Zemlya [Earth] (Aleksandr Dovzhenko, 1930)

Sunday, May 21, 2017 - 18:00 to 19:30
CINEMATEK (Plateau), Brussels


“If it’s necessary to choose between truth and beauty, I’ll choose beauty. In it there’s a larger, deeper existence than naked truth. Existence is only that which is beautiful.”

Aleksandr Dovzhenko


“The film begins with vast waving fields of grains, lingering camera shots of apples and pears, and the death of a family elder, who just before dying, sits up to eat his last pear. Family individuals are shot separately as in 19th century portraits, usually with camera looking up and directly into their worn and drawn faces, or, in the case of the handsome Vasyl, portraying him in silhouette, looking off into the distance, obviously symbolic of the direction he would take his family and friends.  

In the long scene in which we see Vasyl harvesting the wheat, Dovzhenko turns his basically realist tale into a series of abstract images, as the wheat and its chaff go hurtling endlessly through space, with Ukrainian maidens gathering the bundles by tying them together in braids of grain. Huge mixing containers beat up the dough before it is molded into the form of loaves and placed into gigantic ovens. We see thousands of loaves of bread being spewed out of the ovens into space. In short, the individuation of the first scenes is utterly transformed into collective abstraction, reiterating the theme, but also transforming this film from a simple realist tale into a wondrous cinematic spectacle of the abstract akin to the paintings of Russian artists such as Kasimir Malevich.”

From Douglas Messerli’s ‘Abstraction and Individuation


More info