Friday, June 17, 2011

Earth (Dovzhenko. 1930)

"So as long as you are not expecting this to be a fun experience or a great story then it is indeed a classic film that you should watch as part of an education in cinema."

Imagine living in a world where communism is not a curse word, but rather a potential savior of your livelihood. When watching some of the older movies from the 1077 Films to See Before You Die, it is important to try and put yourself in a much different world and frame of mind. Earlier in this blog I wrote about Sergei Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin and mentioned that it was a pro-communist propaganda masterpiece. Earth, written and directed by Aleksandr Dovzhenko, is often considered on par with Eisenstein’s masterpiece. Honestly, I do not like the comparison. Yes, they are both made in the Soviet Union. And yes, they both promote communism. But Dovzhenko ‘s film seems to be a lot more subtle. It comes from a deeper place.

Earth follows the story of some peasant farmers and their hostile relationship with the much wealthier kulak farmers. After a takeover of the land by the kulaks, the peasants fight back by buying a mighty tractor to help production. The Soviet influence is very easy to notice, so that is not what makes the film work. I think the working aspect is where the influence comes from. Unlike Eisenstein’s straight propaganda, Earth brings communist ideas to the table through hope and optimism. Try to remember that this form of government had not yet failed the people of Russia. Dovzhenko makes an argument for why it would work and for how it would favor the impoverished.

Though this is an interesting film on a historical level, it is one of the least entertaining productions I have ever sat through. Sure, some of the shots at the beginning are simple aesthetic poetry, but it was a grainy and spattered screen for the majority. Also, the dialogue cards were incredibly clunky. A silent film from Russia, the subtitled translations are very strange and seem really out of context. And while going through some user reviews I have found that many people have trouble understanding the storyline due to the shaky translations. I cannot help but wonder how the cinematic technology from country to country differed at this point in history. Even in the humbling year of 1930, foreign countries were releasing extremely visually pleasing films, like Germany's, The Blue Angel.

I am well aware of the historical significance of Earth. As one of the most important works in Soviet and world cinema, I was really expecting a more entertaining films. I found that this was actually incredibly difficult to sit through. In today’s moviegoing society you would be hard pressed to find an audience who would find this film watchable. About halfway through the one hour and fifteen minute runtime I realized that I actually had been zoning out for quite some time. This is not anything that I would watch again, but I am glad to have seen it once.

Earth: D+

My Next Film...Sherman's March (McElwee. 1986)

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