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Deserter (1933)

Dezertir (original title)
A wise and forgiving communist leader decides to send a young worker, Karl Renn, as an international delegate to the Soviet Union after the worker had deserted a picket-line and had ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Boris Livanov ...
Vasili Kovrigin ...
Aleksandr Chistyakov ...
(as A. Tsistyakov)
Tamara Makarova ...
Semyon Svashenko
Dmitri Konsovsky ...
(as D. Konsovsky)
Yudif Glizer
M. Oleshchenko
Sergei Martinson
Maksim Shtraukh
Sergey Komarov
Vladimir Uralsky
A. Besperstyj
N. Romanov
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Storyline

A wise and forgiving communist leader decides to send a young worker, Karl Renn, as an international delegate to the Soviet Union after the worker had deserted a picket-line and had expressed doubts about the methods of class struggle in in his own country. Written by kinoeyeglasses <kino@glaz.edu>

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12 October 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Deserter  »

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1.37 : 1
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References Mädchen in Uniform (1931) See more »

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Pudovkin delivers political punch, with primitive sound
7 February 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

A fascinating document of the great Pudovkin and his first sound film. Pudovkin, also a great Russian montagist/theorist like Eisenstein, is usually more accessible in his films. Pudovkin (in his "End of Saint Petersburg" as well) focuses on single working-man characters, while Eisenstein films are usually more concerned with larger issues of class, composition and space, and focus on historical figures bigger than life (Nevsky, Ivan the Terrible).

"Deserter" follows the trek of a German worker who decides he can't keep working after a strike is called at his shipyard, to feed his family and for the continued glory of his homeland (Germany). Torn between hunger and solidarity for his fellow workers, he finally is sent to Russian to learn some lessons in socialism and comes back - not a deserter, but a hero. He's the seed of a new Socialist unity among the workers. The two most interesting aspects of this film is that it has a German striker as the lead protagonist, probably allowing Pudovkin to show his hero having doubts about the "cause" more easily without getting in trouble with the authorities; and also the use of sound.

It's very primitive, with sound cutting in only when needed for dialog or sound effects for emphasis. It reminds me of the sound version of Hitchcock's "Blackmail," which has a similarly uncertain feel to when and how to use sound. (For the record, generally Hitch nails it, and advanced the art tremendously.) Image's DVD print has missing frames every so often, and black leader is edited in to keep the soundtrack in sync, an annoying tactic when black flashes pepper some scenes. Pudovkin is also flirting with way-too-quick flash-cuts, akin to Dziga Vertov's work.

Nevertheless, "Deserter" is powerful agitprop cinema from one of the Russian masters. Its political force is driven home by following a worker truly torn by unfair circumstances to the point of abandoning his fellow workers and family. It humanizes the struggle many Russian political filmmakers and montagists tried to capture in their important work in the 20s and 30s.

Until a cleaned-up print (or carefully trimmed and re-timed one) can be produced and released, Russian film aficionados should not miss this film.


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