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The Russian Avant-Garde in 1920s

Table of Contents

The Russian avant-garde of the 1920s it was pivotal in the history of films. It was born after the revolution, in the context of the October of the arts. It is one of the most interesting and radical avant-gardes in the history of cinema. The Bolshevik Communist Party allows artists great freedom to experiment, while remaining within the scope of the October Revolution.

The October of the Arts becomes a very profitable season for dozens of artists who oppose the traditional approach: telling reality in a non-trivial and ideological way.

In the October of the Arts, the experiences of cubofuturism, experimental theater and balagan converge. The biomechanical experiences of constructivism that associate man with the machine and the dynamics of factory workers. The theories of Proletkult, of which Eisenstein belongs, which will seek the spectacularity of culture linked to the proletariat.

Finally, there is also the current of formalism that conceives the artistic work as a structure in which the meaning of everything can be found. In all this ferment, the common intentions were to bring art closer to the man of the street and the popular masses.

The cinema thus comes into contact with the soldiers of the revolution and with the entire proletariat. Dziga Vertov comes from a musical background and is influenced by Italian Futurism and Constructivism. Kulesov wants to apply the principles of constructivism to cinema and creates a film laboratory.

The Russian Avant-Garde and Experiments on Editing

russian avant-garde

Cinema begins to influence the other arts as well. The russian directors who establish themselves as a reference point for the Russian avant-garde of the 1920s are Dziga Vertov and Sergej Eisenstein. They are also prolific film theorists. With Stalin’s rise to power between 1929 and 1930, the experimentation and freedom of artistic creativity drastically decreased and production was confined within the confines of Socialist realism.

State production houses such as Goskino create a cinema of propaganda education. However, there is also a research cinema, linked to the October program of the Arts. The pioneer of this artistic revolution is Kulesov . His experiments on editing have marked the history of cinema and discovered new horizons.

The experiment in which he mounted the face of Mozzuchin, a star of the Tsarist cinema, is famous in a scene, with different objects: a plate of soup, a coffin or a child playing. He clearly demonstrated that the power of cinema and the meanings of images lay in film editing. He combined shots shot in Moscow and Washington within the same scene, achieving an effect of continuity. His conception of cinema was an engineering one.

russian avant-garde

One of the most important directors of the Russian avant-garde was a pupil of Kulesov and his name was Pudovkin . Initially an actor and then a director of royal socialism faithful to the party line. Pudovkin also deals with film theory. Especially the editing and its ability to insert homogeneous elements in the filmic narrative like so many bricks. Films such as The mother , from 1926, develop an ideological and political message by resorting to analog editing and the conceptual association of images.

The Russian Avant-Garde and Sergej Eisenstein

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The opposite of Pudovkin’s realistic line works instead Sergej Eisenstein . He represents the pinnacle of the experience of Soviet cinema and the deepest affirmation of the theory of cinema and revolutionary art. Eisenstein brings together research on biomechanics, the cubofuturism of Mayakovskij , the school of formalism, the revolutionary commitment of Proletkult. Eisenstein also deals with 19th and 20th century literature, studies Joyce, psychoanalysis and works on the analysis of Marxism.

For Eisenstein, the October of cinema implies a formal practice inspired by the point of view of the factory and the proletariat and is capable of erasing bourgeois art. Art is a social practice capable of conveying stimuli, emotions, ideas and ways of thinking. And ideologically influence the public.

In contrast to Vertov’s cineocchio Eisenstein states the Cine-punch . He considers the work of art “a tractor that deeply plows the viewer’s psyche”. In his writing about him The montage of attractions hypothesizes theatrical and cinematographic performances built on a combination of attractions intended as aggressive moments of the show. These elements are capable of provoking a psychosensory reaction in the viewer in view of a final ideological conclusion.

The Eisenstein Conflict

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Eisenstein wants to get the viewer out of his passive state, shake him with an emotional shock and take him outside of himself to become aware. He aims at a highly innovative visual communication full of aggression and intellectual components. He is able to communicate ideas and provoke strong emotions at the same time. For him too, editing is the fundamental aspect of cinematographic creation. Assembly is the moment in which heterogeneous materials take their final shape. Eisenstein’s 1929 essays on film editing are the most important of all the experience of the Russian avant-garde of the 1920s.

