(director/writer: Alexander Dovzhenko; screenwriters: Yuri Tyutyunik/Mikhail
Ioganson; cinematographer: Boris Zavelev;
editor: Alexander Dovzhenko; cast: G. Astafyev (Scythian leader),
Semyon Svashenko (Tymishko), Les Podorozhnij (Pavlo),
Nikolai Nademsky (Grandfather/General),
Vladimir Uralsky (Peasant), L. Parshina (Timoshka's wife),
P. Otawa (Okasana -
Mountain Princess ); Runtime: 87; MPAA
Rating: NR; producer: Alexander Dovzhenko;
Mr. Bongo Films-PAL DVD format; 1928-silent-USSR-in
Russian with English subtitles)
"The political film's main problem, which it never overcomes, is that the plot line is so murky."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
first film in Russian filmmaker Alexander Dovzhenko's
of "Earth" and "Arsenal." It's his fourth film--the
first shot outside the studio. This lyrical surreal
experimental film is set after the First World War
in the rural superstitious Ukrainian town of
combines folklore and history into a complex story
about the rich land of the Ukraine and the part it
played in paving the way for Russia's industrial power
during the 1920s. But the railroad built by the
central government that runs through the area upsets
the simple peasants because superstition has it there
is buried in the hillside an invaluable treasure from
ancient times and for the uneducated the train is a
'fire demon' preventing them from finding their
treasure and not a sign of progress for the future.
This severe reaction results in the Bolshevik uprising
against their Soviet state.
The story line has the
search for the fabled treasure buried in the hills of
Zvenigora obsessively led by a superstitious old man (Nikolai Nademsky) and his
reactionary grandson Pavlo (Les Podorozhnij) and his revolutionary
other grandson Tymishko (Semyon Svashenko).
The treasure search story
line is interrupted by grandpa's dream sequences of
the glory days of Ukrainian history, which is filled
with folklore tales and veers the film away from being
realistic to being instead a fantasy film.
It returns to the treasure
search by showing the scheming Pavlo give a lecture in
a Paris theater about the Bolshevik uprising to get money to carry out
the treasure hunt. He draws a full-house when he threatens to kill
himself at the end of the lecture, but finds a way to
weasel out of shooting himself. Meanwhile Tymishko
becomes a ruthless leader of the Bolshevik uprising,
willing to kill anyone who gets in his way, and when
captured requests permission to give the command to
shoot himself to the firing squad.
The Soviet propaganda film
has an interesting visual look, like no other film at
the time, as it mixes numerous close-up shots of
peasants, the hard at work farmers and colorful shots
of the Ukrainian landscape with dream-like folk tale
sequences. It also pays homage to the advances in
Russian industrialization. The political film's main
problem, which it never overcomes, is that the plot
line is so murky that it becomes too difficult to
completely follow except as a fascinating look at the
infant revolutionary society.
Eisenstein and Pudovkin gave it a hearty thumbs up for its aesthetic originality and put the new director up on their pedestal as one of Russia's great filmmakers.
REVIEWED ON 2/272012 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