Forward Soviet!: History and Non-fiction Film in the USSR 9780755604753, 9781860642821

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KINO: The Russian Cinema Series General Editor's Preface

Cinema was the predominant popular art form of the first half of the twentieth century, at least in Europe and North America. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the former Soviet Union, where Lenin's remark that 'of all the arts, for us cinema is the most important' became a cliche and where cinema attendances were until recently still among the highest in the world. In the age of mass politics Soviet cinema developed from a fragile but effective tool to gain support among the overwhelmingly illiterate peasant masses in the civil war that followed the October 1917 Revolution, through a welter of experimentation, into a mass weapon of propaganda through entertainment that shaped the public image of the Soviet Union - both at home and abroad and for both elite and mass audiences - and latterly into an instrument to expose the weaknesses of the past and present in the twin processes of glasnost and perestroika. Now the national cinemas of the successor republics to the old USSR are encountering the same bewildering array of problems, from the trivial to the terminal, as are all the other ex-Soviet institutions. Cinema's central position in Russian and Soviet cultural history, and its unique combination of mass medium, art form and entertainment industry, have made it a continuing battlefield for conflicts of broader ideological and artistic significance, not only for Russia and the Soviet Union but also for the world outside. The debates that raged in the 1920s about the relative revolutionary merits of documentary as opposed to fiction film, of cinema as opposed to theatre or painting, or of the proper role of cinema in the forging of postrevolutionary Soviet culture and the shaping of the new Soviet man, have their echoes in current discussions about the role of cinema vis-a-vis other art forms in effecting the cultural and psychological revolution in human consciousness necessitated by the processes of economic and political transformation of the former Soviet Union into modern democratic and industrial societies governed by the rule of law. Cinema's central position has also made it a vital instrument


Forward Soviet! for scrutinising the blank pages of Russian and Soviet history and enabling the present generation to come to terms with its own past. This series of books intends to examine Russian and Soviet film in the context of Russian and Soviet cinema, and Russian and Soviet cinema in the context of the political and cultural history of Russia, the Soviet Union and the world at large. Within that framework the series, drawing its authors from both East and West, aims to cover a wide variety of topics and to employ a broad range of methodological approaches and presentational formats. Inevitably this will involve ploughing once again over old ground in order to reexamine received opinions but it principally means increasing the breadth and depth of our knowledge, finding new answers to old questions and, above all, raising new questions for further inquiry and new areas for further research. The continuing aim of the series is to situate Russian and Soviet cinema in their proper historical and aesthetic context, both as a major cultural force in Russian history and Soviet politics and as a crucible for experimentation that is of central significance to the development of world cinema culture. Books in the series strive to combine the best of scholarship, past, present and future, with a style of writing that is accessible to a broad readership, whether that readership's primary interest lies in cinema or in Russian and Soviet political history. Richard Taylor Swansea, 1998


This book is the product of a year's work in the Archives of the now defunct Soviet Union and several years of delays, side-tracking and periodic re- (and self-) assessment. It would never have seen the light of day without the help and encouragement of a whole host and range of people. Credit is due to the following individuals and institutions: the British Council, London and Gosobrazovanie, Moscow; VGIK (especially all the staff at the section for foreign students and my supervisor S. V. Drobashenko); all the staff at TsGAKFD (especially G. P. Kuzminskaia and I. S. Formanova); the assistants at TsGALI and the Lenin Library, Moscow; Kinotsentr in Moscow (especially Naum Kleiman and Rashit Yangirov); Adrian Wood and all the team that worked on the Stalin documentary series for Thames Television in 1988-89. Many eminent academics have lifted my spirits by showing interest in my work just as I was beginning to doubt myself. Among these I must mention Denise Youngblood, Annette Michelson, Rod Kedward and chiefly Professor Richard Taylor, whose help has gone way beyond what could be expected of a colleague and friend and without whom this book really would not have appeared. I must also thank Valerie Blarney & Co. at Sussex for so much patience and support, Andrew Braddel, Martin Morgan and Mark Smith - good (and longsuffering) friends - and all the students I have taught at the University of Sussex, the Open University and at Davies's College, London. They have helped me formulate my ideas and test them on a questioning but friendly audience. More recently I have benefited from the advice and support of the staff and students of the Institute of Communications at the University of Leeds. In particular I would like to thank Professors Nicholas Pronay and Philip Taylor for their faith in my abilities and both Stephen Hay and David Gauntlett for their priceless good humour. Much gratitude must go out to a host of friends, relations and colleagues too long to list, but special thanks to: Jack Amos, May J. Baker, Colin Bearne, Simon Clayton, Nick Cull, Stanley Foreman, Patricia Hollis, Richard Howells,

Forward Soviet! Nikolai Izvolov, Steven Lax, Stepan Mikhalkov, Ann Riach, Trish Richie, Patsy Roberts, Brian Winston and Alan (Jasper) Smith. To all these must go much of the credit for any worth in this project - all faults and flights of fancy are, of course, my own. Finally I would like to thank three women without whom I could not have finished this study: Shirley Roberts, Heather Wallis and Beryl Williams. This work is dedicated to them and to the memory of Esfir Ilinichna Shub. Graham Roberts Leeds, 1998

Note on Transliteration, Translation and the Russian Calendar

Transliteration from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet is a perennial problem for writers on Russian subjects. I have opted for a dual system: in the text I have transliterated in a way that will, I hope, render Russian names and terms more accessible to the non-specialist, while in the scholarly apparatus I have adhered to a more accurate system for the specialist. Accepted English spellings of Russian names have been used wherever possible and Russian names of Germanic origin have been returned to their roots. The translation of film titles poses problems as Russian does not have either an indefinite or a definite article. I have preferrred to insert an article: hence The Battleship Potemkin, The Arsenal, etc. The convention by which Soviet films are known by bald titles like Earth, Mother, Strike is itself arbitrary: consider, for example, how Chekhov's plays have become known in English as The Seagull and The Cherry Orchard, but Three Sisters. Russia abandoned the Julian calendar and adopted the Gregorian only in February 1918. Russian dates are therefore out of step with the rest of Europe and much of the world until that time. In the nineteenth century dates in Russia were twelve days, in the twentieth century thirteen days, and in the twenty-first century will be fourteen days 'behind' those elsewhere. Hence the October Revolution of 25 October 1917 (known as the Old Style) took place on a date known more widely as 7 November. Where necessary, both dates are given in the text.


The initial stimulus for this study of Soviet non-fiction film came from a realisation that it is an area that has received scant attention in the past.1 To some extent, this situation has been caused by the difficulties of archive access. I began my investigations armed only with a feeling of regret at the continued lack of access to this 'hidden history of documentary film'2 and a belief that any information to be discovered would be of historical interest. Apart from the new information unearthed and the little-known films viewed, I have been struck by the problems of analysis and context, as well as insights into that context, that these researches have produced. Central to this project has been a desire to come to terms with the relationship of Soviet non-fiction film to history, as a representation of the history of the Soviet Union and also as an agency for the transmission of the state's (changing) historical image and requirements. This defence of the validity of a study of Soviet non-fiction film has to be seen as a response to the work of two leading scholars of pre-war Soviet cinema: Richard Taylor and Denise Youngblood. Professor Taylor, in his seminal work The Politics of Soviet Cinema 1917-1929 (Cambridge, 1979) looks at neigrovaiafil'ma(unplayed film - the contemporary Soviet term for the genre) almost exclusively with reference to the theoretical writings of Dziga Vertov and his strident defence of the importance and integrity of non-fiction cinematography. Denise Youngblood's book Soviet Cinema in the Silent Era? complements and expands upon Taylor's work by looking at the Soviet film industry 'from below', i.e. at the cadres rather than their political masters. (To some extent I hope that I have brought these two approaches together with reference to a specific genre.) Youngblood rather dismisses non-fiction film. Passing over the omission of newsreel and documentary - as well as films from the non-Russian republics - she states: 'mainstream cinema culture ... was fictional and centred in the RSFSR, so the impact of the omissions is slight.'4 The fact is that newsreel was part of almost every cinema programme from the mid-1920s.5 Audiences, via club showings,6 were far more likely to have

