Earth


1h 30m 1930

Brief Synopsis

In this silent film, farmers in the Ukraine defy a wealthy landowner to buy their own tractor.

Film Details

Also Known As
Zemlya
Genre
Drama
Political
Foreign
Silent
Release Date
1930

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Silent
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

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.

Film Details

Also Known As
Zemlya
Genre
Drama
Political
Foreign
Silent
Release Date
1930

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Silent
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

Earth


Earth (1930) (Russian title: Zemlya), the fourth and final silent film from Ukrainian director Aleksandr Dovzhenko, is generally considered his greatest work and a landmark of early Soviet revolutionary cinema. The story is a simply told but lyrical celebration of life in a Ukrainian village. On the eve of collectivization in the Ukraine, a young farmer - Vasili - has a unique vision: the village council will buy a tractor to be shared among the farmers. The rich landowners - "kulaks" - are threatened by Vasili's proposal and the idea of any sort of unity among the peasant farmers. Eventually, Vasili meets a tragic end on a moonlit night (one of the film's most visually impressive sequences) but the dawn brings forth the promise of prosperity to the poor village.

While the idea of watching a silent film that revolves around one farmer's campaign for a communal tractor sounds like a bad cliche of Soviet cinema, Earth is surprisingly poetic and visually astonishing at times. Renown film critic Georges Sadoul in his Dictionary of Films wrote "Though its basic story (collectivization in the Ukraine and kulak defiance) is very much set in its own time, Earth has universal themes that transcend this: the fruitfulness of the earth, its annual rebirth, life, love and death. It is Dovzhenko's portrayal of these themes that gives Earth its moving lyrical power.....The deceptively simple photography, reducing every element to its essential meaning, has incredible beauty and brilliantly captures the sense of vast plains, fruit trees, and enormous sunflowers under an overpowering sky. And over everything lies Dovzhenko's love for his native Ukraine."

Dovzhenko later said in a 1930 interview that the reason he made Earth was because "I wanted to show the state of a Ukrainian village in 1929, that is to say, at the time it was going through an economic transformation and a mental change in the masses." He also added that "It is necessary to both love and hate deeply and in great measure if one's art is not to be dogmatic and dry. I work with actors, but above all with people taken from the crowd. My material demands it. One should not be afraid of using nonprofessional actors because one should remember that everyone at least once can act out his own role on the screen."

When Earth first played movie houses in Russia, it quickly developed a controversial reputation, dividing critics and government officials over its merits. Those who condemned it felt that the film's intense lyricism was politically incorrect and did not fully advance the drive for agricultural collectivization. Demian Bedny, who was officially recognized as the "Kremlin poet," attacked the film for being overly "philosophical." "I was stunned by [Bedny's] attack," Dovzhenko later wrote, "so ashamed to be seen in public, that I literally aged and turned gray overnight. It was a real emotional trauma for me. At first I wanted to die."

Before Earth was released abroad, Russian censors removed at least three offending sequences - the grief-stricken fiancee ripping her clothes off, a woman giving birth during a funeral, and a tractor radiator being filled with urine. Even in an edited version, however, Earth was universally praised during its premieres in Paris, Berlin and New York City. And Dovzhenko had another reason to be happy. It was during this period that he married Yulia Solntseva who would become his most important collaborator. Later, during World War II, it was reported that the Germans destroyed the negative of Earth but luckily a copy of the original release print was found and preserved.

Director: Aleksandr Dovzhenko
Screenplay: Aleksandr Dovzhenko
Cinematography: Daniil Demutsky
Film Editing: Aleksandr Dovzhenko
Art Direction: Vasili Krichevsky
Music: Lev Revutsky
Cast: Stepan Shkurat (Opanas), Semyon Svashenko (Vasili Opanas), Yuliya Solntseva (Vasili's Sister), Yelena Maksimova (Natalya, Vasili's Fianc¿, Nikolai Nademsky (Semyon Opanas), I. Franko (Arkhip, Khoma's Father).
BW-72m.

by Jeff Stafford
Earth

Earth

Earth (1930) (Russian title: Zemlya), the fourth and final silent film from Ukrainian director Aleksandr Dovzhenko, is generally considered his greatest work and a landmark of early Soviet revolutionary cinema. The story is a simply told but lyrical celebration of life in a Ukrainian village. On the eve of collectivization in the Ukraine, a young farmer - Vasili - has a unique vision: the village council will buy a tractor to be shared among the farmers. The rich landowners - "kulaks" - are threatened by Vasili's proposal and the idea of any sort of unity among the peasant farmers. Eventually, Vasili meets a tragic end on a moonlit night (one of the film's most visually impressive sequences) but the dawn brings forth the promise of prosperity to the poor village. While the idea of watching a silent film that revolves around one farmer's campaign for a communal tractor sounds like a bad cliche of Soviet cinema, Earth is surprisingly poetic and visually astonishing at times. Renown film critic Georges Sadoul in his Dictionary of Films wrote "Though its basic story (collectivization in the Ukraine and kulak defiance) is very much set in its own time, Earth has universal themes that transcend this: the fruitfulness of the earth, its annual rebirth, life, love and death. It is Dovzhenko's portrayal of these themes that gives Earth its moving lyrical power.....The deceptively simple photography, reducing every element to its essential meaning, has incredible beauty and brilliantly captures the sense of vast plains, fruit trees, and enormous sunflowers under an overpowering sky. And over everything lies Dovzhenko's love for his native Ukraine." Dovzhenko later said in a 1930 interview that the reason he made Earth was because "I wanted to show the state of a Ukrainian village in 1929, that is to say, at the time it was going through an economic transformation and a mental change in the masses." He also added that "It is necessary to both love and hate deeply and in great measure if one's art is not to be dogmatic and dry. I work with actors, but above all with people taken from the crowd. My material demands it. One should not be afraid of using nonprofessional actors because one should remember that everyone at least once can act out his own role on the screen." When Earth first played movie houses in Russia, it quickly developed a controversial reputation, dividing critics and government officials over its merits. Those who condemned it felt that the film's intense lyricism was politically incorrect and did not fully advance the drive for agricultural collectivization. Demian Bedny, who was officially recognized as the "Kremlin poet," attacked the film for being overly "philosophical." "I was stunned by [Bedny's] attack," Dovzhenko later wrote, "so ashamed to be seen in public, that I literally aged and turned gray overnight. It was a real emotional trauma for me. At first I wanted to die." Before Earth was released abroad, Russian censors removed at least three offending sequences - the grief-stricken fiancee ripping her clothes off, a woman giving birth during a funeral, and a tractor radiator being filled with urine. Even in an edited version, however, Earth was universally praised during its premieres in Paris, Berlin and New York City. And Dovzhenko had another reason to be happy. It was during this period that he married Yulia Solntseva who would become his most important collaborator. Later, during World War II, it was reported that the Germans destroyed the negative of Earth but luckily a copy of the original release print was found and preserved. Director: Aleksandr Dovzhenko Screenplay: Aleksandr Dovzhenko Cinematography: Daniil Demutsky Film Editing: Aleksandr Dovzhenko Art Direction: Vasili Krichevsky Music: Lev Revutsky Cast: Stepan Shkurat (Opanas), Semyon Svashenko (Vasili Opanas), Yuliya Solntseva (Vasili's Sister), Yelena Maksimova (Natalya, Vasili's Fianc¿, Nikolai Nademsky (Semyon Opanas), I. Franko (Arkhip, Khoma's Father). BW-72m. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

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