Alexander Dovzhenko, one of the four giants of early Soviet revolutionary cinema, shattered the film world with his silent masterpiece "Earth," even though few outside the director's native Ukraine connected with its speci... more »fic references to place and topic. But the deep feeling and poetic imagery of this film transcends locale and era, moves strong men to tears and has frequently won it a place on critics' lists of the greatest films of all time.« less
Image '97 DVD edition, UK 2010 DVD edition of EARTH
keviny01 | 07/24/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Image DVD version of the 1930 Russian silent film EARTH has a disappointing video transfer. It is made from the same video source that was used for Kino's VHS tape version released in 1991 ... . The image is replete with scratches, dirt, and looks out of focus (which often indicates duplication from another source). Fortunately, the film's artistic audacity -- its striking compositions and innovative editing -- makes it watchable despite of the poor video quality.
The DVD also includes a still-frame reconstruction of Sergei Eisenstein's 1937 lost film BEZHIN MEADOW, a film about an allegorical struggle between the "old" and the "young". The video quality is much better here, but still isn't as sharp and clean as the edition included in Criterion's EISENSTEIN: THE SOUND YEARS DVD set. (The Criterion disc even includes a few extras such as production photos and articles on BEZHIN MEADOW, while the Image disc has none.)
Image's EARTH (and Criterion's EISENSTEIN: THE SOUND YEARS, for that matter) is an all-region DVD.
Just want to add my review of the new 2010 DVD edition released by Mr. Bongo Film of UK. This is without a doubt the best-looking edition of EARTH to date. There are still many visible damages on the print, but it excels over the '97 Image edition in sharpness, contrast, and brightness, while also showing more picture on all four sides of the screen. It restores the original Russian intertitles (supported by optional English subtitles), as opposed to the redone English intertitles used on the Image disc. The differences in intertitle usages and possibly a change in projection speed may also explain why this UK disc runs 77 minutes instead of just 70 minutes on the Image disc. The UK disc is all-region, but in PAL, of course, so US customers would need DVD players that can do PAL-to-NTSC conversion. The UK disc also has better audio quality, with a new score by Alexander Popov recorded in crisp LPCM stereo, as opposed to the crummy-sounding audio on the Image disc that does not do justice to the excellent orchestral score by Stephen P. Hill. This being a UK DVD, you can also order it at Amazon UK."
A film hungry for recognition
Isis Lyon | Stuart, FL United States | 07/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the lesser known and less appreciated juggernauts of Soviet silent cinema, Alexander Dovzhenko nowadays represents a truly distressing case in that his legacy, which has endowed film history with some of the most expressive visual poetry the world will ever lay eyes on, may forever remain buried in the dusty obscurity of academic discourse and, in its most accessible context, film-buff encomium. Of course, it would be hopeless (and, frankly, a bit ridiculous) to insist that a film like Earth, Dovzhenko's last silent feature and indisputably his most glorified, undergo any sort of popular resurrection in the third millennium A.D. Admittedly, one should be grateful enough to at least be able to enjoy a tolerable print of this feature on DVD.
But it's difficult to resist speculating why a picture as indisputably timeless as Earth has not managed to cement Dovzhenko's reputation alongside those of Eisenstein and Pudovkin, why Ivan the Terrible rings as a household name while Earth remains bleakly imprisoned in the realm of cinematic esoterica.
Though I hate to resort to flag-waving, I'm convinced of an obligation to goad readers into seeking out, at all necessary costs, one of the few indispensable motion pictures of the last century. Dovzhenko's account of the conflict surrounding Stalinist collectivization, in which traditional agriculturists locked horns with industrial revolutionists over their very cultural lifeblood (the eponymous soil), speaks to the contemporary consciousness with an urgency that does not seem to have exhausted one bit over the film's 72 years of existence. When viewed in consideration of its 1930 release date, Earth also retains a striking stylistic modernity (sure to appeal to the uninitiated) that in and of itself refutes the assumption that filmmakers of the first half of the 20th century had "not yet learned to edit." With one of the film's chief montage sequences, a tribute to the miracle of technological innovation that displays in grand kinetic elation the process of a tractor-aided wheat harvest, we are so overwhelmed by the poetic cadence and furiousness of Dovzhenko's arrangement of images that we abandon any crass notion of narrative altogether and glide along, free as birds, to the rhythm of his almost operatic eulogy on life itself. An even better demonstration of the director's divine knack for montage arrives during the picture's climax: the aftermath of this "farmer's war" for their dear earth, resulting in one man's murder, is detailed from almost every perspective imaginable, as Dovzhenko cuts between glimpses of a funeral procession, an indignant priest, the dead man's distraught lover, and the murderer himself, all of them rendered in perfect balance and all of them tempered by an overriding sense of moral complexity.