Forward Soviet! seen Turksib or any number of documentary shorts than the masterpieces of Dovshenko or Eisenstein, never mind Boris Barnet. I would contend that, if our project is to understand Soviet cinema and its audience (and by extension the development of Soviet society), the omission of neigrovaiafil'mais far from slight. If we wish to understand how the regime wished to be represented, then non-fiction film is central. My study of Soviet cinema began before the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union. Debate continues about just what the USSR constituted in historical terms.7 New viewpoints, based on different material, on these issues are valuable in adding perspective. The use of material which was created and distorted by the forces of the time and dealt specifically with its present and historical 'realities' is another of those new viewpoints. A major thread running through this history has been an analysis of the polemics within the cinema industry and the directives emanating from the regime with reference to the aesthetic and ideological questions about form and content in Soviet films. In particular, due to the subject matter I have focused on, the main area of debate was the relationship between 'played' and 'unplayed' film. I have chosen, whenever possible, to use the term 'unplayed' [neigrovaia] as opposed to 'non-fiction' or 'documentary' in an effort to highlight approaches - particularly Vertov's - to using factual material. Thus it is the difference in the material itself'from scripted drama that is important. (Vertov's own phrase was 'life caught unawares' [zhizn' vrasplokh].) The fact that all filmed material is processed after the filming then becomes a quite separate issue (and not one of definition). The question of how 'fact', whether historical or contemporary, should be shown on screen is crucial to perceptions of film as both educative and propaganda medium. An analysis of the 'played'/'unplayed' debate also leads to a reassessment of non-fiction cinema's role in the way Soviet cinema in general developed. In particular, it is striking how the civil war newsreel film-making experiences of Kuleshov, Tisse and others affected the aesthetics of Soviet fiction films in the 1920s. This effect can clearly be seen when comparing the early work of Soviet feature film-makers with that of their pre-revolutionary forebears, such as Evgenii Bauer. There existed a fascinating blurring between presentation in Soviet played and unplayed films of the first two Five-Year Plans. The effects of this blurring of the distinctions between the two film forms have profound ramifications into the 1930s and beyond. Insight into this 'blurring' helps to explain the success of the Stalin regime and the reasons for the pre- and postwar developments in Soviet society under Stalin's perestroika. This study is also concerned with the institutional problems encountered by non-fiction film-makers. The fact that eminent film-makers such as Shub and Vertov had more than their fair share of difficulties in producing films at all did not lead me to dismiss their efforts as in some way peripheral. Rather, I became further intrigued as to why films utilising factual material posed such a problem

Introduction for those who ran the industry and by extension those who ran the regime itself. This sense of intrigue was heightened when it was considered how ostensibly pro-regime and ideologically sound these non-fiction film-makers were. They appeared only too willing to adapt their creative and journalistic talents to the needs of the Soviet state as prescribed by the Party. This apparent paradox led me to look at the relationship between the film-makers, the regime and the audience. Concentrating on one genre of film, admittedly with a number of sub-genres, has allowed me to remove a whole host of variables from the equation of different pressures and expectations. Non-fiction film as a process has at its core the transmission of information about actual events. It is the differing views of this role emanating from industry cadres and their client groups which have a direct bearing on the development of Soviet non-fiction film. They also cast light on how and why Soviet society was developing certain tendencies throughout its history. I felt compelled at least to attempt to throw some light on the artistic and personal biographies of a number of film-makers engaged in non-fiction who have been largely ignored even in Soviet studies of the genre. These include major talents such as Shub, Vladimir Erofeev, Mikhail Kaufman, Ilia Kopalin, Viktor Turin and Mikhail Kalatozov as well as countless newsreel managers and forgotten cameramen. This does not mean that this study does not deal with the better known figures such as Dziga Vertov - who casts his shadow over the whole of this work - or Roman Karmen. Alexander Medvedkin has also been returned to the realm of 'the unplayed'. The latter's justly famous work in comedy tends to obscure the significance of his earlier work as a nonfiction film-maker on the agit-train which travelled the Donbas area in 1931— 32 when short documentaries were made and used as a weapon of propaganda. 8 These efforts to raise the profile of non-fiction film confirmed the notion that the whole subject had been for a number of reasons, and in a number of ways, repressed. This project sticks closely to the basic fact that genre as a classification is predicated not only on style but, crucially for my purposes, function. There is a good deal of stylistic analysis and in particular identification of recurring and developing changes of imagery - and, of course, of representation. One of the key issues analysed is how various images and types were presented and juxtaposed and why. Underlying my interest in Soviet film is an interest in its use as a propaganda medium, particularly in the development of (multi- but Russian-centred) national myths. Thus the analysis is intrinsically bound up with a desire to put Soviet cinema in its social and historical context. The approach to film is frankly functionalist, in particular focusing on how film was, or could be, used in a developing mass society to justify policy or changes of policy. With reference to its role as a weapon of propaganda, the analysis of individual films seeks to assess non-fiction film's significance in the creation of what

Forward Soviet! became the social and political matrix of the Soviet Union as it faced the tests of (perceived or projected) constant threat without and crisis within. A project of this type necessarily must take on an interdisciplinary approach which includes cultural studies practice, sociology, social psychology and political analysis as well as the more usual areas of investigation involved in film and media studies. Artistic and aesthetic evaluations are, unashamedly, made with reference to a film's message(s) and its ability to educate or convince an audience.9 My own active interest in film as a propaganda medium began with my previous work, The Best Weapon of Propaganda, the Bolsheviks and Film 1917-24 (unpublished MA dissertation, University of Sussex, 1986), which sought to show how an oversimplified view of the ease with which film could be used by the regime had led to impatience and suspicion in the Party that had a detrimental effect on later official attitudes to cinema. The present study has both confirmed and expanded that thesis. This is particularly the case in the years of collectivisation and crash industrialisation during which occurred both the 'turning point' and the 'death' of Soviet documentary. Whether this death was murder or in some way self-inflicted will be a matter addressed in the text. I came to the field of Soviet studies as a historian. Thus the question of how film has been and can be used as a historical source is central to this study. At least one of the film-makers in this study - Esfir Shub - largely relied on the use of material shot in earlier periods of history, or in other countries, to make her most interesting films. Vertov began his career compiling civil war newsreel and often used material from his own previous films in new projects. Both Shub and Vertov used 'historical/factual' material from their own films in the 1920s to make very different political points in films of the 1930s. Vertov and Svilova re-edited footage of Lenin's funeral originally used in Lenin Kinopravda [Leninskaia Kinopravda, 1924] to boost the historical significance of Stalin in Three Songs about Lenin [Tri pesni o Lenine, 1934]. Shub recut her 1927 film The Great Way [Velikii put'] for Land of the Soviets [Strana sovetov, 1937] in order to rewrite the whole epic of Soviet history. Deeply affected by this salutary lesson, I have attempted to make some general points about film as a historical source and historical film as the material of motivating myth.10 This project's development was structured by the search for materials. Some material came from the Central State Archive of Literature and Arts (TsGALI, now RGALI) in the archival materials of Sov- and Soiuzkino with particular reference to the problems of organising and controlling non-fiction film production in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In addition there was a rich source of experiential material in the published and unpublished writings and diaries of some of the personalities involved in Soviet cinema in the 1920s and 1930s. As far as secondary sources are concerned, all students of Soviet film are in great debt to Sergei Drobashenko, Jay Leyda, Tatiana Selezneva, Richard Taylor and Denise Youngblood.