Eisenstein theorizes that juxtaposing two different images does not result in their sum but a third entity of meaning. The juxtaposition of two shots must not take place by accumulation and homogeneity as Pudovkin thinks. It must take place through contrast, confrontation and inhomogeneity. Editing is conflict. Editing is a thought that originates from the collision of two independent pieces against each other, and is the key to the dramatic principle.

The dialectic of images builds counterpoint, complex articulations, graphic, spatial and volume conflicts. This multiplicity of conflicts develops between the individual shots, between the individual levels, conceived as dynamic structures that collide. The shot is the fundamental cell of the montage. But it is an element that is overcome in the process. The intellectual process, according to Einstein, is the highest potential of cinema. Intellectual montage , in its 1929 theorization, is a vast typology of montage that can be metric-rhythmic, tonal, harmonic or intellectual.

Cinema as a Visual Symphony


It seems clear that for Eisenstein the art that comes closest to cinema is music. His films Strike, Battleship Potemkin and October mark the beginning of a new way of making cinema. Strike is the most complex film in which all the director’s ideas and innovations come together. Eisenstein does not tell individual stories but stories in which the community is the protagonist. Tales of great social clashes with the masters of power.

An eccentric, theatrical and circus cinema, with a great impact on the viewer, influenced by a burlesque style. The analogue montage of Sciopero associates, for example, the images of the tsarist massacre with those of oxen at the slaughterhouse. Ne Battleship Potemkin Eisenstein also uses traditional means. Feelings, lyric, psychology. The sequence of the Odessa staircase is famous for its drama, organization of space and emotional tension created with an extraordinary film montage.

Pathos and Climax

Einstein shows multiple actions with a single ideological point of view. At the same time he shows a large amount of images of the repressors and victims. His points of view multiply, details and dramatic gestures follow one another at increasing speed. The different planes of the images build an explosion of pathos that cannot leave indifferent. The repression of the Cossacks is orchestrated as a series of escalating conflicts. Violent images, of blood, pain and murder, with an epic emotional climax, which has few similar examples in the history of cinema.

In October Eisenstein instead goes into even more experimental territories than previous films. It is the film where he takes his theory of intellectual editing to the extreme. Characters and objects assume symbolic and strongly ideological correlations, to suggest meanings. In 1929, with his film The General Line, Eisenstein met the censorship of Stalin who imposed cuts on the film and changed its title to The old and the new . The freedom of the research season of Soviet intellectual cinema is coming to an end.

The Russian Avant-Garde in FEEKS

Subsequently the FEEKS group , made up of directors such as Kozincev, Trauberg, Jutkevic and Krizitskij , experimented with the grotesque, burlesque and the absurd both in theater and in cinema. Their shows are a rhythmic percussion on the nerves, an accumulation of tricks. They are a way to meet the people. Shows that take on shades of entertainment without obligation, with the aim of creating a relationship with the mass audience. Eccentric, crazy films, with aggressive gestures, which resort to anomalous sets and bizarre lighting. Radical expressive techniques with particularly strong effects that reject realism.

The Russian Avant-Garde of Dziga Vertov


Dziga Vertov from the opposite side elaborates the most radical October project of cinema by integrating theory and practice. He writes several avant-garde manifestos inspired by Italian Futurism and Constructivism. His commitment is to document the construction of socialism with the camera. His cinema enhances the camera and the mechanical gaze. The camera is a more perfect cine-eye than the human eye for exploring the chaos of visual phenomena that exist in space.

Says Vertov “I am the cineocchio, I create a man more perfect than the one created by Adam.” Dziga Vertov is inspired by the anti-artistic and anti-traditional program of constructivism and attacks narrative and spectacular cinema. Cine-drama is the opium of the people. Fictional cinema is an instrument of power and enslavement that serves to produce the alienation of the people.

Vertov, on the other hand, wants to make an un-acted cinema, built from factual events, committed to catching life off guard. Events and reality have priority over the construction of the show. A cinema that reflects the point of view of the proletariat. The cine-eye is rational analysis and scientific study of living phenomena.

