Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Earth (Aleksandr Dovzhenko) ***1/2

Director: Aleksandr Dovzhenko

Cast: Stepan Shukrat, Semyon Svashenko, Yuliya Solntseva, Yelena Maksimova, Nikolai Nademsky

Background: This was the third film in Dovzhenko's Ukrainian trilogy, following up the celebrated Arsenal from 1929.

Story: Earth follows the experience of collective farming and the lives that those farmers lead, particularly highlighting their battle with wealthy landowners.

Thoughts: I wasn't a fan of Dovzhenko's previous film Arsenal, because I felt that the director squandered his considerable talent by showing off when it wasn't necessary and making an absurd argument that he could not possibly support with his style. What changes here is that he takes a simple story of poor vs. rich farmers and infuses it with a beautiful lyricism. The film's narrative does not always make logical sense, but it sure makes emotional sense. The long expansive shots of the collective farms are breathtaking, and the brilliant editing provides many tremendously exciting moments such as the buildup that accrues while the farmers await a tractor. And this time Dovzhenko has a powerful, timeless argument to make and he makes it with considerable flair.

Postscript: Earth is the most highly regarded of Dovzhenko's films. He would give up directing after only making 7 films and turn to other pursuits such as writing novels. He would become disillusioned with the totalitarian nature of Stalin's regime.

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