Introduction As the basic thrust of this work is to reassess non-played film, as much of the research time as possible was spent watching the films themselves. This included viewing, more than once, the complete stock of documentary films held at the Ail-Union State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow. Most of these films were only known as titles in the West. I was privileged to be allowed extensive access to the catalogue and film stock of the Central State Archive of Cinema and Photographic Documents (TsGAKFD, now RGAKFD) at Krasnogorsk. This study was enriched by viewing a good number of fiction films. All of the classic Soviet canon were held at VGIK. The thawing situation in 1988-90 allowed researchers to see less well known but probably more typical films at showings organised by the Museum section of the Cinema Centre [Kinotsentr] in Moscow. I have tried to ascertain how effective the films could11 have been as a medium for both information (the delivery of factual material whether historical or contemporary) and propaganda (the attempt to influence attitudes and opinions). Any aesthetic value judgements have been linked to an attempt to assess how artistry aids or hinders the transmission of messages and values. Trying to measure the effects of any material on any audience is fraught with difficulties. Any discussion of film's use as a propaganda medium is bound to be contentious. Nevertheless, I would refer to work done by sociologists which points to the powerful effects of non-fiction/current affairs material presented in the mass media on the terms of debate, even the Zeitgeist, of a society. The development of the study of mass media effects, in particular the notion of 'agenda setting', is detailed in Blumler and Gurevitch's T h e Political Effects of the Mass Media'.12 The present project will attract a good deal of criticism for a lack of 'hard' empirical data about the audience effectiveness of the subject films. However, it is important to note that one cannot construct tables of figures for educational or psychological effects in hindsight (if at all).13 I believe that it is generally agreed that my period of study is one where any statistics are at best dubious and at worst another form of 'Socialist Realism'. In addition, it is worth noting that a discussion of what the regime is trying to project does not turn upon how those projections were received. Criticism of this work may focus on the (deliberately) lengthy reportage of the films under investigation. This method has been chosen (1) because readers will not - and cannot - see many of the films I have discussed and (2) to stress the need to look at the pictures. This close textural study is necessary in order to get to grips with what the film-makers were trying to achieve and their cinematographic means of doing so. Further criticism may focus on my extended exercise in archiving.14 Indeed it could be suggested that I have 'simply' launched myself upon a compilation exercise. This technique is justified both as a tool and as a homage to the techniques of many of the film-makers under investigation here. I have to say that this approach does rather lend itself to study of a group of film-makers who to a greater or lesser extent were engaged

Forward Soviet! in building an archive.15 I beg the indulgence of any 'source', living or dead, compiled here, or whose previous compilations I have ransacked. Obviously I, like all Western students of Soviet cinema, owe a huge debt to Richard Taylor and Ian Christie for their book The Film Factory. Often I have used Richard's translations in preference to my own simply because they are better.16 I have relied on my own attempts at translation for the material not contained in Taylor and Christie. My material has been arranged in chronological order as far as possible. This has allowed me to make some evaluation of the development of Soviet non-fiction film and, more importantly, to relate it to the development of Soviet society. Thus the first chapter deals with the years of Russian prerevolutionary and immediate post-revolutionary newsreel. It also attempts to chronicle the civil war. This chapter sets the scene, explains the problems and introduces some of the key figures of this study. The most important and influential is Vertov. Early chapters are dominated by two film-makers: Dziga Vertov and Esfir Shub. These chapters deal with the beginnings of a discussion of what cinema should be about and the struggle for the integrity of 'unplayed cinema' which continue throughout this study. The 1920s also saw the growth of a cinema press (in which theoretical debates could rage) and - with ODSK (the Society of Friends of the Soviet Cinema) - the beginnings of a concerted effort by the Party to monitor and control cinema cadres. Analysis of Vertov's work from the mid-1920s and Shub's presentation of Soviet history illustrates the implicit criticism of the economic and social ramifications of the NEP (New Economic Policy). At an early stage, non-fiction film and non-fiction film-makers contributed to the 'building' of the Soviet Union by creating the atmosphere ripe for a move away from a mixed economy to a centralised, industrial state. The central chapters are dominated by the frustrations of the regime with cinema's lack of 'success' as a propaganda medium. This frustration fuelled a movement towards more control and 'proletarianisation' as film-makers faced the opportunities and dangers of the coming cultural revolution. Vertov's CineEye school reached its artistic apotheosis and political nemesis as problems developed from the question of non-fiction film's use as a propaganda medium. The developments and controversies in and around Soviet non-fiction film become more and more clearly rich historical sources in themselves. While looking at the institutional history of Soviet non-fiction film it is possible to gain insights into the mechanisms and attitudes which shaped the more obviously 'historical' events of the 1930s. A whole chapter (5) of this history is handed over to an analysis of how the arrival of sound affected the documentary film-makers and the debate which raged about 'documentalism' 17 in the pages of Proletarskoe kino in 1931-32. The results of these fierce and often personal polemics bring into sharp focus the options open to film-makers about the choice of materials and means of

Introduction representation and beg the question as to why the 'non-fiction camp(s)' were so comprehensively beaten. One of the catch-all insults of this period was the accusation of 'Cine-Trotskiism'. An analysis of the uses of this term will give an insight into the historical development of the Soviet Union that extends beyond its film industry The later chapters deal with the films, film-makers and context of Stalin's cultural revolution in which the earlier pioneers struggled to find a place. The debates in the press, the official statements of the regime and the stylistic developments within fiction and non-fiction film all relate to a phenomenon which can be labelled 'the death of documentary integrity' which is at the centre of this study. This dangerous development is of direct relevance to an understanding of the events which occurred in the Soviet arts, media and society in general from the 1920s into the 1980s. The story which unfolds in this volume suggests that the developments of the 1920s led directly to the travesties of unplayed film that purported to portray the Soviet Union which they helped to create in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. As such, Chapter 8 acts as a continuation and post-script as well as an attempt to bring that story to a conclusion by looking at the renaissance of non-fiction film in the years of glasnost. It is possible to see a resurfacing of all the issues and problems which affected the 'unplayed' in the pre-war decades and to make some conclusions about non-fiction film and history in the Soviet Union. I fondly hope that the final chapter will serve both as a conclusion and as a pointer towards what I hope will be further research projects (including audience reception and more detailed institutional analysis) for myself and others.

1. Russian and Soviet Unplayed Film, 1898-1922

Cinema in Russia began with documentary. The first show given by the Lumiere brothers in the Russian Empire, on 4 May 1896, featured the legendary UArrivee du train en gare (which was of course a documentary short). The coronation of Tsar Nicholas II, which occurred in the same month, was the first event filmed on Russian soil. The Lumiere brothers issued The Coronation of the Tsar [Le Couronnement du Czar, 1916] throughout Europe. The film included scenes of the Tsar and Tsarina entering the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Kremlin and the foreign deputations arriving for the ceremony. The cinema in Russia at the turn of the century was a conduit for fiction. The films were short and usually of French origin. Much as in the West, Russian cinema in its early years was seen as a down-market form of cheap, shallow entertainment. However, as in France, Britain and later the USA, film exhibitors realised that greater profits (and a more permanent source of income) could be made from taking their enterprise up-market.1 Permanent theatres, longer films (with more efficient distribution) and pretensions to art and/or education were all part of this process. The showing of newsreel could help enhance the image of 'the illusions' [illiuziony]. Initially the problem was lack of material that was interesting to a Russian audience. Richard Taylor notes: 'the documentary film was boosted by the Russo-Japanese War and the 1905 Revolution.'2 The events of 1904-5 were a stimulus to interest in film reportage of actuality. Unfortunately, this demand could not be immediately satisfied. There was very little footage shot of the Russo-Japanese War. This was due to military secrecy, as well as embarrassment at failure, and the continuing lack of a specifically Russian newsreel production industry. A British company - Royal Vio - filmed the war from both sides. Felix Mesguich, who was employed by Lumiere, claimed to have filmed the 1904 assassination attempt and the 'Bloody Sunday' events of January 1905.3 There