Vertov’s Film Editing

It is easy to understand that editing in this perspective becomes the focus of the entire making of a film. Film editing is not a simple assembly of filmed material on the basis of a script. It becomes the organization and vehicle of meaning of the visible world.

The cineocchio starts editing the film as soon as he chooses, during the shooting phase, the subject to be filmed. But Vertov takes into account exactly like Eisenstein the musical aspect of his films: the correlations of planes, glimpses, movements, lights and shooting speeds within the sequences.

In this radically innovative concept of cinema, Vertov begins with newsreels and ends with a documentary on Soviet reality and the dynamics of construction of socialism. Films such as The Sixth Part of the World , from 1926, The Eleventh , from 1928, Symphony of Donbass – enthusiasm , from 1930, are symphonies visuals documenting development, industrialization and work organization.

Vertov’s Metacinema


But the films in which Vertov takes his experimentation to the extreme are Kinoglaz , from 1924, and Man with a movie camera , from 1929. In in these films the complexity of vision multiplies in many aspects of reality with courageous and never-before-seen experiments. Backward projection, slow motion, use of anomalous camera angles, correlations and very special visual tensions.

The man with the camera, in addition to being the pinnacle of Vertov’s work, is one of the most significant works on cinema. It is the day of a reckless cameraman in Moscow, from dawn to dusk, who tries to overcome the limits of film shooting. But it is in the film editing that this work is truly amazing. The film is a complex reflection between object and subject, things filmed and the eye of the camera.

In the 1930s, Vertov was forced to give up his experimental cinema and to make political propaganda for Lenin and Stalin. Before starting to make only newsreels he will produce the last major film: Three Songs about Lenin .

Russian Avant-Garde Films to Watch

Father Sergius (1918)

“Father Sergius” is a Russian avant-garde film from 1917, directed by Yakov Protazanov and based on the eponymous story written by Lev Tolstoy. The film was released in 1917 and is one of the early cinematic adaptations of Tolstoy’s works.

The plot of the film revolves around the main character, Father Sergius, portrayed by Ivan Mozzhukhin, a man who starts his career as a Russian army officer but later decides to become a monk and Orthodox priest. However, his faith and determination are put to the test when he becomes entangled in a series of events and temptations that challenge his religious vocation and spirituality.

The film explores themes of faith, redemption, and spiritual searching, as well as the inner struggle of the protagonist to find deeper meaning in his life. Ivan Mozzhukhin’s performance in the role of Father Sergius is particularly acclaimed, and the film is known for its depiction of rural landscapes and religious settings.

“Father Sergius” is one of the early examples of Russian cinema and shows influences from the Russian avant-garde movement, with a particular focus on character interpretation and psychological depth. It is a film that reflects the social and cultural changes of the pre-revolutionary period in Russia and offers a fascinating look into one man’s struggle to find his true spiritual identity.

Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924)

“Aelita: Queen of Mars” is a silent science fiction film released in 1924, directed by Yakov Protazanov. The film is based on the novel “Aelita” by Alexei Tolstoy and is notable for being one of the earliest examples of Soviet science fiction cinema.

The story is set in both Moscow and Mars and follows the adventures of an engineer named Los who becomes obsessed with the idea of traveling to Mars. In his dreams, he falls in love with Aelita, the queen of Mars. Los eventually builds a spaceship and travels to Mars with the hope of meeting Aelita.

On Mars, Los encounters a society that is in many ways a reflection of the Soviet Union, with themes of class struggle and revolution. The film combines elements of science fiction with social commentary, exploring ideas about utopianism and the potential for societal change.

“Aelita: Queen of Mars” is known for its imaginative set design, including the Martian landscape and architecture, which were groundbreaking for the time. The film’s visual style and special effects were influential in shaping the science fiction genre in cinema.

Overall, “Aelita: Queen of Mars” is a pioneering work in the history of science fiction cinema and is an important example of early Soviet filmmaking. It remains a classic of silent film and is remembered for its creative storytelling and visual innovations.


