Directed by Alexander Dovzhenko
USSR 1930, b/w, silent, 87 min.
With Stepan Shkurat, Semyon Svashenko, Yulia Solntseva
Dovzhenko’s silent masterpiece is a paean to the cycles of nature, evoking themes of death and rebirth, joy and anguish, as it depicts the arrival of collectivization to a Ukrainian farm. Using the full range of a large orchestra and chorus, as well as a fair degree of sound mixing, Ovchinnikov creates a rich and complex aural counterpart to the poetry of Dovzhenko’s visual compositions. The relationship is most striking in the montage sequences: the harvest of the collectivist farm is accompanied by overlapping waves of sound and dancing rhythmic motives, and the village funeral procession resounds with chorus, bells, and a slow, insistent orchestral anthem.
Earth (AKA Zemlya) is the third of Soviet director Alexander Dovzhenko's "Ukraine tetralogy" (Zvenigora (1928), Arsenal (1929), and Ivan (1932) are the other films in the series). The story tells of a group of farmers in a Ukrainian village, who unite to purchase a tractor. The leader of the peasants is later killed by a kulak, or landowner, who dislikes any form of united front that might pose a threat to his long-established authority. The events fade into memory, but the long-ranging effects of the peasant "revolt"--like the Earth itself--last forever.