Forward Soviet! is no evidence, beyond rumour, of the continuing or even initial existence of these films which were allegedly smuggled out of the Empire. It must be assumed that they and other 'historical, political and topical events' were staged at Vincennes for Pathe. A precedent was set for the infamous history of using reconstructions without informing the audience. A brief hiatus in Russian documentary occurred due to the post-1905 Revolution clamp-down. While French companies occasionally sent cameramen to capture events in Russia to be shown on the screens of Western Europe, the Russian state censor was unwilling to allow real events on to the screens of Moscow and St Petersburg or as a fairground attraction in the provinces. Gaumont initiated an explosion in non-fiction film activity in Russia with the release of a series of films made by the Romanovs' own court photographer, Kurt von Hahn-Jagielski. Apart from many parades and troop reviews, Russian audiences were allowed to see some non-royal scenes including T h e Third State Duma in Session' and 'Solemn procession of Pilgrims at Kiev'.4 The return of Russia, and its royals, to its own screens had an energising effect on all areas of the domestic industry. The demand for factual cinema is illustrated by the growth of regional newsreels in 1905. Originating mainly in the west of the Russian Empire, they were locally produced by companies which lacked the capital for expansion. However, their example stimulated the entrepreneurial vision of the State Duma's official photographer, Alexander Drankov, spurring him into action. In the autumn of 1907 he issued the following advertisement: FIRST IN RUSSIA CINEMATOGRAPHIC STUDIO

under the supervision of the well-known photographer for the Duma, A. O. Drankov Manufacturers of films for cinema theatres. Current subjects! Russian events on screen! Views of cities and countryside New subjects every week! By request, films can be taken in any community that so desires.5 Clearly, production was to begin with documentary. Also clearly, the shrewd businessman knew what the Russian public wanted. The idea of filming 'any community' - and presumably screening to that community - prefigures the attempts of post-1917 film-makers to hold a mirror up to ordinary citizens. Pathe countered this growing competition with the hugely popular Cossacks on the Don [Donskie kazaki, February 1908], 135 metres long and showing (staged) scenes of camp life and trick riding. Pathe then followed this with a series entitled Picturesque Russia (as shown in England in 1908), which had the

Russian and Soviet Unplayed Film beauty of appealing to Russian audiences and the viewers of other European countries. Highlights of the series included: 2. 8. 9. 12. 13. 14. 17. 19. 20. 21.

Manoeuvres of the naval squadron in the Black Sea (130m) Moscow flooded (90m) Picturesque Odessa (100m) Travelling on the Volga (105m) Scenes from Caucasian life (120m) Travels through Russia (100m) Picturesque Russia Picturesque Kiev The Moscow railway system Funeral of the Grand Duke Alexei 6

The same year, 1908, also marked the appearance of the first consistently distributed Russian-based newsreel. It was the product of Drankov and Co. A list of the first seventeen of these films is available in the archive of Cinema and Photographic Documents at Krasnogorsk.7 Only fragments of two remain. One shows a fire in Moscow and the efficient attempts to put it out. The other shows the opening of a theatre in St Petersburg.8 Unfortunately, like much of the earlier foreign production, Drankov's material was sometimes faked or even consisted of French newsreel with the titles changed to give the impression that the material was filmed in Russia. This was a particularly favourite ruse when dealing with fire. It was reasoned that one forest in flames looked pretty much like another. Faced with increasing domestic competition - in itself an indicator of demand - from Khanzonkov's production company, Drankov made attempts to go up-market. He did succeed in filming Tolstoy on a number of occasions, thus bringing some dignity to his production company, improving his image and giving the world, including Esfir Shub,9 a valuable archive resource. Unfortunately, the bulk of the surviving footage is of the great man's funeral; the rest is fragmentary to the point of being a series of stills. Approximately 1,800 newsreel films were issued in Russia between 1907 and the Great War. An impression of the nature and content of these films can be gained from Veniamin Vishnevsky's magisterial work on pre-revolutionary documentary.10 The image of Russia and its history which these films transmitted is a specific, imperial one. This is due to the choices of events and viewpoints which go beyond apparently straightforward reportage. The /^-revolutionary focus of this study militates against detailed analysis of this pre-revolution material. However, it is worth noting, for later comparison, how many films dealt with the ephemera of day-to-day life and official events throughout the Tsarist dominions. The value of so many films presenting Views' of various parts of the Empire11 must, in part, be to reinforce the concept of 'empire' itself. Cinema was the first medium which could perform

Forward Soviet! this task. The other key image of these films is of the grand occasions of the imperial state. The image of that state so carefully developed is brought to a climax with the Romanovs' jubilee celebrations which dominated production throughout the spring of 1913. Most of the pre-revolutionary material has been lost (in its original form) in the upheavals of the following eighty years.12 Documentary compilers' energetic re-editing in the ensuing decades has dissipated much of what was available in pristine form. During the war period (1914-17), the Skobelev Committee, originally an organisation for helping war veterans, was appointed by the Tsar and his military advisers to film and distribute films on war subjects. The committee issued a special war newsreel entitled Mirror of War [Zerkalo voiny]. Issue 1 contained the following items: Allied naval engagement in the North Sea/ Barbarous destruction of Louvain/Bombardment of Rheims.13 It is surely significant that the material is from the Western Front of the war. On one level this may be an attempt to justify involvement. A more likely reason is simply a lack of material.14 The most likely causes of the lack of material were incompetence and a lack of planning. As the war went on, the committee concentrated on films which stretched the newsreel material, usually of support for the front, by inserting dramatic action. No film was shot of the 26-28 February 1917 demonstrations which sparked the final overthrow of the Tsarist regime. Newsreel cameramen began filming on 1 March. Filmed material includes crowds milling on the streets of Petrograd and Moscow and the symbols of Tsarism being pulled down and destroyed. All of the film was handed over to the Skobelev Committee and was compiled into The Great Days of the Russian Revolution [Velikie dni Rossiiskoi Revoliutsii], produced by the Union of Patriotic Cinematographers. Donald C. Thompson, an American cameraman, filmed independently and produced Blood-Stained Russia for the US market.15 The Provisional Government was quick to seize the opportunity to use newsreel as a propaganda weapon. After February the Skobelev Committee formed a 'Department of Social Newsreels' which issued a regular newsreel Free Russia [Svobodnaia Rossiia]. The March editions include scenes of the release of political prisoners, including Bolsheviks, from Tsarist jails, the 19 March demonstrations organised by the League of Women's Rights and the 23 March funerals on the Field of Mars in Petrograd (the last features shots of the first Provisional Government). The newsreel changed character somewhat with the arrival of the military censor in April. Nevertheless, one of the May editions does show the first legal May Day demonstrations in Russia. The Petrograd footage shows Plekhanov, Kropotkin (who mimes the hand-cranking of a camera) and Kamenev Later editions show public speaking appearances from Trotsky, Kollontai and Lunacharsky. The one figure who, with hindsight, we would like to see - Lenin was missing. Indeed, in cinematographic terms he was missed.

