Set in the bleak aftermath and devastation of the World War I, a recently demobbed soldier, Timosh, returns to his hometown Kiev, after having survived a train wreck. His arrival coincides with a national celebration of Ukrainian freedom, but the festivities are not to last as a disenchanted.Written by
While often a bit obscure, this Dovzhenko classic is also filled with interesting and often thought-provoking images and themes. "Arsenal", as with his better-known feature "Earth", defies easy description. "Earth" is probably the more artistic of the two, but "Arsenal" is more complex, and it might also be a little closer - at least in places - to a conventional narrative.
The first ten minutes or so of "Arsenal" are quite abstract, with a succession of mini-montages depicting a variety of subjects. It would be hard, and perhaps inadvisable, to assign a specific meaning to all of the symbols, but they are clearly meant to convey some general ideas that apply to the story that follows, which is set in the Ukraine as World War I (or the Great War) is coming to an end.
The war sequences might be the most memorable part of the movie, and the chilling "laughing gas" sequence is a more compelling comment on war than are the great majority of complicated carnage-filled scenes in other movies.
The main story starts with the demobilization, and it is clearly influenced by Dovzhenko's own perspective. He does his very best to resolve two seemingly contradictory priorities, with his devotion to the Ukrainian people and his support for the Soviet state. He uses all his skills, with interesting montages and other techniques, including some creative camera angles that would even have impressed Orson Welles.
As politics, not all of it is convincing by any means, but as cinema, it is quite interesting, and at times it provides good food for thought. The specific issues considered in the film may be limited to their own time and place, but in asking what is best for his people, Dovzhenko also raises some broader issues that allow the movie to retain some relevance in later eras as well.
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