In its overall achievement, Earth reminds us of how rarely the media of cinema, music, and poetry have been so unrecognizably blurred into one single and indestructible entity."
Forget the Propaganda
Isis Lyon | 05/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dovzhenko's quasi Soviet art film "The Earth" isn't really a propaganda film at all - it is one of those happy miracles in which the heavy hand of state control of the arts occasioned a work that went far beyond the funders' intentions and produced a jewel of the form. Dovzhenko wasn't at all sure how he felt about collectivization before the fact, though we know that he was appalled by its consequences afterward, but on the way to another square wheeled political epoch something happened; he was a keen enough observer of humanity to, capture a boy meets tractor love story that will look familiar, and bring a smile, to farm people anywhere, anytime; he recorded a universally persuasive evocation of youthful optimism, and finally Dovzhenko made an eloquent case for time, renewal and fecundity as the ultimate solace of human life - not the State, not the Church. Time and the Land alone suffice for happiness. The little stories embedded in this film are not finally the point; Dovzhenko was ordered to make a celluloid pamphlet, and fooled everyone by making a love offering to the Ukrainian countryside in all its living, dying, breathing and eternal glory. The cyclic images are everywhere: young people climb out of their underground shelters in the warming morning, an old man returns to sleep in the earth as he dies, lambs jump and young people dance while fecundity is rampant with apples, apples, apples everywhere. The political advocacy that occasioned this film is irrelevant to the modern viewer - its cause is dead, dead. Color it dust. What remains is one of the finest examples of the visual songs-without-words style ever made. The Earth is a must-see for all serious students of cinematic art."
Classical Ukrainian Beauty
Lisa Shea | 04/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Earth was supposed to be a Russian propaganda film promoting collectivism. Instead, Aleksandr wrote a love story extolling the beauty of the Ukrainian countryside and promoting the cycle of life and death there amidst the natural beauty and plentiful bounty of nature. You can see the basic outline that the Russians wanted. Backwards farmers resist tractors coming in to make their life better. Rich landowners are upset at upstart farmers coveting their lands. But look beyond that, to the way the people interact, to the straw-roofed houses, the dancing, the fields of wheat, the love of the land. Appreciate the beautiful way in which the film was done, capturing a series of picture-perfect scenes that would be gorgeous if framed and hung on a wall. This is definitely a movie to savor and to appreciate the lush landscape that was pre-Stalin Ukraine. I was fortunate enough to watch Earth with my parents and both sets of my godparents, and tape recorded their commentary to it. For me, that commentary will serve far better than the default musical soundtrack that comes with the film. If you can, watch the film with older Ukrainians, or read commentary on the web to get a sense of what this time was all about."
For the Ages
Douglas Doepke | Claremont, CA United States | 02/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Stalin may have wanted an ode to collective agriculture; what he got instead was a hymnal to mother nature and the toiling offspring who dwell in her bosom. Those opening shots of pulsating fields waving in the wind have no equal for sheer evocative power. Earth is revealed at once as a living, breathing being and bountiful provider. Flower, fruit, decay, renewal -- nature's timeless cycle. The soundless imagery is at times so wonderfully lyrical that contemporary viewers may be led to recognize how much has been lost to the technology-driven cinema of today. Even the occasional plot crudities are rescued by a style that is both brilliant and unerringly pictorial. Close-ups of weather-worn peasants, a lone kulak and oxen beneath an immense sky, great rolling plains and far horizons of the Ukrainian breadbasket -- this is the sheer lyrical sweep of the Dovchenko masterpiece, a montage that transcends all obstacles, real and man-made. Not even the estimable John Ford frames primitive elements as grandly as this. There are flaws. Too many rushing crowd scenes appear without purpose, except to mimic Eisenstein's "march of history", while the propaganda thread at times blends uneasily with the lyrical. Still and all, Dovchenko pulls off the theme of new beginning more seamlessly than might be expected. Far from being a mere relic of the silent era, or an ode to Stalinist collectivism, Earth remains an enduring testament to the power of cinema as sheer visual poetry."