May 10, 2012 - Sale 2278

Sale 2278 - Lot 49

Price Realized: $ 12,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 4,000 - $ 6,000
STENBERG BROTHERS (VLADIMIR 1899-1982, GEORGI 1900-1933) [OPIUM.] 1930.
36 1/2x24 inches, 93x61 cm. Sovkino, Moscow.
Condition B+ / B: tears and minor losses at edges; vertical and horizontal folds. Japan.
This "documentary" about opium was written by Osip Brik and directed by Vitaly Zhemchuzny, both members of LEF (Left Front of Art). "Opium was an attempt on the part of the LEF group to create their own school of documentary filmmaking . . . LEF documentaries had one trait in common: they were predominantly found-footage films edited to convey a clear ideological message. This film's message could not be clearer: God does not exist. Its title is a one-word quotation from atheism's favorite mantra: Religion is opium for the masses. The film realizes this metaphor visually, taking the viewer from poppy fields to the factories where opium balls are made, and then to opium dens where it is smoked. From there, it jumps to temples and minarets; religious rituals observed by Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baptists, and pagan shamans are shown . . . This is followed by shots showing fortune-tellers and their clients. Meanwhile, the police break up a protest demonstration, and send workers to jail" ( To promote this daunting subject, the Stenberg Brothers take a symbolic and humorous approach, depicting a member of the clergy and a member of the proletariat together on a playing card. Sovkino must not have distributed many copies of this poster, as the image is rare. We could locate only one other copy, which is in the National Japanese Film Archive.