Lev Arnshtam was born on January 15, 1905 in Yekaterinoslav, in the Russian Empire (now Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine). He studied piano at the Petrograd Conservatory, where he met Dmitri Shostakovich, who later became a famous composer.
As a young man, Arnshtam played piano in Moscow at the theater of Vsevolod Meyerhold (1874-1940), one of the most important theater directors of the twentieth century. When Arnshtam left the Meyerhold Theater in 1928 to work as a sound recorder and editor, Shostakovich took over his position. In 1931, Arnshtam and Shostakovich met again when Shostakovich composed the score for Alone (dir. Kozintsev Trauberg) and Arnshtam was in charge of sound recording. Arnshtam wrote or co-wrote film scripts for director Sergei Yutkevich, including Zlatye gory (Golden Mountains, 1931), the story of a strike in Baku, Azerbaijan, and Vstrechnyi (Counterplan, 1932), about fighting saboteurs.
When Arnshtam began directing his own films in the mid-1930s, the composer he preferred for his film scores was his old friend Shostakovitch. They collaborated on five films, Podrugi; Druzya; Zoya; Fünf Tage, Fünf Nächte; and Sofiya Perovskaya. Shostakovich also wrote a short march for the film Podzhigateli voiny, but the production was cancelled in 1951.
Two of Arnshtam’s films, Zoya and Romeo i Dzhulyetta were nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes International Film Festival. Zoya is the story of an 18-year-old girl during the Nazi siege of Moscow; film historians have noted the influence of this work on Andrei Tarkovsky’s Zerkalo (The Mirror, 1975). Romeo i Dzhulyetta, the film version of Leonid Lavrosky’s famed ballet with ballerina Galina Ulanova of the Bolshoi Ballet, was called a “treat” by the New York Times in 1956. And Glinka, a film about the great Russian composer Mikhail Glinka, was nominated for the Golden Lion at the 1961 Venice International Film Festival.
Lev Arnshtam died in Moscow on December 26, 1979.
|1961||Golden Lion nominee for Glinka, Venice International Film Festival|
|1955||Prize for Best Lyrical Film for Romeo i Dzhulyetta, Cannes International Film Festival|
|1946||Grand Prize nominee for Zoya, Cannes International Film Festival|
|1960||Fünf Tage, Fünf Nächte (Five Days, Five Nights)|
|1957||Urok istorii (A History Lesson)|
|1955||Romeo i Dzhulyetta (Romeo and Juliet)|
|1948||Podzhigateli voiny (The Warmongers, aborted in 1951)|
|1946||Glinka (The Great Glinka)|
|1941||Boyevoy kinosbornik 2 (Victory Will be Ours, Part 2)|