Context would be nice, seeing as how this is the only film from its trilogy (the Ukraine Trilogy) that made the list. Sure, there are selections on the list that come from a larger body of work and would include the first entry and a sequel like The Godfather or Alien series, or even the whole trilogy like Lord of the Rings and Toy Story. But to begin with the end and omit the others makes me wonder what it was that led to this film, the last in the trilogy, to be included.
A man dies, so it goes. This causes distress in the family. A tractor arrives but it won’t go. Farmers urinate in the radiator and it works. Happy people work in the fields and make bread. A man dances alone in the road and dies, so it goes. A confession is made at the cemetery but no one listens. It rains.
Maybe the description was a bit blunt but those are the main events in the movie. The narrative as a whole didn’t strike a chord with me until I did some research. The events in the film and what was happening with agriculture in Ukraine were hot topics at the time. It was a battle to keep the farm land. Well, that cleared things up a little bit but not much.
There are a few montages, notably the family’s distress at the beginning and the bread montage. With the family montage, it’s more about showing the different reactions of each member after hearing about the death. There’s a mini-montage where it seems like the 180 degree rule is broken but in a few shots we see that it’s not the case. It is quite confusing. The bread montage, on the other hand, is like a silent film version of an episode of “How It’s Made”, except with not-so-shiny happy people. Not to knock the influence of the montage but in this film they go on a bit longer than necessary; one or two minutes could’ve been cut from each montage and it would still achieve the same effect.
The particular print that I saw had some interesting translations. When the men urinate in the radiator, all that’s said is “LET ‘ER FLY!” After the man walking home is killed, someone says “HEY, YOU GUYS NAMED JOHN.” I read it as that there were more than one John within the speaker’s range but it turns out that the title card only contained part of the dialogue as the man called for more men who knew about the killer. Other instances used more or less modern terms for people and some dropped consonants. It was a bit jarring to say the least.
It’s no Eisenstein or Vertov but a story is told one way or another.
1001 MYMSBYD selection