Milestone Films

Early Russian Cinema, Volume 6: Class Distinctions


A contemporary review acclaimed The Peasants’ Lot as a fine picture on a subject “close to the heart of every Russian.” As well as applauding the “well-considered and excellent performances” by Goncharova and Mozzhukhin, the reviewer enthused over its choice of scenes from peasant life: “the scene at the races is wonderfully presented, the fire in the village vividly depicted, the pictures of rural life alternate successfully, hopeless poverty contrasting with the existence of a rich family in the capital.” Here was a ‘balanced’ view of the country, as seen from the city, which followed Goncharov’s solidly traditional approach, echoing the view of rural life familiar from Russian 19th-century literature. A film that clearly answered the urgent demand for “national” images that confirmed the increasingly unstable status quo.

It is impossible for us to see Silent Witnesses today without some degree of hindsight. For this “upstairs-downstairs” drama of life below stairs shows a world that, unwittingly, stood on the brink of extinction. Fascinating also to compare the figure of the porter with Emil Jannings’ famous doorman over a decade later in The Last Laugh. But the film has an undeniable edge to its portrayal of the upper classes and — is this hindsight? — a marked sympathy for its servant class. It also shows Bauer’s virtuoso visual style at its most ornate, using split-screen and subjective shots, as well as the very architecture of the house, to evoke the social structure that is its subject.

A contemporary review noted: “Running through the film is the idea that people have still not shed their prejudices over white skin and blue blood. It is impossible not to single out the weak-willed, characterless whimperer exclusively preoccupied with his own pitiful ‘me’: he sees himself as the only thing of value in the world. The vitality of the idea, challenging bourgeois morality, is highly characteristic of both Russian and foreign dramas, and increases considerably the undoubted value of the film.” [Silent Witnesses, ed. Tsivian et al, London/Pordenone: 1989]

THE PEASANTS’ LOT (Krest’ianskaia dolia). Director: Vasilii Goncharov. Screenplay: Arsenii Bibikov. Photography: Louis Forestier. Production Company: Khanzhonkov. Released November 13, 1912. Cast: Aleksandra Goncharova (Masha). Ivan Mozzhukhin (Petr). Petr Chardynin (Petr’s father). Arsenii Bibikov, Lidiia Tridenskaia (Maksim).

SILENT WITNESSES (Nemye svideteli). Director: Evgeni Bauer. Screenplay: Aleksandr Voznesenskii. Production Company: Khanzhonkov. Released April 29, 1914. Cast: Dora Chitorina (Nastia, a maid). Aleksandr Kheruvimov (A porter, her grandfather). Aleksandr Chargonin (Pavel Kostritsyn). El’sa Kriuger (Ellen, his bride). Andrei Gromov (Nastia’s fiancé, the neighbor’s lackey). Viktor Petipa (Baron von Rehren).

This DVD is also available for Institutional Purchase, which includes public performance rights and a 3-year streaming license. Please click on the “Format” button and select “DVD Institutional Rate.”

 An Explanation of Home, Classroom, and Public Performance Rights

Individuals and non-profit institutions purchasing DVDs, DVD-Rs, or Blu-rays — or streaming — at published home-use sale and rental prices are authorized to use the film only for private home screenings and legitimate classroom showings (a regularly scheduled class with an instructor present), per the United States Copyright Law. You can learn more about the distinction between classroom and public performance screenings here.


Through our distribution partner, Kino Lorber, Milestone provides a variety of licensing to suit all needs. Our standard institutional licensing packages are designed to provide colleges, universities and qualified non-profits with the best value for multiple uses, and our one-time community screening licenses allow any organization to exhibit high-quality films for a reasonable fee. Please note that all licensing carries restrictions on audience numbers and/or geographic range.


  • CLASSROOM RIGHTS allow unlimited use in face-to-face classroom situations for the life of the media, restricted to a single campus or location. Please note that this license doesn't include public screenings or digital transmission of any kind.
  • PUBLIC PERFORMANCE RIGHTS (PPR) allow educational and nonprofit groups to exhibit our films to groups of 100 or fewer individuals where admission is not charged. The term of the public performance license is for the life of the DVD. However, if you intend to charge admission, expect an audience over 100, or publicly advertise the screening, then we ask that you contact us regarding an exhibition fee. Films purchased without Public Performance Rights are restricted for individual viewing or face-to-face teaching in the classroom only.
  • DIGITAL SITE LICENSES (DSL) allow colleges, universities and nonprofits to locally host and stream to their community on a closed, password-protected system for the life of the digital file.
  • K-12 PPR comes with limited performance rights so films can be shown in classrooms, at PTA meetings, during after school programs, and transmitted on a closed-circuit system within a K-12 school building or on a single campus. 

For all educational licenses and screenings, please Estelle Grosso, Director of Educational and Non-Theatrical Sales & Distribution at Kino Lorber (Milestone’s distribution partner) at:

The purchase of DVDs, DVD-Rs, and Blu-rays at the institutional rate by anyone outside of a North American non-profit educational institution does not grant rights for public performance or streaming.

Any continuous or loop screenings as part of a museum exhibition must also be licensed separately. Inquiries must be negotiated directly by emailing

Information for Exhibitors Screening DCPs and Film Prints

All bookings must be made by email correspondence with George Schmalz, Director of Theatrical Sales at Kino Lorber (Milestone’s distribution partner) at: to negotiate terms and insure a screening copy is available. An order is only finalized when Kino Lorber sends written confirmation.

DCPs are shipped insured for their cost via Federal Express or UPS and must be returned the same way or by an equivalent method. Shipping and handling charges for outgoing DCPs appear on your invoice. The immediate return or transshipment (as directed) of all DCPs is your responsibility.

DCPs should be returned to:

Milestone Film & Video
38 George Street
Harrington Park, New Jersey 07640-0128
United States 

35mm and 16mm prints are shipped insured for their cost via Federal Express or UPS and must be returned the same way or by an equivalent method. Please do not ship prints back via US Mail. Exhibitor pays to ship both ways. Shipping and handling charges for outgoing prints appear on your invoice. The immediate return of all prints is your responsibility.

Prints should be returned insured for $1,000 to:

Iron Mountain
Attn: Milestone Account
235 Main Street
Little Falls, NJ 07424

For public screenings, advertising materials can be requested by contacting

Milestone is the exclusive licensor for all the titles in this catalog, all of which are available from Milestone’s distribution partner Kino Lorber. in their complete versions.


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