Russian and Soviet Unplayed Film Grigorii Boltiansky had been a cameraman for the Department of Social Newsreels. He rushed to the Finland Station on the fateful day of Lenin's arrival. The train was late and the light faded: 'I succeeded only in seeing a brisk figure joyfully greeting friends and close comrades.'16 Lenin's reluctance to be filmed was understandable. Surely his main concern was that he was a wanted man for much of the summer of 1917. His avoidance of the camera during public appearances before his necessary period in hiding shows that he was not concerned with the enormous power of the medium. Of course, the other possibility is that Vladimir Ilyich shared the suspicion of mass media distortions' held by most public figures in the decades since. By the time of the seizure of power, Lenin was much more keen to grasp and control such a potent means of cultural production. The directors of the Skobelev Committee - Dementiev (a 'reformed' monarchist) and Marionov (a member of the anti-Bolshevik Socialist Revolutionary Party) - were determined to show a pro-government stance in Free Russia. Dementiev was a great believer in the power of cinema as a propaganda tool for the regime, whatever that regime might be.17 Nevertheless, the government dealt with the committee in its usual haphazard way, swapping it from one ministry to another, none of which was willing or able to supply it adequately. It was a prodigious achievement that Boltiansky got Free Russia on screen at all. He even managed to get film of Kerensky's visit to Kiev out within a week of shooting. However, it was not the government agency which organised the filming of the first major post-February event - the May Day parade in Moscow. That task was undertaken by the city Soviet's own film section. The cameraman was Alexei Lemberg.18 After May the Free Russia newsreel became much more clearly a vehicle for pro-Provisional Government propaganda. The June items included demonstrations against the Bolsheviks (focusing on a banner which states baldly: 'Russia is not a frog for the experiments of Lenin'). The choices of material clearly show the allegiance of the committee. The Women's Battalion of Death - those final defenders of the Provisional Government - is shown confidently drilling. The audience was also shown 'solidarity' visits from Emily Pankhurst as well as military delegations from the USA and Britain. The abortive coup of the 'July Days' is referred to only when we are shown the funeral of the Cossack 'victims of the Bolshevik mutiny'. August editions focus on the multi-party conference at the Alexandrinsky Theatre and in particular on Kerensky's arrival and his waving to cheering crowds from a balcony. Kerensky is increasingly the 'star' of Free Russia) specially featured are his friendly reception from troops, although it is unclear where these troops are stationed. The whole event looks suspiciously staged. The 'troops' look suspiciously clean, well and energetically enthusiastic. The background is not convincing. This touching scene appears to be filmed in a garden rather than at the front.19

Forward Soviet! As dual power developed in politics, industry and the armed forces, so two competing forces - workers and owners - struggled for control of the film industry. Alexei Lemberg, a central figure in the development of Soviet nonfiction cinema for five decades, painted a vivid picture of the inter-revolution months: The February revolution hardly changed conditions of work in the cinema at all, unless one counts the fact that the number of profiteers and dishonest dealers in films grew even more. Sensing that one could make a lot of money on films which reflected political events, these dealers immediately switched to shooting historical-revolutionary and documentary-type20 films. However, their historicalrevolutionary films were either devoted to the scandalous adventures of the Tsar's family or they praised the counter-revolutionary party ... Documentary films showing the struggle of workers and peasants under the leadership of the Bolsheviks were not allowed on to the screen by those dealers.21 Lemberg was dispatched to the front and claims to have found: a wave of Bolshevik agitation over the whole front. Voices were heard on every side: down with the war ... I began to photograph revolutionary activity in the army. My boss had planned to release a film journal from the front ... when he looked through all the film I had shot and saw the fraternisation of the soldiers, the Bolshevik meetings and the rifles with their bayonets stuck into the ground, he shouted that I was a Bolshevik. This was not true ... the journal was shown on the screen but in severely edited form.22 A series of labour disputes hamstrung official - i.e. Skobelev - film production. One of these disputes, involving 250 workers, was not settled before the events of October. The Kerensky government's final gift to Russian cinema was to close the cinemas for four days a week in an effort to save power. The November edition of the film industry paper Proektor denounced the measure and made a passing reference to the more significant events that had recently taken place in Petrograd and Moscow: T h e preceding lines had already been set up in type when events took place in Moscow that will radically alter the pattern of our lives ... The attitude of the new authorities towards the cinema is not known.' 23 To 'the new authorities' (the Bolsheviks), Marx's analysis contained in the German Ideology - 'The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force'24 - was an article of faith. The practitioners of revolutionary politics did not allow a too mechanistic and reflexive relationship between base and superstructure to cloud their understanding that the style and content of political material had to be carefully worked on. Plekhanov, 'the father of Russian Marxism', set out his thoughts in On the task of the socialists in the struggle with famine in Russia [O zadachakh

Russian and Soviet Unplayed Film sotsialistov v bor'be s golodom v Rossii]. Plekhanov was responsible for identifying two distinct types of activity within 'propaganda' - agitatsiia and propaganda: A propagandist presents many ideas to one or a few people: an agitator presents only a few ideas, but he presents them to a whole mass of people.'25 Many of the problems faced by Soviet cinema came from this agitatsiia/ propaganda distinction. As the quintessentially mass medium of the first half of the century, cinema had to be seen as a weapon for agitatsiia by the authorities. This led to pressures for simplicity and directness which distorted creative development, and quite possibly its effectiveness as a propaganda weapon. Lenin agreed wholeheartedly with Plekhanov both in the necessity for the spread of ideas and the distinction between agitatsiia and propaganda. In What is to be Done, Lenin takes Martov to task for obscuring Plekhanov's distinction. Lenin reasserts it: Hitherto we had thought (with Plekhanov, and with the leaders of the international working-class movement) that the propagandist ... must present 'many ideas'. So many, indeed, that they will only be understood as an integral whole only by a (comparatively) few persons. The agitator, however ... will direct his efforts to presenting a single idea to the 'masses'.26 Leaving aside the niceties of propagandist strategy for a moment, the new government of Russia had to attain cultural hegemony. The Bolsheviks were faced, in Gramsci's terms, with the difficulties of having triumphed in a 'war of position' without a convincing victory in the 'war of manoeuvre'. The citadel had been stormed but the trenches, in which counter-revolution could form, remained intact. As Lenin put it: 'In our country the political and social revolution preceded the cultural revolution.'27 In view of the urgent need to spread Bolshevik ideology, justify the seizure of power, and raise education levels (not least to increase economic efficiency), the People's Commissariat [Narkompros] was energetically setting up an agitprop machine to spread 'enlightenment'. It is hardly surprising that the Bolsheviks upon seizing power also set about taking control of and utilising the cinema industry. Some of the importance given to cinema can be gauged by the fact that the first head of the cinema subsection was Nadezhda Krupskaia. However, it should be noted that the subsection was a statement of intent rather than a practical organisation. Even nationalisation of the film industry was delayed out of fear of alienating private concerns. Nevertheless, local Soviets, actively encouraged by the Cheka, often took their own measures.28 As the skilled workers of pre-revolutionary cinema fled - often taking or destroying equipment and priceless film stock - the fabric of Russian cinema crumbled. The future of cinema in Russia now depended on a phalanx of enthusiastic tyros. Boltiansky, a relative veteran at thirty-two, was their leader and inspiration. Under Boltiansky's direction, the committee started to issue newsreels which were pro-Bolshevik in stance. In the run-up to the Constituent