The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (1924)

“The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks” is a Soviet silent film directed by Lev Kuleshov in 1924. This film is a satirical comedy that reflects Western stereotypes and perceptions of the Bolsheviks and Soviet Russia in the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution.

The plot revolves around the character Mr. John West (played by Porfiri Podobed), an American representative who visits the Soviet Union with negative preconceptions based on Western stereotypes. However, during his stay, Mr. West realizes that his preconceived ideas were wrong and that the reality of life in the Soviet Union is very different from what he had imagined.

The film is known for its satire and humor, which highlight the contrast between Mr. West’s expectations and the reality of Soviet society. Lev Kuleshov uses editing techniques to emphasize the change in Mr. West’s perspective and to convey the film’s satirical message.

“The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks” is considered a notable example of Soviet cinema of the 1920s and is one of the earliest cinematic works to address Western perceptions of Soviet Russia. The film remains an important historical record of the post-revolutionary period in Russia.

Kino-eye (1924)

“Kino-eye” is a 1924 Soviet documentary film directed by Dziga Vertov. The title “Kino-eye” refers to Vertov’s cinematic theory, which emphasized the camera’s ability to capture and present objective reality without artistic interpretation or manipulation.

The film is a manifesto of Vertov’s theories about documentary filmmaking and his rejection of traditional narrative storytelling in favor of capturing the “life caught unawares.” In “Kino-eye,” Vertov explores the role of the camera as a tool for capturing everyday life, social events, and the transformation of society.

The film features various vignettes, showcasing scenes from daily life, industry, and public gatherings. It presents a collage of images, emphasizing the idea that the camera can record reality in its purest form. The film is characterized by its use of montage, rapid editing, and innovative cinematography techniques, all of which were hallmarks of Vertov’s filmmaking style.

“Kino-eye” is a foundational work in the development of documentary cinema and the exploration of cinematic language. It reflects Vertov’s belief in the potential of film to reveal the truth about the world and the lives of ordinary people. Vertov’s innovative approach to filmmaking in “Kino-eye” had a profound and lasting impact on the documentary genre and cinematic theory.

Strike (1925)

“Strike” is a Soviet silent film from 1925, directed by Sergei Eisenstein. This film is also known by the titles “The Strike” or “Battleship Potemkin” and is considered one of the masterpieces of avant-garde cinema and one of the most influential films in the history of cinema.

The plot of “Strike” is based on real events from the Kronstadt Rebellion of 1921 during the Russian Civil War. The film follows the story of a strike led by workers at a factory in St. Petersburg and the brutal oppression they face from factory owners and law enforcement. Tensions escalate to a dramatic showdown on the ice as armed forces attempt to quell the workers’ movement.

Sergei Eisenstein extensively employs innovative editing techniques in this film to create emotional and political impact. The imagery is sharp and dynamic, with a rhythm that amplifies the intensity of the scenes. “Strike” is known for its iconic sequences, including the Odessa Steps massacre.

The film is also notable for its political commitment and critique of capitalist oppression, making it a landmark in political cinema. “Strike” has had a significant influence on generations of filmmakers and is still studied and appreciated for its technical innovation and historical impact.

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

“Battleship Potemkin” is a Soviet silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein in 1925. It is one of the most iconic and influential films in the history of cinema. The film is often referred to simply as “Potemkin.”

The plot of “Battleship Potemkin” is based on the historical events of the 1905 Russian Revolution. It tells the story of the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin, who rebel against their oppressive officers after being served spoiled meat and facing harsh discipline. The film portrays their struggle for justice and their eventual mutiny, which leads to a dramatic confrontation with the Tsarist authorities in the port city of Odessa.

“Battleship Potemkin” is celebrated for its groundbreaking cinematic techniques, particularly the innovative use of montage editing by Eisenstein. The film’s famous “Odessa Steps” sequence, depicting a massacre on a grand staircase, is considered one of the most influential scenes in film history.

The film’s political and social themes, as well as its dramatic storytelling and powerful imagery, have earned it a lasting place in the canon of world cinema. “Battleship Potemkin” is renowned for its role in advancing the language of cinema and remains a classic and essential work for cinephiles and scholars alike.


