Earth (Alexander Dovzhenko, 1930) Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Earth fascinatingly blends poetic visions of Ukrainian wheat fields with agitprop about collectivization. Dovzhenko, the most lyrical of the great Soviet silent directors, is inclined to veer off the path of the officially approved vision of noble peasants staring into the middle distance to wander into almost anthropological studies of life in a small farming community.
One thing to remember when the wind ripples the wheat and the rain hangs on ripening fruit is that all of this had to be shot for real. The effects were generally created in the camera, which makes the film's unearthly beauty even more impressive.
It's also fascinating to watch the seeds of Soviet realism being planted. The Russian peasant, once viewed by the intelligentsia as an alcoholic, anti-Semitic wife beater, is refitted into the heroic new Soviet man.
Part of the Cinematheque's The Sound Of Silent Cinema series, Earth is presented with live piano accompaniment. It's an interesting choice, since the 1970 Soviet restoration included a new orchestral score by Vladimir Ovchinnikov. (Cinematheque Ontario, December 2)