Forward Soviet! Assembly, which could have threatened the legitimacy of the new regime, Free Russia showed columns of soldiers and workers parading in Petrograd with banners reading: 'Full confidence to the Soviet of People's Commissars'. Shots of T h e opening and disillusion of the Constituent Assembly' are bracketed with shots of pro-Bolshevik demonstrations. It was probably Moscow - as much, if not more, than Petrograd - that can claim to be the birthplace of a new Soviet cinema. The cinema committees of Moscow and Petrograd acted independently as part of an industry fragmented before and by the Revolution. Under the leadership of Preobrazhensky, the Moscow cinema committee was sited on Maly Gnezdnikovsky Lane.29 Among the staff were Vladimir Mayakovsky and Vladimir Tatlin. The newsreel section was placed, by order of Lunacharsky, under the leadership of Mikhail Koltsov. Koltsov, a recent arrival from Petrograd where he had joined the Bolsheviks, was only nineteen at the time. It was Koltsov who invited Eduard Tisse, a twenty-year-old with four years' experience, including two years at the front, to join his team of cameramen. Lev Kuleshov, experienced beyond his eighteen years, was already working for the cinema committee.30 Under conditions of shortage and chaos of supply and communications, the Moscow Cinema Committee, under the auspices of the Commissariat of Enlightenment, claimed the honour of producing the first post-revolution newsreel.31 This weekly production, entitled Cine-Week [Kinonedelia], ran from June 1918 until July 1919 when the exigencies of the civil war ceased production until 1922. The main features of Cine-Week were the direct style and concentration of subject matter on to the institutions and leadership of the new state. Seth R. Feldman32 identifies sixty-seven such items, i.e. 30 per cent of the total, including the opening of a kindergarten by a village soviet (edn 3) and the Sixth AllRussian Congress of Soviets (edn 24). The portrayal of Soviet institutions, by extension, created an image of the Bolshevik Party as a permanent fixture and as an agent for change in the new order. Clearly, a central aim of this series was to show how the new regime was surviving and functioning and had no intention of being 'provisional'. Even the fact that the series is a series and advertised itself as weekly and continuous underlines the intention to survive and projects an image of confidence. The filming technique is straightforward, the camera work not noticeably different from earlier newsreels made by Drankov or the Skobelev Committee. The material - usually seven or eight short (one-minute or two-minute) episodes - follow the Free Russia tradition of focusing on personalities. There is a more lively feel to Cine-Week, not least due to the short duration of the sections. The featuring of leading personalities was particularly useful in giving the Party an accessible, human face. The early editions of Cine-Week featured film portraits of members of Sovnarkom and other important committees. Thus Trotsky (arriving at Penza to review the troops), Kalinin (always in discussion with peasants), even Felix Dzerzhinsky became living realities to a large

Russian and Soviet Unplayed Film audience. Edition 22 (Moscow issue date 29 October 1918) showed Lenin strolling in the Kremlin gardens after Fanny Kaplan's abortive assassination attempt. This was a way of dispelling rumours of the leader's demise. Until that point the reminiscences of newsreel cameramen give many instances of Lenin actively avoiding being filmed.33 The key figure in the early development of Soviet newsreel, if not Soviet cinema as a whole, was a young experimenter from Bialystok. His given name was Denis Kaufman. His chosen name was Dziga Vertov.34 He had come to Moscow before the Revolution to study at the Institute of Neurology, not least because it had a less than average level of anti-Semitism in its admissions policy. As a student he threw himself into avant-garde circles and was engaged in primitive sound montage experiments heavily influenced by the Italian Futurists: in the spring of 1918, I was returning from the railway station. In our ears still the sighs and bangs of the departing train ... laughter, whistling, voices, the strikes of a station clock, the puffing of a steam engine ... whispers, exclamations, farewells, and our thoughts are in motion; one must, at least, obtain an apparatus which will not be used to describe but to record, to photograph these sounds.35 As an enthusiast for all things modern - and recording equipment in particular - it was inevitable that the young Kaufman would become involved in the cinema: I t is impossible to organise them otherwise. They run past - as time runs past. Perhaps a camera? That records the visual. But to organise the visual world not the audible world? Is this the answer? At this moment I met Mikhail Koltsov who offered me a job in the cinema.' 36 Koltsov had indeed offered Vertov a job but, rather unromantically, as a clerk. Soon all the experienced film-makers who had not fled the Revolution were working at the many fronts of the civil war. Vertov found himself employed in selecting material for the weekly newsreel. Some time around the production of numbers 18-19 (i.e. October 1918), Vertov took up sole charge of the selection/compilation duties.37 During this period the cameramen, e.g. Kuleshov and Tisse, and the editing staff worked in difficult conditions and often with very little film. The lack of material available, seen in conjunction with the need for speed, accuracy and maximum effectiveness and minimum wastage in the editing process were dominant factors in the development of a Soviet cinematic language very different to what had gone before in both fiction and non-fiction film. A clear difference from earlier films is the drastic shortening of shots, scenes and items. The use of the term Soviet cinema is an attempt to differentiate a film form which achieves its characteristic content, structure and look from montage rather than mise-en-scene. There may be only a fairly short-lived period of artistic hegemony for this form but it is clearly possible to argue that it was the truly Soviet (revolutionary) style.


Forward Soviet! Much research has been done in recent years on the cinema of prerevolutionary Russian cinema.38 Clear links have been drawn between these films and the films of the immediately post-revolutionary period. Faced with the masses of evidence it would be foolish to deny this. However, it makes the development of a new and different form of cinema in the following years all the more interesting and necessary to explain. Let us not forget that Kuleshov worked in pre-revolutionary cinema. His own early features such as Idle Dreams [Obozhzhennie Kryl'ia] and Sin [Grekh] are from that cinematographic world.39 The formative experience for many of the future masters of Soviet cinema was front-line work during the world and civil wars. The first agit-train, naturally named V. I. Lenin, was dispatched to give ideological guidance to the troops fighting to regain the Kazan area from the rampaging Czech Legion. The train contained a printing press and a theatre group. Eduard Tisse was placed on board to lead a film crew. Soon this material was being shown in Moscow and then circulated to the growing network of 'agit-stations' [agitpunkty] and on to the trains and boats built to bring revolutionary enlightenment, education and motivation to those areas still held by the Reds.40 The experience of the first train inspired Trotsky to order five similar 'literary instruction' trains. On 31 January 1919 the Central Executive Committee of the Supreme Soviet created a special commission to run the fleet. The aim of these trains was direct agitation on the move. Krupskaia's diary written while travelling on The Red Star [Krasnaia zvezda] in the summer of 1919 shows how hard the task was. Areas visited were just as likely to receive a return call by Kolchak's forces soon after. Krupskaia hardly mentions cinema at all except when noting how much children liked it.41 Vertov consolidated his position as chief editor while struggling to get archive footage for The Anniversary of the Revolution [Godovshchina Revoliutsii], largely relying on the cannibalisation (and ignoring the dates) of early Cine-Weeks.42 Lev Kuleshov was more directly involved in the action the newsreels featured. Kuleshov filmed on the Eastern Front in 1918-19. Kuleshov's recollection of filming on the front shows life to have been difficult to say the least: One day for instance we [Kuleshov and Tisse] set off on a lorry. I, as director, had charge of the machine gun. Tisse occupied himself with the heavy and cumbrous Debrie camera. When we were about three hundred metres from the white guns, they opened fire on us. Tisse managed to film thirty exploding shells all of which were intended for us. When we finally abandoned it [the lorry], the thirty-first blew it to bits.43 Interestingly for his own and Soviet cinema's future development, Kuleshov's effort On the Red Front [Na Krasnom fronte] combined fictional agitka material with documentary material: Tt was an agit film in two reels, partly staged and partly documentary. Actual war material was mixed with staged sequences showing the daily life of the front-line.'44 Smilga, head of the Revolutionary

