The Russian invasion of Ukraine has unleashed a Russophobia that affects all disciplines. Some sectors are considering silence any cinematographic manifestation, whether from the former Soviet Union or today. Without going any further, the European Film Academy (EFA) announced that it will exclude Russian films from this year’s European Film Awards. And the Andalusian Film Library last week canceled the screening of ‘Solaris’, Andrei Tarkovsky’s sci-fi classic 1972, and replaced it with the version made in 2002 by Steven Soderbergh.
If it came true total cultural boycott of Russian film demonstrationsAs has happened in sports, would it make sense not to be able to see Soviet films made in 1925, 1966 or 1985? In this list of 10 titles that we would stop seeing, we have included only those produced under the banner of the Soviet Unionleaving aside recognized more recent Russian productions such as ‘The Russian ark’, ‘Leto’, ‘Without love’ or ‘Leviathan’and taking into account that well-known filmmakers like Nikita Mihalkov and Andrei Konchalovski are currently invisible on streaming, DVD or Blu-ray.
‘Aelita, Queen of Mars’ (1924)
Or how the proletarian revolution breaks out on Mars. Yakov Protazanov’s science fiction classic adapts the homonymous novel by Alexei Tolstoy, in which the Muscovite engineer Loss deciphers a mysterious message from Mars. This, in the company of the former Bolshevik soldier Gusev, will undertake a trip to the Red Planet and both will end up helping Queen Aelita to overthrow the despotic ruling king. A bizarre hybrid of melodrama, comedy, tragedy and (very ambiguous) political propaganda whose fabulous sets and constructivist costumesdesigned by Aleksandra Ekster, influenced both ‘Metropolis’ Fritz Lang and the ‘Flash Gordon’ serials. Available on Youtube (silent, with intertitles in Spanish).
‘The Battleship Potemkin’ (1925)
The classic of the classics of soviet cinema and the film that cemented the pillars of cinematographic montage in opposition to how it was understood in Hollywood: between 300 and 700 shots per film in North American cinema for the 1,000 of ‘Battleship Potemkin’. SM Eisenstein praised the beginning of the revolution with the revolt of the crew of the battleship Prince Potemkin in 1905. After refusing to eat wormy meat, his rebellion reaches the people of the port of Odessa. The massacre of innocent citizens on the steps of that city is one of the milestones of rhythmic cinematographic montage, honored by Brian De Palma in ‘The Untouchables of Eliot Ness’. Available in filmin.
Another of the unquestionable classics of silent Soviet cinema along with Eisenstein’s films and Dovjenko’s ‘The Land’capable of inventing a new expressive language without giving up their status as propaganda films. Adaptation of the top novel by Maxim Gorky, also set in the 1905 revolution, focuses on a peasant woman and her awareness of social injustice, becoming the pillar of her family. It is the beginning of the most political trilogy by director Vsevolod Pudovkin, completed with ‘The End of Saint Petersburg’ (1927) and ‘Storm over Asia’ (1928), all of which have an amazing plastic quality. Available on Youtube (silent, with intertitles in Spanish).
‘The Man with the Camera’ (1929)
More philosophical attitude than mere technical proposal, the ‘cine-eye’ theory created by Soviet documentary filmmaker Dziga Vertov he intended to achieve absolute objectivity in the filming of images: without a script, or staging, or sets, or performers. For Vértov, fiction cinema was the opium of the people, and the camera, capable of seeing better than the human eye itself, was an essential tool for the class struggle. His most popular work within the ‘cinema-eye’ is ‘The Camera Man’an extraordinary succession of brushstrokes of urban life (today more overwhelming than ever) from Odessa, Kiev, Kharkov and Moscow, shot by his brother Mijail and edited by his wife, Yelizaveta Svilov. Available in filmin.
‘Ivan the Terrible / The conspiracy of the boyars’ (1944-1958)
After his film about Alexander Nevski and the purges he suffered from the Stalinist government, Eisenstein undertook in two parts the story of the first tsar of russia, crowned as such in 1547 when he was only 17 years old. Without neglecting what it meant for the creation of a state as strong as it is modern, Eisenstein would investigate the arrogance and corruption of power. In the second part, the director shot some scenes following his advanced theories about color. But ‘The conspiracy of the boyars’ it was banned until 1958. In 1946, Eisenstein had begun filming a third part that was immediately canceled by Stalin. Only four minutes are kept. Both parts available in Filmin.
‘When the storks pass by’ (1957)
Soviet cinema experienced a certain opening after Stalin’s death in 1953, and its productions became internationalized. ‘When the storks pass’ won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, awarded by a jury that included Ladislao Vajda and the neorealist screenwriter Cesare Zavattini. The film unseated, for example, ‘The Brothers Karamazov’, Richard Brooks’ adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s novel. Is a love story conditioned by the war event –two young lovers, Verónica and Boris, separate when the Second World War breaks out and he is called to sign– and directed with solvency, but less invention than the Soviet classics, by Mijail Kalatozov. Available in filmin.
It’s hard to gauge what it is. Andrei Tarkovsky’s best film, but this drama that mixes politics, religion and painting would be one of the top candidates for the distinction along with ‘Solaris’. Shot in panoramic format and in telluric black and white, it tells the story of the painter monk who gives the film its title, one of the main authors in the art of icons. In the early 15th century he was commissioned to paint the frescoes for the Kremlin’s Dormition Cathedral. Thus, when he came out of retirement, he discovered how the established power terrorized and impoverished the people. Poetry and political awareness in an author who always disagreed with the guidelines of his Government. Available in filmin.
Well, ‘Stalker’ would also compete for Tarkovsky’s best film status. It is also, a cult film that has walked without problems through fantasy genre festivals bothering and fascinating audiences accustomed to other kinds of ‘terrors’ alike. It is a dystopian story whose action takes place in an undetermined place known as ‘The Zone’ -the title of a 2017 Spanish series also on the fringes of dystopian science fiction-, a forbidden territory that some individuals known as ‘stalkers’ dare to enter. to challenge. The film combines color and black and white, hardness and lyricism, a cryptic language as well as some fascinating images. Available in filmin.
‘Moscow does not believe in tears’ (1979)
To prepare for the historic summit in Geneva in 1985 with Mikhail Gorbachevin which the foundations were laid for the beginning of the end of the Cold War, ronald reagan He took an accelerated immersion course in Russian culture and society, which included the viewing of this successful melodrama by Vladimir Menshov, which in 1981 had won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The film tells the story of three girls from the provinces who emigrate to Moscow in 1958, in the midst of Khrushchev’s Soviet Union, in search of love and prosperity, and everything that life and destiny will bring them, not always good, during the following two decades. . Available in filmin.
‘Massacre: Come and See’ (1985)
The devastating masterpiece of the Soviet director Elem Klimov portrays, through the traumatized eyes of a child, the Nazi invasion of Belarus during World War II, in which more than two million people died at the hands of Hitler’s troops. A trip, in the literal sense, to the heart of hell, full of atrocious, unbearable images, pure terror about the cruel unreason of war; surely the most anti-war film ever made. After ‘Massacre: Come and See’ in 1985, Klímov would not direct any more films until his death in 2003. Available in filmin.