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Directed by Aleksandr Dovzhenko
Produced in 1928
Main Language - Silent with English subtitles
Dovzhenko's 'cinematographic poem' Zvenigora, the first film in his 'Ukraine trilogy' with Arsenal and Earth to follow, marries timeless fable and Ukrainian history with revolutionary intent. Harnessing a battery of cinematographic techniques - slow motion, superimposition, dissolves, rapid cutting, striking compositions and even dreamlike fantasy - to his cause, the film builds in excitement and intent as it progresses, as scenes of pastoral lyricism give way to the mighty construction of a revolutionary society through human and industrial muscle. No wonder Dovzhenko referred to Zvenigora as his 'party calling card'.
An ageless old man who knows where a legendary horde of treasure - the 'bloodstained national assets' - is buried, has two sons. One, the bubble-blowing simpleton Pavlo, throws in his lot with the Ukrainian nationalists. His brother Tymishko however, is built in the heroic Soviet mould, and is a man with no time to waste - certainly not on the religious superstitions of his forebears. He has a country to reshape.
As in Arsenal, the imagery is continually surprising and striking, no more so than in the scene in which, as a comment on the loss of life in WWI, stooks in a field dissolve into silhouettes of guns propped against each other as the night comes on.
The film's final segment is a hymn to industrialisation that builds to an audacious climax, counterpointing the duplicitous bourgeois Pavlo - threatening to commit suicide in front of an increasingly frenzied Parisian audience whose eyes greedily clamour for the spectacle of his death, only to find themselves deceived in his money-making scam - with his the noble Bolshevik brother who is part of the extraordinary effort to forge a new country over the old through muscle and steel. Dovzhenko said of Zvenigora that it was 'a catalogue of all my creative abilities'; from first frame to last it is packed with the bold, complex expressions of his artistry.
Graeme Hobbs on 19th January 2011
Author of 275 reviews
A silent revolutionary epic and a remarkable avant-garde film, Zvenigora - Dovzhenko's initial film in his 'Ukraine Trilogy' (along with Arsenal and Earth) - is almost religious in its tone, relating a millennium of Ukrainian history through the story of an old man who tells his grandson about a treasure buried in a mountain. The film wonderfully blends both lyricism and politics and uses its central construct to build a montage praising Ukrainian industrialisation, attacking the European bourgeoisie, celebrating the beauty of the Ukrainian steppe and re-telling ancient folklore.
Publisher: Mr Bongo
Length: 90 mins
Cat No: MRBDVD035
Format: DVD B&W