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Its message is about as subtle as a nudist at a Baptist potluck dinner!
Technically, in some ways "Old and New" is a good film. After all, this Grigori Aleksandrov and Sergei M. Eisenstein production has the sort of nice cinematography you might expect from an Eisenstein film. Plus, it has lots of 'faces'--unusual looking folks whose piercing visages seem almost like the folks you'd later find in a Fellini film. However, it also has an incredibly broad message--lacking all subtlety and humanity. Folks in this film are simply tools for Soviet propaganda and the writing is quite poor.
Little did most folks realize at the time, but the film also served to justify the deaths of millions of farmers! This, I'm sure, I'll need to explain a bit. Back in 1928, the Soviet government (and increasingly, this meant Stalin) felt that farm production was a problem due, in part, to the old pre-communism days. Instead of the inefficient individual farms (shown being run by nothing but fat and greedy people in this film), it would be much better if small farmers all banded together to make larger farms where no one owned the land, equipment or output--it all belonged to the collective (and the Soviet government). So, independent farmers were increasingly sent off to gulags in Siberia or were simply thrown off the land to starve to death. The same fate was meted out to the priests--who, in this film, are evil, superstitious and lead the people astray. Oddly, in spite of all these enemies of the State being punished, production actually went down-- though you see none of this in the film! Soon, it was assumed that folks in the collective were lazy, and starting in the early 1930s, these folks met similar fates in many cases. This film helped lay the groundwork for a program that killed between 4-10,000,000 people by most estimates! Rarely has a film been responsible, in part, for more death and evil than "Old and New".
If it was't for the evil that this film justified, it STILL would be shallow propaganda...with nice cinematography. But clearly, its message is meted out in an almost cartoon-like fashion and I think this film is really overrated.
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