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Earth

(Russian silent 1930 b 69')

En: 5 Ed: 7

Called Zemlya in Russian, this Soviet propaganda film about collectivizing farms with a tractor is considered by many an artistic masterpiece.

The film opens with waving fields of grain and fruitful orchards. Simon tells Peter he is dying, and Peter asks him to make a report from heaven or hell. His family agrees Simon deserves a medal for 75 years of plowing, but they don't give medals to oxen. News of farms being collectivized brings joy to many and consternation to the wealthy. Animals are to be replaced by tractors, making the poor equal to the rich. Peter listens at Simon's grave, while oxen pull a plow. Though the plot is fuzzy, apparently a wealthy family refused to sell their land to the peasants; so a collective organized by Basil took it over and bought a new tractor. The tractor is greeted by happy peasants, though the poor complain they have inadequate facilities. The tractor won't go without water in the radiator, but it is soon moving. The peasants meet and discuss.

The tractor plows fast and harvests quickly. A son tells his father to get rid of his sickle. The peasants work with the machines, producing much grain. The fences of the rich have been plowed up by the tractor. After making love to his betrothed, Basil dances on the road; but he is suddenly shot. His father asks who killed his Basil, and Thomas denies doing it. The father says there is no God and rejects the priest, asking for a new burial for his son, who died for a new life. The people will bury him themselves with new songs and without a priest. Many people join the singing funeral procession. A pregnant woman feels labor pains. While Basil's body is being carried through an orchard and a field of sunflowers, the priest alone prays to smite the impious. The son of the wealthy landowner, Thomas, says, "It's my earth; I won't give it up." A man announces that the priest is putting a curse on the collective farms. In her home Basil's naked fiancée frantically calls for Basil. The people attentively listen to a speech about how those who are in their death throes took Basil away. He says Basil overcame a thousand years with a Communist steel horse. Alone in a field Thomas brags how he killed Basil while he danced. The speaker says that the glory of Basil will be carried around the world like the Communist airplane above. In the final scenes rain falls on the fruitful orchards, and a young man holds a young woman.

This film is honored for its poetic images and theme of finding new life in death and pagan celebrations. The industrialization of Soviet agriculture had its labor pains even though it attempted to equalize wealth. Yet soon after this film was made, Stalin's fascistic farm reforms killed millions.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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