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"Unpopcorned" Dovzhenko

Олександр Довженко під час зйомок фільму Земля, с. Яреськи, 1929 р.

120th anniversary of Alexander Dovzhenko, which Ukraine celebrated on September 10, took place in a difficult time. The first time in the last seven decades there is a war inside the country.. Ukraine is once again on fire is probably why, despite last year's Resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of the celebration of this date on the state level, the celebration took place not too loud and not everywhere. However, today's realities illuminate new facets of a large part of his heritage as a cinematic and literary-diary.

Attitude of the majority of our compatriots to Dovzhenko is somewhat paradoxical: despite the fact that his name is known to everyone - anyone will tell you that he was the great film director, but his films are seen by a very few people, even today, when from time to time  TV broadcasts them, and some can be downloaded from Internet. Few people know that he was also an artist .. Few people have read  his literary works, except that the program, though truly magical "Enchanted Desna". His diary entries, full of reflection and observation, which over time have not only lost, but also acquired a new urgency, known mostly only to specialists and truly faithful Ukrainian literature readers.

It is a pity. After all, the main and cross-cutting theme of his work, its meaning and inspiration was dedicated to Ukraine. Its past and future, its destiny, its people.

He lived a complex, full of contradictions  life. Although from outside he might seem like someone extremely successful: he was well received by  the Leader, and had orders and  laureate ranks, sat in chairs of high presidiums... However, may be his life was more dramatic then his works. Romantic, forcibly torn from his native land, repeatedly defamated by Communist Party bonzes, envious colleagues, and  by Stalin himself, whom for many years he  almost adored and considered the most fair judge; spat upon the court by critics; plastered gossipers and "informers," he gasped in his nomenclatured  luxury and just wanted to work in Ukraine. He was constantly oppressed by the tragic inconsistency reared its imagination communist ideals sad and sometimes frightening realities of the environment. Abundant evidence that the moral hell, where he existed - in his heart's blood literally written diaries. Not without reason in its entirety, they became available to the reader only after 2009, when the  ban on disclosure expired as defined for future researchers  his wife Julia Solntseva.

May be there is no need to rehearse the  official  Dovzhenko's biography, it is broadly replicated in the academic literature, research papers and, of course, the Internet. But it worth to note that his  highest cinematic achievements  were connected with his  life in Kyiv.

Two from three  his most successful films, "Arsenal" and "Earth", were created exactly in Kyiv, at the cinema factory AUPCM (All Ukrainian Photo Cinema Management). The third, "Zvenigora", was also created in Ukraine, at Odessa Film Studio. He started to work at AUPCM in 1928. This cinema factory later was named after him.

Actually, Dovzhenko made his "Arsenal" being sent to Kyiv from Odessa on assignment. This film is dedicated to the events of January uprising in 1918 against the Central Rada in Kyiv. Dovzhenko himself  in his "Autobiography", written in 1939 in Russian, remembered: "I set a task to show the class struggle in Ukraine during the Civil War... So the task was party, political one, ...I was yet operating class categories, not types."


"Class categories" were schematic in great degree, especially those, by which the general enemy -Ukrainian People Repulblic personalities - were described. But leaving aside ideological sense, it can not be denied now, may be especially now, that the genius, who created this film, was higher then political order, even higher then his own romantic beliefs. So he created a real masterpiece of expressionistic cinema. This, incidentally, immediately noticed the attentive audience, especially abroad, especially those which are not so friendly to the Soviet regime, as Dovzhenko. Therefore, in the West, it received the highest rating from both critics and the press.At the same time, and   such cases were very rare, the film was taken heartily and in the USSR. However, in truth, in Ukraine itself, especially among the Ukrainian intelligentsia, which wounds from the events of the Civil War and its consequences for the Ukrainian idea not only healed, but were opened again and again, the film was  treated ambiguously, and awareness of this harassed Alexander Petrovich for a long time.

