Moscow where his elder brother was studying and working as an engineer. Lev Kuleshov decided to follow the steps of his father and entered the Moscow School of Painting, although he didn't finish it. In 1916 he applied to work at the film company led by Aleksandr Khanzhonkov. He produced scenery for Yevgeni Bauer's pictures, such as The King of Paris, For Happiness and others. With time Kuleshov became more interested in film theory. He co-directed his first movie Twilight in 1917. His next film was released under the Soviet patronage.

During the 1918-1920 he covered the Russian Civil War with a documentary crew. In 1919 he headed the first Soviet film courses at the National Film School. Kuleshov may well be the very first film theorist as he was a leader in the Soviet montage theory — developing his theories of editing before those of Sergei Eisenstein (briefly a student of Kuleshov). Among his other notable students were Vsevolod Pudovkin, Boris Barnet, Mikhail Romm, Sergey Komarov, Porfiri Podobed, Vladimir Fogel and Aleksandra Khokhlova who became his wife. For Kuleshov, the essence of the cinema was editing, the juxtaposition of one shot with another. To illustrate this principle, he created what has come to be known as the Kuleshov Effect. In this now-famous editing exercise, shots of an actor were intercut with various meaningful images (a casket, a bowl of soup, etc.) in order to show how editing changes viewers' interpretations of images. Another one of his famous inventions was creative geography, also known as artificial landscape. Those techniques were described in his book The Basics of Film Direction (1941) which was later translated into many languages.

In addition to his theoretical and teaching work, Kuleshov also directed a number of feature-length films. Among his most notable works is an action-comedy The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (1924), a psychological drama By the Law (1926) adapted from the short story by Jack London and a biographical drama The Great Consoler (1933) based on O. Henry's life and works. After directing his last film in 1943, Kuleshov served as an artistic director and an academic rector at VGIK where he worked for the next 25 years. He was a member of the jury at the 27th Venice International Film Festival, as well as a special guest during other international film festivals.

Lev Kuleshov died in Moscow in 1970. He was buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Aleksandra Khokhlova (1897—1985) — an actress, film director and educator, granddaughter of Pavel Tretyakov and Sergey Botkin[1] — and Aleksandra's son from the first marriage.


Year English Title Russian Title Notes
1917 Twilight Сумерки co-directed with Andrei Gromov
1918 The Project of Engineer Prite Проект инженера Прайта
1919 An Unfinished Love Song Песнь любви недопетая
1920 On the Red Front На красном фронте short; film is lost
1924 The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks Необычайные приключения мистера Веста в стране большевиков
1925 The Death Ray Луч смерти
1926 Locomotive No. 10006 Паровоз No. 10006
1926 Po Zakonu По закону
1927 Your Acquaintance Ваша знакомая (Журналистка)
1929 The Merry Canary Веселая канарейка
1929 Two-Buldi-Two Два-бульди-два co-directed with Nina Agadzhanova
1931 Forty Hearts Сорок сердец
1932 The Horizon Горизонт
1933 The Great Consoler Великий утешитель
1934 Dokhunda Дохунда
1940 The Siberians Сибиряки
1941 Incident on a Volcano Случай в вулкане
1942 Timour's Oath Клятва Тимура
1943 We from the Urals Мы с Урала

Awards and honours


  1. 1.0 1.1 Lev Kuleshov, Aleksandra Khokhlova, 50 Years in Films. Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1975, 303 pages. (Autobiography)

Further reading

  • Kuleshov, Lev. Kuleshov on Film, translated and edited, with an introduction by Ronald Levaco. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974.

External links