janvier 27, 2004
Lieutenant Kije

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
—The Red Queen in
Alice in Wonderland
One may have noticed my interest in things that don’t exist, but are made real by someone’s (and maybe our) belief in them.

Lieutenant Kije was to be a film set in the court of Czar Paul I, son of Catherine the Great. As the story goes, the Czar misreads the report, and an aide, unwilling to correct the Czar, goes along with the error. The entire court now undertakes the task of falsifying documents to create a paper trail to confirm the existence of a fictional Lieutenant Kije.

Prokofiev wrote the score for the proposed film in 1934. However, like Lieutenant Kije, the film doesn’t exist, as it was never made.

Here one may find a more detailed report on the story of Lieutenant Kije.

And here one may listen to a sample of Prokifiev’s music of Lieutenant Kije. Track 11: Troika is a particularly lovely bit of music. A troika is a Russian sleigh, and the music sends us on an exhilarating ride through a winter snowfall. And anyone who remembers back a couple of decades or so will want to play track 9: Romance. You may recall during the end of the Cold War was the release of an album called Dream of the Blue Turtles by ex-Police front man Sting. He borrowed a phrase from Prokofiev and used it in his song, Russians.

Posted by Ned at janvier 27, 2004 06:40 AM

As you point out, a fabrication is often made even more seemingly real by our acts as accomplices in belief. Additionally, the longer such "Potemkin villages" exist, the greater the degree of embellishment that is called for, lest the paper fabric stretch too thin or an unanticipated angle expose the whole sham in its nakedness. All of which gives room for the occasional touch of whimsy, such as in the "Wedding of Kije" where the band that is hired for the event turns out to know only one song, which it then plays with great gusto at every conceivable awkward moment. Such touches likely add to the verisimilitude of invention; they also make it more endearing to us, and -- quite likely -- cause us to want to believe all the more. Even when we suspect the facade to be merely that, and no more. Thus we become the willing accomplices. Sometimes, we're even the better for having done so.

Posted by: Paul Dana on mai 10, 2004 05:39 AM

This is simply not true. A visit to the Internet Movie Database reveals that "Poruchik Kizhe" was directed by Aleksandr Fajntsimmer and released in 1934. It appeared in the US in the same year (with subtitles) as "The Czar Wants To Sleep." Follow this link for more information: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0025671/

There is even a review of the movie by a fellow who saw it London in May of 2004. It was being shown as part of a Prokofiev festival. The reviewer was pleasantly surprised at how genuinely funny the movie is.

Posted by: Jay Kahn on juin 16, 2004 02:01 AM
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