Earth / Zemlia
Ukrainian SSR, VUFKU
Semen Svashenko, Stepan Shkurat, Yuliia Solntseva, Elena Maksimova, Vladimir Mikhailov, Mykola Nademskyi, Petro Masokha
Zemlya is undoubtedly the most famous and controversial movie of the Ukrainian and – along with Battleship Potemkin – Soviet silent cinema heritage. Dovzhenko depicts a small Ukrainian village on the eve of collectivization. Vasyl as a leader of activists’ youth is trying to engage villagers in kolkhoz movement and is waiting for a technical miracle – a tractor, a forerunner of the new era. Finally, risking his life, Vasyl is plowing a boundary path separating the private plots from the collective ones. As Vasyl’s destiny demonstrates, the act of transgression from patriarchal peasantry to collectivist society always involves a tragic conflict between man and nature.
Dovzhenko’s «film poem» style brings to life the collective experience of the Ukrainian peasantry, examining natural cycles through his epic montage. As distinguished from the Russian formalist artists of the 1920s, his avant-garde poetics are deeply rooted in the folk world outlook and symbols. Dovzhenko explores life, death, violence, sex, and other issues as they relate to the collective farms. After its release and immediate international success The Earth was doubly compromised by criticism. On the one hand, an idealistic vision of the possibilities of Communism made just before Stalinism set in and the Kulak class was liquidated, The Earth was viewed negatively by many Soviets because of its exploration of death and other dark issues that come with revolution. On the other hand, it was accused of bourgeois nationalism by Stalinist criticism and soon withdrawn from distribution. Zemlya was rehabilitated only in 1958 after the International Referendum in Brussels where it was praised as one of the best 12 films in the history of cinema.
Zemlya is a cultural phenomenon, where the quintessence of the Ukrainian spirit and universal meanings of human existence is concentrated. The images of the film became an integral part of the lexicon of world cinematography and acquired iconic status in the media system of our country.