The Mother (1926)

“The Mother” is a Soviet silent film directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin in 1926. This film is an adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s novel of the same name and is one of the masterpieces of Soviet avant-garde cinema.

The plot of “The Mother” follows the story of Pelageya Vlasova, portrayed by Vera Baranovskaya, a working-class mother whose son becomes involved in revolutionary activities during the Russian Revolution. The film depicts her transformation from a concerned mother into a symbolic figure of the revolutionary struggle, highlighting her ideological evolution and political commitment.

Vsevolod Pudovkin uses editing and the use of visual symbols to convey the protagonist’s progressive political awakening. “The Mother” is known for its powerful portrayal of the individual within the context of a historical moment of profound political and social change.

The film has been widely praised for its innovative direction and political engagement and is considered a masterpiece of Soviet avant-garde cinema. “The Mother” represents one of the highlights of Soviet propaganda cinema and is still studied and appreciated for its historical and artistic relevance.

The Sixth Part of the World (1926)

“The Sixth Part of the World,” is a documentary film directed by Dziga Vertov in 1926. This film is one of Vertov’s most significant works and represents one of the early cinematic explorations of industrialization and the life of the working class in the Soviet Union.

The plot of “The Sixth Part of the World” focuses on the lives of coal miners in the Donbass, an industrial region in southern Ukraine. The film provides a detailed look into the daily lives of the miners, their labor, and the significance of the mining industry in the Soviet economy.

The title of the film, “The Sixth Part,” refers to a quote by Lenin, suggesting that the Donbass constituted a “sixth part of the world.” The film is known for its realistic portrayal of working-class life and its innovative use of editing and filmmaking techniques.

Dziga Vertov uses the film to promote a message of solidarity among workers and the importance of their contributions to building socialism. The film was considered a success both for its visual presentation and its political message.

“The Sixth Part of the World” is one of Vertov’s most renowned documentaries and has helped establish his status as a pioneer in documentary filmmaking and the cinematic avant-garde. The film remains a valuable study of working-class life in the Soviet Union during the 1920s.

The End of St. Petersburg (1927)

“The End of St. Petersburg” is a Soviet silent film directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin in 1927. This film is considered one of the masterpieces of Soviet avant-garde cinema and an important contribution to the historical cinema genre.

The plot of “The End of St. Petersburg” is set during the Russian Revolution of 1917 and follows the story of a young peasant who moves to St. Petersburg in search of work. The film depicts his experiences in the city during a period of political and social turmoil, including historical events such as the February Revolution and the October Revolution.

The film focuses on the portrayal of the working class and peasants as driving forces of the Russian Revolution. Vsevolod Pudovkin uses innovative editing techniques to create a strong sense of drama and tension, with memorable scenes depicting clashes between the revolutionaries and the armed forces.

“The End of St. Petersburg” is appreciated for its engaging storytelling and political commitment, as well as its historical significance in Soviet cinema. The film helped define Soviet propaganda cinema and is still considered a classic of avant-garde and historical cinema.

October (1927)

“October,” also known as “Ten Days That Shook the World,” is a Soviet silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein in 1927. It is a historical drama that depicts the events of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia, which led to the Bolshevik seizure of power.

The film “October” is a dramatic reenactment of the key moments of the revolution, including the storming of the Winter Palace, the overthrow of the Provisional Government, and the rise of the Bolsheviks to power. It blends documentary-style footage with staged reenactments to create a powerful and immersive portrayal of the revolutionary events.

Sergei Eisenstein used innovative editing techniques, such as montage and rapid cuts, to convey the intense emotions and political significance of the October Revolution. The film’s visual storytelling and symbolism contribute to its artistic impact.

“October” is known for its revolutionary fervor and its celebration of the Bolsheviks’ triumph. It is considered one of the masterpieces of Soviet cinema and is often studied for its cinematic techniques and political messaging. The film remains an important historical document and a classic of early Soviet cinema.

Storm Over Asia (1928)

“Storm Over Asia,” also known as “The Heir to Genghis Khan,” is a Soviet silent film directed by Vladimir Petrov in 1928. This film is a historical drama that explores the events in Mongolia during the Russian Civil War.

