Old and New (1929)
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Little did most folks realize at the time, but the film also served to justify the deaths of millions of farmers! This, I'm sure, I'll need to explain a bit. Back in 1928, the Soviet government (and increasingly, this meant Stalin) felt that farm production was a problem due, in part, to the old pre-communism days. Instead of the inefficient individual farms (shown being run by nothing but fat and greedy people in this film), it would be much better if small farmers all banded together to make larger farms where no one owned the land, equipment or output--it all belonged to the collective (and the Soviet government). So, independent farmers were increasingly sent off to gulags in Siberia or were simply thrown off the land to starve to death. The same fate was meted out to the priests--who, in this film, are evil, superstitious and lead the people astray. Oddly, in spite of all these enemies of the State being punished, production actually went down-- though you see none of this in the film! Soon, it was assumed that folks in the collective were lazy, and starting in the early 1930s, these folks met similar fates in many cases. This film helped lay the groundwork for a program that killed between 4-10,000,000 people by most estimates! Rarely has a film been responsible, in part, for more death and evil than "Old and New".
If it was't for the evil that this film justified, it STILL would be shallow propaganda...with nice cinematography. But clearly, its message is meted out in an almost cartoon-like fashion and I think this film is really overrated.
It is not very usual that for the aristocracy to enjoy Bolshevist films full of proletarian demands that put private property at risk or as it happens in this case, a film about the Communist Party's policy on the subject of the collectivization of the Soviet agriculture. Normally this would be perfect gibberish for this German count, but thanks to Herr Eisenstein 's greatness and directorial talent, the hardships of the heroine of the film, Dame Marfa ( Dame Marfa Lapkina ) breached even the thick aristocratic Schloss walls.
And that's one of the first remarkable aspects of this oeuvre; in spite of the political subject of the film, the powerful images and lyricism ( astonishing and beautiful shot compositions ), especially during the first part of the movie, preserve the artistic merits entirely while serving a propaganda purpose. The second remarkable aspect of the film is the dichotomy between the old and new, the fight to improve the lot of Dame Marfa and her countrymen. There are many discussions because it is not easy even in Russia to change ancient and conservative customs. There are superb metaphors and social criticism ( illiteracy, bureaucracy, religiosity ) which perfectly fit the film, and last but not least, "Staroye I Novoye", is a kind of archaic documentary about ancient customs established deeply in old Russia, those ones that our heroine must fight against. And there is also a lot about agriculture ( very enlightening for this German count), especially about harvesting and how to fatten Russian cows or pigs ( literally, no pun here ).
Herr Eisenstein had to bear during the last era of his film career, unbelievable censorship and mutilation of his work, as happens with "Staroye I Novoye". The film was reedited and Eisenstein accused of sympathizing with Trostky's policies but fortunately the film was restored and showed by the German-frenchified t.v. channel "ARTE", natürlich!, including an evocative music score by Herr Taras Bujewski, that fits superbly Herr Eisenstein primal artistic interests.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must buy a tractor for one of his Teutonic heiress.
Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien http://ferdinandvongalitzien.blogspot.com/