Zvenigora | Chicago Reader

Zvenigora

Hailed by Sergei Eisenstein for its originality, this 1927 silent feature by Soviet director Alexander Dovzhenko is both a folktale and a paean to industrialization, its multiple stories and meanings turning propaganda into poetry. Dovzhenko weaves together several different periods of Ukrainian history with a narrative involving an old man who wants to protect a fabulous treasure that's buried in a mountain. The various stories suggest that machines are beneficent, workers should throw off their chains, and invaders should be repelled, yet the mystical, quasi-religious framing device celebrates the Ukrainian nation in a way that seems to contradict Soviet ideology. As always, Dovzhenko's brilliant montages are full of double meanings, with each shot undercut by the next: in one spectacular presentation of mining, agriculture, and metal work, the images seem to fuse together and tear apart, suggesting both the glory of man-made structures and the destruction necessary for their creation. 73 min.

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