The plot of “Storm Over Asia” follows the story of Bair, portrayed by Valery Inkijinoff, a young Mongolian herdsman who becomes embroiled in conflicts between foreign forces and Bolshevik revolutionaries during the chaotic period of the Russian Civil War. The film depicts his experiences, struggles, and political involvement during a time of drastic change and social upheaval.

The film is known for its realistic portrayal of Mongolian life and culture, as well as its exploration of the dynamics of the struggle for independence and national identity. “Storm Over Asia” was praised for its breathtaking cinematography of the vast Mongolian steppes and its depiction of the political tensions of the era.

The film is an example of Soviet interest in the cultures of Asian republics and evolving geopolitical dynamics in the period between the two World Wars. “Storm Over Asia” is considered a classic of Soviet cinema and is still studied for its historical and artistic significance.

The House on Trubnaya Square (1928)

“The House on Trubnaya Square” is a Soviet silent film directed by Boris Barnet in 1928. This film is a satirical comedy that provides a critical look at urban Soviet society at the time.

The film’s plot revolves around Parasha Pitunova, a young woman from the countryside who moves to Moscow and becomes a cleaning woman in a luxury building on Trubnaya Square. The story follows her adventures as she adjusts to city life and finds herself involved in a series of comical and socially relevant situations.

“The House on Trubnaya Square” is known for its social and political satire, which criticizes injustice and inequality in urban society of the era. The film offers an ironic and sometimes caustic look at urban life, class struggle, and corruption.

Director Boris Barnet uses a combination of humor and social critique to create engaging and relevant storytelling. “The House on Trubnaya Square” is an example of Soviet avant-garde cinema that sought to explore the challenges and dynamics of the growing urban society during the post-revolutionary period.

The film is still considered a classic of Soviet cinematography and is appreciated for its blend of humor and social commentary.

The New Babylon (1929)

“The New Babylon,” is a Soviet silent film directed by Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg in 1928. This film is a historical and political drama that explores the events of the Paris Commune of 1871.

The plot of “The New Babylon” is set during the Paris Commune, a period of political and social upheaval in which the Parisian proletariat attempted to take control of the city. The film follows the stories of various characters, including a saleswoman at a luxurious perfume store, a soldier, and a shop owner, as they navigate the events and tensions of the Commune.

The film is known for its portrayal of Paris, with the use of elaborate sets that meticulously recreate the look of the city during that historical period. “The New Babylon” is also notable for its social and political critique, depicting class struggle and inequalities in society at the time.

The film was appreciated for its innovative cinematography and engaging storytelling. “The New Babylon” represents an example of politically engaged Soviet cinema that explores important historical events and social themes.

The Eleventh Year (1928)

“The Eleventh Year” is a documentary film directed by Dziga Vertov in 1928, although it was completed in 1931. This film pays tribute to the October Revolution of 1917 and celebrates the 10th anniversary of that historic event.

The title “The Eleventh Year” refers to the date when Bolshevik forces took control of the city of Petrograd during the October Revolution, marking the beginning of the Soviet era. The film features archival footage, documentaries, and still photographs of historical events, interwoven with sequences depicting everyday life in the Soviet Union.

Vertov employs innovative montage techniques to create an engaging visual rhythm and to connect historical events with the aspects of daily life under socialism. The film was made with synchronized sound, a technical innovation at the time, which includes a blend of music and ambient sounds.

“The Eleventh Year” serves as a tribute to the October Revolution and the revolutionary history of the Soviet Union. It is known for its ability to blend documentary and visual poetry to exalt the principles of communism. The film offers a unique and artistic perspective on an important chapter in Russian and Soviet history.

The Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

“The Man with a Movie Camera” is a Soviet silent film directed by Dziga Vertov in 1929. This film is considered one of the masterpieces of avant-garde cinema and experimental documentary filmmaking and is known for its cinematic innovation.

The film is an example of “cinéma vérité” or “cine-eye,” a cinematic movement promoted by Vertov that aimed to capture reality without any form of fiction or traditional storytelling. The film is a celebration of urban life and modern technology, particularly the camera as a tool for exploring reality.

