Dovzhenko's "film poem" style brings to life the collective experience of life for the Ukranian proles, examining natural cycles through his epic montage. He explores life, death, violence, sex, and other issues as they relate to the collective farms. An idealistic vision of the possibilities of Communism made just before Stalinism set in and the Kulack class was liquidated, "Earth" was viewed negatively by many Soviets because of its exploration of death and other dark issues that come with revolution. Written by
Jeff Walker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The film ends with a stunning panorama of humanity, a set of images alternately showing; a man running mad, a priest beseeching god to punish, a nude woman raving mad, another going into labor, a funeral procession of stern, solemn faces. So it is all there, with life as this dance between sorrow and new life, between damnation and transcendence
It has all been set in motion by the eye though, the Soviet eye that doesn't contemplate but animates by seeing. In Zvenigora it was the statuesque officer of the Red Army as emblematic of Soviet spirit; here it is the young farmer driving a tractor.
So look how it all transpires, it's more knowledge than film courses offer in a year. Before life was clear, content with unjust hardship and small pleasure - images show tilted skies, fields of hay rolling in the wind, and the old man quietly submitting to the prescribed fate - but with the arrival of the tractor, and so this mechanical eye literally plowing through the frame, it's all vigorously animated in a chorus, a frenzy of splintered image. The scenes of production are so powerfully abstract I register them on a cosmologic level; they might as well be a lost reel from the first moments of the universe, in fact, they are, astutely so, about the genesis of a new world and new life from it.
In this new life machines are the engines forward. Man as this machine. In something that could read like the ravings of some futurist manifesto, the young man preaches this new word to an assembly of villagers. So even though, like all silent films, it reaches us as a museum piece, we can and must reclaim it; it is a vigorous cinema pounding with the youthful vision of a new society.
Oh, the failings of that society to materialize as prescribed are known to most, and neither here nor there. The thing is this; the struggle was thought to matter, and so this cinema, perfectly centered in that struggle, provided voice that mattered, the song to work the fields to.
Such voice we find in the powerful metaphor that ends the film. There is fruit everywhere, on the ground, or hanging from branches, and it's pouring down hard; it rains and rains but is all silently endured and what was thought for a moment that would break life away was merely what washed it clean.
You may hear that Dovzhenko was a Malick of the time who made his art for the masses. Rather it's the other way around; I like Malick, but there is a tinge of sadness compared to a work like this, that his talents - or anyone's for that matter for a long time - cannot hope to animate, and be animated by, a new world anymore and we're merely chronicling our despairs.
It's all so perfectly centered in a worldview, this one probably the final step of the Soviet cinematic sojourn before sound and censors scattered them in the four winds. Only the Japanese centered deeper.
Oh, it's a sermon alright; but a sermon that washes perception clean.
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