This movie's alternate title 'Krasnaya Derevnya' translates literally as 'Red Village' but it also means 'Beautiful Village' ... because, in Russian, the word for the colour 'red' (the most fleshly and sexual colour) also connotes physical beauty. It's no coincidence that the Soviet communists (the Red Russians) co-opted this colour for their political movement, making themselves the most 'beautiful' faction in Russia. In this movie, the Red Village is definitely 'red' in the communist sense. The print which I viewed had a title which translates as 'Golden Lights'.
The movie's opening sequence takes place in 1921, towards the end of Russia's civil war, as the Red Army are vanquishing the last Menshevik forces of the White Guard along the western frontier. This movie clearly depicts communists as virtuous, selfless and heroic ... whilst portraying White Russians as misguided fools at best or counter-revolutionary traitors at worst.
Cut to the present (1935), and now we're in a Byelorussian village where the Soviets have erected a huge dynamo. The man in charge of this powerhouse is something of a dynamo himself: a handsome dedicated young communist engineer named Kovalyov. Little does he know that his assistant machinist Ivanovich is a traitor. Ivanovich was a prosperous landowner before the revolution, in which his property was seized: now he remains secretly loyal to the Menshevik cause while pretending to be a collectivist labourer. Handsome young engineer Kovalyov is in love with another handsome engineer: a dedicated young woman named Marina.
Ivanovich sabotages the dynamo in a manner that looks like an accident, knowing that Kovalyov will be blamed for inefficiency. Kovalyov is demoted and Marina is given his job. Intriguingly, Kovalyov's love affair with Marina suffers when she is placed in a position of authority over him. Meanwhile, Ivanovich is planning to sabotage the dynamo once for all, which will set back the collective's Five-Year Plan...
'Golden Lights' is blatant Soviet propaganda, but the characters actually retain some interest as human beings even though each character in this story is a vehicle for agitprop. The filmmakers clearly realised the necessity of putting some genuine entertainment content into this piece of propaganda. There are several enjoyable sequences, depicting the villagers engaged in singing and dancing. Rather less successful are the comedy-relief sequences featuring Marina's father Aleksandr, who is an eccentric inventor. This movie was made in Russia in 1935, so it's hardly a spoiler to tell you that the communist forces emerge triumphant, and this is depicted as a 'happy' ending. As much as I despise communism, I'll rate this movie 3 points out of 10 for its small but genuine entertainment value.
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