Russian and Soviet Unplayed Film Military Council on the Western Front, took Kuleshov's crew on to his train. Thus they could get very close to the action. The film itself is based on the formula of American 'chase' movies. By the spring of 1919, even with a civil war raging, the Party was taking a public interest in cinema matters. The Eighth Party Congress (March 1919) passed a resolution 'On Political Propaganda and Cultural Enlightenment Work in the Countryside' which stressed that: 'Cinema, theatre, concerts, exhibitions etc. as far as possible in rural conditions must be used for communist propaganda.' Lectures were not enough: 'such readings would be strongly augmented by visual demonstrations with the aid of cinema.'45 Impatience was already growing with cinema's failure to blossom as a widespread agitational medium. This led to moves towards nationalisation. The Moscow Cinema Committee was replaced by VFKO [Vserossiiskii Fotokinematograficheskii Otdel Narkomprosa], i.e. The All-Russian Cinematographic Section of the Council of Ministers and therefore under direct government control.46 Lemberg's memoirs show that some form of direction was required: 'The resources which the Cinema Committee commanded were so limited that each of us had to hunt up the money, camera and film to carry out filming.'47 Lemberg names the whole staff of the committee. They numbered twelve. He then goes on to recount his front-line experience with the Tenth Army defending Tsaritsyn. In this he concentrates on technical difficulties: With me were one hundred and twenty metres of negative film I had been given, with the suggestion that I find the rest of the film myself ... With great difficulty, at third hand, I managed to exchange front-line rations for three boxes of negative film, that is three hundred and sixty metres ... I considered myself rich ... It is clear that the shooting had to be done with precise calculation, not only without repetitions and duplication, but also that every exposed piece could be inserted in its entirety into the film ... Having adjusted myself to the circumstances I began filming ... From my films a film in two parts, called The Defence of Tsaritsyn, was put together in Moscow.48 Lemberg returned from civil war duty and offered his services as a cameraman to the man he had worked for on the southern front: Dziga Vertov. During the war, Vertov had been a pioneer in the new form of longer, single theme, documentary films.49 After the civil war Vertov returned from several trips to the front to work on newsreel editing again, for a series called Goskinokalendar\ in addition he completed his compilation of his own earlier newsreels and material shot under his direction on the Western and Eastern fronts as the civil war came to its victorious end. The film was entitled The History of the Civil War [Istoriia Grazhdanskoi Voiny]. Running to an epic three hours, it was released in June 1921 to coincide with the Comintern conference. It would take its place as part of the image-building project for the Soviet leadership as

Forward Soviet! leaders of world socialism by dint of the successful struggles undertaken and sacrifices made. The History of the Civil War was subtitled 'Pictures of the struggles of Soviet Forces with the Counter-Revolutionaries'.50 The four pictures are T h e White Terror', T h e Suppression of the Counter-Revolutionary Insurrection', T h e Partisan Movement' and T h e Partisan Movement (continued)'. From Feldman's speculative analysis it is possible to get an impression of a straightforward narrative which may have been encumbered with very lengthy and cumbersome explanatory titles e.g.: The power of the workers and peasants, their nation having been bled by an imperialist war, had to endure a long struggle with class enemies inside their own country.51 or: There emerged at the beginning of the Civil War volunteer units, centrally organised52 which rendered to the still young and inexperienced Red Army considerable help in putting pressure on its enemies.53 Soon Vertov would be working on fewer and fewer titles. Titles would be shortened to one phrase, as a maximum, in a move towards a style which tried to eschew titles altogether. The straightforward presentation of Goskinokalendar was not enough for Vertov, even when it could be woven into an epic narrative like History of the Civil War. In May 1922 Vertov launched his new project named, with typical bravado, Cine-Pravda [Kinopravda]. The film-maker clearly wanted to make links with the official organ of the Communist Party as well as to celebrate the presentation of Truth' [Pravda]. Now Vertov was ready to create more homogeneous films which would be structured around theme rather than narrative. They were deliberately distanced from his previous and concurrent newsreel work. In Lenin's terms this was a move from agitation to propaganda, or, as Jennifer Oille puts it: 'episodic events, news yielded to the construction of events into a thematic whole.'54 The civil war experience had convinced Vertov that the future of cinema particularly as a propaganda medium - was to be in non-fiction.55 His experience in the countryside had shown him that the audience was free of expectations due to a lack of theatrical as well as cinematic experience. Therefore there was no need to follow the conventions of narrative fiction: T was the manager of the cinema carriage on one of the agit-trains ... The viewers were illiterate or semi-illiterate peasants. They could not read the subtitles. These unspoiled viewers could not understand the theatrical conventions.'56 This is a point which could have been considered in the desperate 'intelligibility' campaigns which would come later. In any event, the fictional agitki of the civil war years were failures in artistic and functional terms. Boltiansky criticised

Russian and Soviet Unplayed Film the agitki as 'overtly theatricar 57 and damned the overuse of subtitles caused by the inability of filmed fiction to make itself, and its political point, clear. 'Ultimately the film only illustrated the subtitles.'58 Cine-Pravda 1 was issued on 6 June 192259by the All-Russian Cinema Section. In less than 230 metres Vertov covers three items: (1) The work of the Central Committee for aid against famine to rescue starving children; (2) 'Flights over Moscow of the German Junkers airplane for the benefit of the hungry'; and (3) the Trial of SRs' (Socialist Revolutionaries) which was illustrated, due to lack of access to the trial itself, by demonstrations. This trial was to be a big feature in the early editions of Cine-Pravda) indeed, after a short piece about the opening of an electrity generating station, all of Cine-Pravda 2 is taken up with further coverage of it. Clearly, the focus of this weekly newsreel is not only political, it is metropolitan. This may well be due to constraints of time and the oft-bemoaned lack of penetration into the countryside. The modernist/ constructivist viewpoint of the early Soviet film-makers would also tend to draw them to urban subjects. There was also a deliberate attempt to propagandise the activity of the centre of the recently saved and consolidated Soviet state. Cine-Pravda 3 continues the trial coverage for all of its 174 metres. Edition 4 features the trial but only as one of four items. A notable moment is a view of the crowd, during which we see a couple of gentlemen buy a paper to read news of the event. These are none other than Vertov and his brother. Item 2 purports to be about a trip from Moscow to Sebastopol. It actually shows the beginning of the journey through the streets of Moscow. Item 3 brings together two favourites, the role of central control and the struggle against hunger: 'Moscow - The dispatch of a barge with bread to the starving provinces.' The message is also that central co-ordination could overcome such terrible problems. Edition 5 begins with more footage of 'The trial of the SRs'. The audience would also have been treated to the first of the 'Cine-Portraits'. The honour goes to 'People's Commissar for agriculture Vasili Yakovlenko', the titles pointing out that he was a partisan in Siberia. We see him meeting peasants and comrades from his partisan activities. Perhaps of more importance is the chance to see tractors and 'new' agricultural techniques. The rest of the edition concentrates on leisure. Items feature both the rest camps of the Caucasus and a sporting event in the capital. The last item, 'Races in the Moscow Hippodrome', shows the speed of the new newsreel. The titles proudly point out that the races took place on 2 June. The film was released on the 7th. Edition 6 is the shortest of the series, yet it contains five items. All of these focus on various aspects of Moscow life, from 'Tramway catastrophe' to a series of factory scenes and some sporting scenes. It is perhaps the most similar to the previous newsreels from Drankov to Cine-Week) as such it is the least interesting to the historian, although it is interesting to note that in the early


