Dovzhenko's "film poem" style brings to life the collective experience of life for the Ukranian proles, examining natural cycles through his epic montage. He explores life, death, violence, sex, and other issues as they relate to the collective farms. An idealistic vision of the possibilities of Communism made just before Stalinism set in and the Kulack class was liquidated, "Earth" was viewed negatively by many Soviets because of its exploration of death and other dark issues that come with revolution.Written by
Jeff Walker <email@example.com>
In 2012, the Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Center restored this film with Ukrainian inter-titles and a new score composed and performed by DakhaBrakha, a Ukrainian ethnic-chaos band. The running time is 83 minutes. See more »
From its opening, with an elderly man dying surrounded by impassive adults and obliviously playing children, to its wildly emotional finale, this breathtaking silent work transcends its politics and functions as poetry. It's unmistakeably Soviet -- the messianic fervor of the scene in which the farming community greets the arrival of a tractor would seem like parody if it weren't for Dovzhenko's extraordinary sense of lyricism. Using repeated shots of the expectant farmers crying out "It's coming!" intercut with an empty horizon, he builds the moment so completely that you're excited in spite of yourself; you totally believe in that tractor. (As one of the "rich farmers" says, shellshocked by this threat to their future, "It's a fact. It's here.")
To call the film propaganda, while true, seems rather beside the point. Aren't all films? Dovzhenko's manipulations are certainly no less devious than those of western film. Switch the communist message to a patriotic or even capitalist one, and the setting to the World War II Pacific or the old west or wherever you choose and it's no different than, say, "Shane" or "Gone With the Wind" or "The Passion of the Christ" -- just much, much better.
The story, told in rich montages of motionless figures, fruit, machinery, skies, rippling fields, and above all faces, weaves its "official" message about collective farms and private property with larger themes of religion, the generation gap, and the cycle of life: the Earth that gives life takes it away. A group of children giggle and spy on an old man listening at his friend's grave for a last message; a man sits up on his deathbed to eat a last sweet pear; a serious young radical, alone, gives himself up to a joyful moonlit dance before falling into the dirt. Dovzhenko's approach has less to do with narrative than with creating visual textures; it looks as though Terrence Malick watched this more than a few times before making "Days of Heaven." Dovzhenko's discontinuities and repetitions can be initially bewildering, but they pack a concrete wallop. The images accumulate and crystallize, carrying greater and greater weight, and, as an aging farmer becomes suddenly radicalized by tragedy, the direct shots of his face, hardening in bewilderment and outrage, take on a thunderous power.
36 of 52 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this