Pete’s Peek | Alexander Dovzhenko’s Soviet silent masterpiece, Earth

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For the socialists amongst you, here’s a chance to savour one of the most important films of the Soviet revolutinary era, Alexander Dovzhenko’s 1930 tour de force Earth (Zemlya).

Unashamedly a propaganda film produced to encourage farmers to merge their land and livestock with state controlled collective farms, this is nevertheless a moving, though entirely idealistic, tale about the struggle between Ukrainian peasants and the kulak, the local landlord. The film follows the farmers as their set up a committee to collectivise their lands and cattle. But triumph soon turns to tragedy when they dare to tear down the fences dividing the land.

Using beautiful, haunting images to show the cycle of birth, growth and death, this is a lyrical, symbolic homage to nature and the people who work with it.

A masterpiece of early cinema, it sits comfortably alongside Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925), and at the 1958 Brussels World Fair was voted one of the 10 greatest films of all time. Half a century later, it still retains its poetic power.

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