In 1929, Alexander Dovzhenko, who has finally moved to Kiev, began to prepare for shooting a new movie. The newspaper "Cinema" informed its readers that the director and his group "went to the village Yaresky Poltava District," and February 6, 1930 final acceptance  of the film by management of AUPCM was held. In the approved decision of the Commission on February 26 was recorded:

"... Recognize that the film" Earth " of author and director c. Dovzhenko both in the form and content is a valuable contribution to the overall achievement not only Ukrainian, but also of Soviet cinema in general and world cinema  ..."

Dovzhenko himself formulated later plot of the film and its basic idea very succinctly: "The land, house on this land, life of people in this house." But the synthesis of romantic elation, expressionism and realism gave unprecedented in world cinema effect.

First official critic welcomed the film very warmly. But soon  the newspaper "Izvestia" printed a huge poetic lampoon of Kremlin court poet and publicist Demian Bedny called "Philosophers", in which the film was just crushed.

For Dovzhenko it was a terrible blow. "I was so shocked by this lampoon, I was so ashamed walking on the streets of Moscow, that I literally turned gray and aged for a few days, it was a genuine psychic trauma" - he wrote in 1939 in the above-quoted autobiography.

The lampoon publication was the trigger: a barrage of criticism rushed on the film director. He was accused of pantheism, naturalism and biologism, to protect the kulaks, sadness of the past, in the distortion of the true meaning of class struggle in the countryside.

Two weeks after the start of  its demonstration  the movie was removed from the screens.

However, this did not prevent the triumphal march of "Earth" on the screens of the world. Premiere in Berlin was a huge success - after it came out a few dozen enthusiastic reviews. Italian critics called Dovzhenko "Homer of the movie", applause ended shows in Prague and London. Picture began to live  its own live. Only in the Soviet Union for a long time it has been shelved.

It was much later, in 1958, when at the final festival of the World Exhibition in Brussels "Earth" has been recognized as one of the twelve best films "of all time", the film returned to the domestic screens.

It should be noted that a significant contribution to the success of the three best films of Alexander Dovzhenko was made by ​​famous Ukrainian cameraman and photographer Danilo Demutsky. This is worth to be told separately, because  his  skill Danilko Porfirievich received from teacher KPI Nikolai Petrov - the famous photographer, recognized expert and developer of existing photographic processes and technologies, through which more than two decades Institute held leader role in the development of photography in Ukraine. And with good reason for shooting some poetic scenes of this film Demutsky used lens type "monocle", ie single-lens system that allows you to reach a particular scenic beauty of an image with a bit blurry image detail, which in the domestic arts was the first to use by Nikolai Petrov.

In Kiev Dovzhenko shot two feature films - "Ivan" and, in the late thirties, "Shors". In addition, as the artistic director of the studio, he was busy with organizational issues of its formation and tried to direct the work of its artists to create a full sense of national cinema. He planted in a vacant lot in the studio pavilions wonderful apple orchard, which is still referred to by the people of Kiev "dovzhenkovskiy." It is located not far from our university campus, along  Avenue Peremogy, and every spring pleases and confuses people their violent and tender  color ..

And then ... there was a war, the work of a war correspondent, shooting documentary newsreels, crushing defeat of his tale "Ukraine is on fire," stop printing novels and short stories, working in Moscow with the prohibition to return to Ukraine, shooting of the film "Michuryn" and even Stalin premium for it, teaching activities at VGIK and the beginning of work on the "Poem of the Sea" - a film in preparation for the formulation of which he finally obtained permission for shooting on location in Ukraine, and that was the last of his life ...

Today, watching the best movies Dovzhenko  is not easy. This is not "popkorn" movie. But in contrast to the flow of film production, which viewing does not leave any trace, it is a real art. It is based on archetypes of Ukrainians, and then appeals to most of us. Therefore,  it does not leave indifferent attentive viewer, because makes you think and empathize. Or rather, to empathize and think ...


Dmitri Stefanovic


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