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Genre: War Drama (Soviet Union)
Directed By: Vsevolod Pudovkin (Storm Over Asia; Mother)
Overview: German dockworkers suffer through a shipyard strike amidst the rise of Communism. Throughout their ordeal we follow one man's struggle, doubts, and the decisions he makes... oh and he might just desert at some point...
As intense as ever, we have some great emotion from these proles, but it never quite goes over the top. I said before that perhaps context is what's most important here, because if I saw people yelling and freaking out over anything but communism, I might just say it's a little overboard With this cause behind them and their starving children though, you buy it, and it's moving.
Here we have the best of the Silent Era montage works from the masters of Russian cinema clashing head-to-head with the worst talkies technology that ever existed. They had clunky cameras that were so loud they needed to be in soundproof booths, so it made them almost impossible to manage. This resulted in constricted camerawork, like rarely seeing pans, though you often got heads cut off. The price people paid for the cutting edge, I suppose. Pudovkin pulls off splendour yet again regardless of having an arm tied behind his back. If you ask me, factories and their gears are just the coolest subjects for black and white film.
The dialogue were about as propagandist as you could get. There's really no great individual conflict, the issues are the standard ones you would expect: "Why starve when we can work?" "What are we fighting for anyway?" "Hurry to the dockyard, the police are coming!" The poetry is there in the words from time to time, but it's still pretty cliché, run-of-the-mill stuff.
The story is different compared to other Communist propagandist films of its era. Firstly, this focuses on people who AREN'T Russians fighting for Communism, and it has Communists fighting in among themselves far more than usual. It also includes the story of a coward fearing for his life amidst the bravery of his countrymen. It's typical in the 'great resolve and sacrifice' message, but the way it goes about it is refreshing, if a tad slow.
I just can't explain it, the whole film felt a bit like a chore. I didn't expect it to be this director's masterpiece, but it was slow going. Perhaps if this film had been a true Silent I'd have appreciated it more. The problem wasn't the sound editing, because that was unique, with the occasional purely silent scenes dispersed throughout, especially just before a dramatic sequences, but I think I know why I've never heard of this movie before, you know?
Overall Rating: 74% (Well I Came Back, But I Left A Couple Of Times)
Perhaps I should have waited to see this one, as watching it so quickly on the heels of The End Of St. Petersburg may have been the reason for my ennui. Visually though, this guy is one of the most influential montage men out there. I won't recommend this to anyone unless they're doing a project on 'early talkies films about communists who aren't Russian'. I guess that won't happen anytime soon.