“The Man with a Movie Camera” is known for its dynamic editing and frenetic pace. The film presents a series of urban vignettes and images of daily life, often from the perspective of a cameraman exploring the city with his camera. The music, added in a later version of the film, contributes to creating an engaging cinematic experience.

The film is an experimental and radical statement about the power of cinema as a means to represent reality. “The Man with a Movie Camera” is still widely studied and appreciated for its contributions to the art of filmmaking and film theory. It is considered an icon of avant-garde cinema.


Earth (1930)

“Earth” is a Soviet silent film directed by Aleksandr Dovzhenko in 1930. This film is a masterpiece of Soviet avant-garde cinema and is known for its poetic portrayal of peasant life and agricultural dynamics in Ukraine.

The plot of “Earth” is set in a Ukrainian farming village and follows the story of a peasant named Vasili, portrayed by Stepan Shkurat. The film explores the struggles of the peasants against the landowners and the social change that occurs during agricultural collectivization in the Soviet Union.

The film is known for its deep connection to the land and nature, as well as its poetic representation of rural life. Aleksandr Dovzhenko uses innovative and symbolic visual language to convey the significance of the land in the lives of the peasants.

“Earth” has been praised for its stunning cinematography and poetic narrative. The film is considered a significant contribution to avant-garde cinema and Soviet cinematic art. It also stands as one of the most significant cinematic works addressing agricultural and social issues in the Soviet Union during the era of agricultural collectivization.

Moscow Laughs (1934)

“Moscow Laughs,” is a Soviet musical comedy film directed by Grigori Aleksandrov and Isaak Dunayevsky in 1934. It is one of the notable musical comedies of the early Soviet cinema.

The film is a lighthearted musical comedy that centers around the adventures of a jovial and carefree musician named Leonid, played by Leonid Utyosov. Leonid is a popular jazz musician who becomes entangled in various comedic situations and romantic escapades. The film features lively musical performances and dance sequences.

“Moscow Laughs” is known for its cheerful and entertaining atmosphere, and it reflects the cultural and musical influences of the time. It also serves as a showcase for the talents of the popular Soviet jazz musician and actor Leonid Utyosov.

The film was well-received by audiences and remains a beloved classic of Soviet cinema. It is celebrated for its humor, musical numbers, and the charm of its characters, making it a significant part of Soviet cinematic history.

Three Songs About Lenin (1934)

“Three Songs About Lenin” is a Soviet film directed by Dziga Vertov in 1934. It is also known as “Tri pesni o Lenine” and is a documentary production that celebrates the figure of Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the October Revolution and the founder of the Soviet Union.

The film consists of three distinct segments, each of which is a song or tribute to Lenin. These segments explore different aspects of Lenin’s life and work, including his speeches, political commitment, and influence on Soviet society.

“Three Songs About Lenin” is known for its use of innovative editing techniques and its non-linear structure. Director Dziga Vertov was known for his experimental approach to documentary filmmaking, and this film is a significant example of his work.

The film serves as a homage to Lenin and the October Revolution, portraying Lenin as an icon of the communist revolution and class struggle. “Three Songs About Lenin” is a historical and cinematic document that reflects the importance of Lenin in Soviet history and his status as a prominent figure in 20th-century world politics.


Old and New (1929)

“Old and New,” is a Soviet film directed by Sergei Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov in 1929. This film is a significant chapter in Soviet avant-garde cinema and is known for its emphasis on political propaganda and the representation of agricultural collectivization in the Soviet Union.

The plot of “Old and New” follows the lives of a peasant couple, portrayed by Marfa Lapkina, and her husband, during the period of agricultural collectivization. The couple must face the challenges of farming and adapt to the political and social changes of the time.

The film is known for its portrayal of peasants as socialist heroes, engaged in transforming their lives and society. Sergei Eisenstein uses montage to create a powerful narrative and to emphasize communist ideals of solidarity and progress.

“Old and New” is a significant film for its contribution to Soviet political propaganda and its cinematic representation of agricultural labor and collectivization. However, it has also been subject to criticism and controversy, as many of the scenes depicted were considered staged or unrealistic. Nonetheless, the film represents an important moment in Sergei Eisenstein’s career and in the history of Soviet cinema.

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