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Deserter (1933)
"Dezertir" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  12 October 1934 (USA)
6.8
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 185 users  
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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 ...
Newsgirl for the 'Red Courier'
Semyon Svashenko
Dmitri Konsovsky ...
(as D. Konsovsky)
Yudif Glizer
M. Oleshchenko
Sergei Martinson
Maksim Shtraukh
Sergei Gerasimov
Sergey Komarov
Vladimir Uralsky
A. Besperstyj
N. Romanov
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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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Release Date:

12 October 1934 (USA)  »

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Deserter  »

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1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Musique concrète for the eye
29 March 2012 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

At first glance, this seems like a typical example of Soviet montage. The plot for one, after the strike of German dock workers is broken by owners and police they decide to send a delegation to the Motherland to be taught about revolutionary practice. The camera physics, most pertinently and as striking as ever, the eye wrestling control of images from bourgeois reality to assemble a new world. But there is something else here, for the first time.

There is sound. The eye is no longer mute but singing.

Now when sound was finally introduced, it was enough that an extra texture gave depth to the illusion of moving images. The effort was and continues to be for realism. It was noted very early on, that good sound renders the whole thing uniquely alive and vibrant, which is a true and tested notion and is correctly being taught to aspiring filmmakers. We may not fully appreciate the effect because we are so fundamentally programmed to process reality by sight, but it's sound that really controls our level of engagement with what is real.

It fosters an unshakable connection with an invisible fabric of the world that nevertheless announces itself at every moment. Take away sound, and it all becomes strangely unreal. Tibetans knew about this for a long time and taught that the preliminary stages of meditation should be guided by the ear. Buddhist music is rife with punctuated silence to that effect, each beat serving to re-focus the wandering mind.

Normally in films, however, sound is usually employed as a ballast, and good sound usually means a detailed background, a rich carpet. Not so for the Soviets.

The main experiment is controlled, agitated hearing. Pudovkin had theorized about it, in the same manner as film ought to work, film sound should facilitate rhythm, musicality. This means that it is no longer a natural extension that corresponds with a view, but is continuously relocated, realigned, repurposed, shifting often independent of images. As workers tirelessly pound away at the steel hull of a ship, the blistering barrage of their thrusts is a little out-of-focus. Disembodied voices scream at a rally, as though collectively produced and facilitated by each furious cut. There are stretches of pure silence, well scratchy given condition of the print, but silence for that, without any reassuring ambiance from surrounding sounds.

As with film syntax of these guys, the effort has been largely to read the radical experiment as avant-garde exercise, independent of ideological fervor, and as presaging musique concrete. This is a mistake in my view, one that limits understanding.

Now musique concrete has cinematic roots in Epstein. In tandem with the actual films, Epstein rested on the discovery of a modern world that was only possible because the eye could float in unique ways with the advent of the camera. The epiphany, radical at the time, was of something hidden in the basic act of seeing. Internal views were possible, granted by these hitherto unknown, uncanny flows. The Soviets were equally radical but committed soldiers.

Note what Kuleshov did in the famous effect named after him. He took for effect the most iconic face of pre-Revolutionary Russia and exhibited that it was, in fact, empty. Point being this; every notion is formed in the space leading up to the eye and by gaps in perception. You need not control the flow then, merely the gaps. Montage was invented. Staying lucid through these gaps of thought is the awaking point in Buddhist meditation btw.

So when Pudovkin is showing a young communist girl intruding with syncopated yells in the policed harmony of bourgeois narrative, rendered with symphonic, soft music to accompany the orderly traffic of luxurious automobiles under the austere gaze of a traffic warden, and is finally arrested by police, thus silenced from the soundtrack, he is very cleverly pointing to the fact that conventional reality is a broadcast that you control. To usurp control away from the official channel means a struggle, a bloody fight. Pudovkin's musicality - on top of the visual eye - is hence atonal, dissonant, disharmonic, implying imperfect nature, unfinished process.

Oh, the montage is astonishing and on par with anything Eisenstein did. But I will cherish this as one of the most important films for sound alone, and I'm so stoked I will be surveying more of these early Soviet sound films.

And a parting irony, to further cement why these films ought not to be museum exhibits for comfortable appreciation. The film depicts German struggles in the early 30's, asserting as main enemies of the revolution the Social Democrats. This was the Party line from Moscow and continues to be in most cases. German elections of '32 gave the combined Left - communist and social-democrat - 222 seats. Just 8 short of Hitler. His enemies bitterly divided, Hitler easily carried the election. Four years later, he commissioned from Riefenstahl the broadcast of a new national identity.


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