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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>
Stalin may have wanted an ode to collective agriculture; what he got instead was a hymnal to mother nature and the toiling offspring who dwell in her bosom. Those opening shots of pulsating fields waving in the wind have no equal for sheer evocative power. Earth is revealed at once as a living, breathing being and bountiful provider. Flower, fruit, decay, renewal -- nature's timeless cycle. The soundless imagery is at times so wonderfully lyrical that contemporary viewers may be led to recognize how much has been lost to the technology-driven cinema of today. Even the occasional plot crudities are rescued by a style that is both brilliant and unerringly pictorial. Close-ups of weather-worn peasants, a lone kulak and oxen beneath an immense sky, great rolling plains and far horizons of the Ukrainian breadbasket -- this is the sheer lyrical sweep of the Dovchenko masterpiece, a montage that transcends all obstacles, real and man-made. Not even the estimable John Ford frames primitive elements as grandly as this. There are flaws. Too many rushing crowd scenes appear without purpose, except to mimic Eisenstein's "march of history", while the propaganda thread at times blends uneasily with the lyrical. Still and all, Dovchenko pulls off the theme of new beginning more seamlessly than might be expected. Far from being a mere relic of the silent era, or an ode to Stalinist collectivism, Earth remains an enduring testament to the power of cinema as sheer visual poetry.
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