Forward Soviet! 1920s it was still acceptable to show bad news at home. There is also an interesting stylistic point. The result of the accident is shown as a series of shots from various angles edited together. Previously this scene would certainly have been constructed as a single shot (possibly from a mounted camera moving past). Even in the most mundane moment, Vertov and his team are trying to move towards a more dynamic, searching approach. To a viewer of the time this short varied film may have given a feeling of life in the capital continuing as normal. It may also be an illustration of a dull summer week in Moscow. Number 7 is almost twice as long as its predecessor and begins with a caption which draws attention to the makers of the film and gives notice of a new, more adventurous and visually exciting style: 'Newsreel experiments [opyti khroniki] of Dziga Vertov. Captions executed by Rodchenko.' It begins straightforwardly with more footage of the Socialist Revolutionaries' trial. But this edition contains seven more items and takes the viewer to Siberia, Lake Baikal, Sochi, Tuapse, Persia and Afghanistan. The raw material obviously comes from a number of sources (cameramen). The style which utilises shorter sequences and a greater number of shorter shots equally obviously comes from Vertov and his editor Elizaveta Svilova. The titles are brief, take up less screen time and, when they are on the screen, are full of movement, symbols and type changes. After the experiments of number 7, the next three editions were much more typical of the early numbers. Number 9 is interesting for its self-referential nature. Three of the four items deal with cinema. This edition could be seen as a tentative step towards longer, single-subject documentaries. It was during the Cine-Pravda period that Vertov began his fierce publicity campaign to defend the integrity and value of non-fiction film. It was Vertov, along with Kuleshov, who changed the nature of the debate within Soviet cinema from the question of the relationship to theatre60 to a more selfreferential (and so more confident, filmic and modern) one relating to what cinema itself should be about. Vertov had been joined by his wife Elizaveta Svilova, a virtuoso film editor whom he had met during the work on CineWeek, and his brother, Mikhail Kaufman, who had recently been demobbed from the Red Army and was to emerge as one of the greatest and most fearless cameramen to stand, lie or be suspended behind a Debrie camera. They dubbed themselves T h e Council of Three' or Kinoki (the Cine-Eyes). The term oki is used as a playful colloquial alternative to the word glaz (oko means eye and is related to okno: a window, and has an aural similarity to okolo: around, about). Where the all-powerful single 'eye' was the camera, the eyes were those of the three film-makers. Their first manifesto 'We' [My] was published in August 1922 (as they were producing Cine-Pravda 8, 9 and 10): 'We call ourselves CineEyes as distinct from cinematographers, that flock of junk dealers who do rather well peddling their rags ... We think the psychological Russo-German film-drama, weighed down with apparitions and childhood memories, is absurd.'61

Russian and Soviet Unplayed Film The article continues: We invite you - away from the sweet embraces of romance, from the poison of the psychological novel, from the clutches of the theatre of adultery, with our backsides to music, - away out into the open, into four dimensions (three plus time) in search of our own material, our own meter and rhythm.62 As his journalism veered towards poetry, Vertov's film series developed. A poetic filn? language was evolving. Wider connections were made, more complete conclusions were suggested. As the Pravda review of Cine-Pravda 8 put it: 'It was a film of our total life.'63 Beyond technical excellence the Vertov team were trying to make points about the connections of a total social reality and how to capture it. This was necessarily a political (as well as a modernist) project. It involves a questioning attitude to reality and realism but an unquestioning worship of modernisation, urbanisation and by extension centralisation. In those early days it was possible for the kinoki and the Party to believe they were striving for the same goal and even using the same methods. The eulogistic Pravda review of number 8 notes: Tn general Cine-Pravda received the undivided attention of the audience and from a technical point of view, filming and subtitles, it was a complete success.'64 What the reviewer does not mention is that Vertov and Kaufman were barred from the conclusion of the Socialist Revolutionaries' trial they had done so much to publicise.65 September and October of 1922 saw only two editions of Cine-Pravda: numbers 11 and 12. This sudden slowing in production was due to a number of reasons. One was the constant problem of lack of resources. Another was time. Vertov was working on his own propaganda campaign which would utilise the press as well as celluloid. In addition it seems likely that the team was working full out with Rodchenko on preparation of what could be described as the first masterpiece of the series. Cine-Pravda 13, 'On the Fifth Anniversary of the Revolution', is catalogued as Oktiabr'skaia. This longer film (350m - approx. 17 minutes at silent speed) illustrates how a thematic whole - a central point of the Cine-Eye method could be achieved. This aim is helped by its role as celebration of an anniversary. Vertov employed some stunning images, beginning with titles designed by Rodchenko. The first caption proudly proclaims the makers of this work: 'Scenario and montage Dziga Vertov. Titles by the artist Rodchenko.' No one else is credited. The film begins with a bold confident statement and takes a historical/ argumentative structure which leads to a call to arms. According to the

Forward Soviet! TsGAKFD catalogue, the first section begins with the title: '5 years of Octobers'. The copy available at Krasnogorsk begins with a Rodchenko title which states: ON RED SQUARE

The first newsreel material shows demonstrations of celebration for both 6 October and the fourth meeting of the Communist International. The dominant personality of the film is Trotsky. The crowd shots are wonderful. We see the size and diversity of the crowd but the camera keeps picking up particular faces. These images are augmented by shots of 'cities, villages and factories (shot from a plane)'. These establishing shots (meant in an ideological as well as historical and geographical sense) are followed by more footage of the Comintern Congress. The film concentrates on Trotsky before presenting 'Stills of V. I. Lenin'. The titles proclaim: All are called, All, All to the proletarian October.' The second section of the film is titled: 5 YEARS OF STRUGGLE

'Shots from various newsreels from the time of the Civil War' features an early Soviet cartoon which shows the map of the new state as it changed through 1918 and 1919. Footage of Trotsky is followed by a brief glimpse of an obviously posing Kolchak, but we quickly return to the commander of the Red Army. Kalinin is shown working on a 'working holiday' [subbotnik] and many leading figures attend the funeral of Sverdlov. This section ends with harrowing newsreel shots of 'Hunger': children stare at the camera, bodies litter the screen. Significantly this footage is followed immediately by a caption signalling: TRANSITION TO THE NEW ECONOMIC POLICY

'NEP' is illustrated by several shots of Kalinin - the icon of all things rural. He reads a newspaper whose title is 'Link' [smychka]. The final section, showing volunteers in the countryside and grain being collected, is titled: FROM HUNGER TO HARVEST

The third section is announced as 'The Political Gentleman of the other camp'. Red Army soldiers carry lion dummies on which sit 'capitalists' and caricatures of Vanderbilt, Lloyd George and Ramsay MacDonald.


Russian and Soviet Unplayed Film SEE R E D M O S C O W T O D A Y

introduces aerial shots from a balloon. Demonstrators fill the streets of the capital. LOOK KEENLY AT THE PROGRESS THROUGH THE SQUARE OF THE RANKS OF THE RED A R M Y By this stage the viewer may be feeling that Rodchenko's contribution is mainly to give the titles a somewhat hysterical tone. Much of the footage is rather mundane. However there is no denying the energy of the presentation or the importance of a project which gave the everyday activities of everyday people (who made up the audience) a heroic treatment. After the motivating myth comes the call for further effort: L E T US T R A V E L T H E ROAD TO T H E H E A R T O F T H E W O R K I N G CLASS L E T US R A I S E O U R O R G A N I S A T I O N I N M I L I T A R Y L E T US A C H I E V E S O M E T H I N G IN T H E W O R L D O F TO H E A L O U R W O U N D S





The film ends with more heroicised everyday activity. All of these activities are important. All are aimed at renewing and modernising the Soviet state, e.g. 'the training course' and 'the machinery course'. Both of these sequences feature citizens learning to use technology. The Pravda reviewer clearly thought Vertov was on the right course: 'party workers should assemble in the V.F.K.O. screening room and when the lights die down they would see on the screen Cine-Truth the Fifth Anniversary. CineTruth is made boldly, deftly, professionally.'66 Vertov slowed down his Cine-Pravda production after number 13. Only four were produced in over a year. Even of these few, edition 16 is missing. All we have is Boltiansky's note of its three sections: 'Spring Exhibitions, A Meeting of Communists liberated from Polish prisons, The Lottery.' Vertov's later comments on the difficulties he was facing at this time and the criticism of edition 14 may explain the slow-down in production and the material missing from the archive.67 Cine-Pravda 14 (issued November 1922) is of interest as further evidence of the Vertov/Rodchenko collaboration. Section 1 looks at the 'Fourth Congress of the Comintern'. 'On the one hand ... America' features shots of New York skyscrapers, followed by a map of the world. The globe turns. 'And on the other' features shots of the RSFSR with another symbolic/topographical shot: the Kremlin. The 'Fourth Congress of the Comintern' features footage of delegates exuding friendly international bonhomie.

Forward Soviet! Section 2 begins with the title 'Profintern'. We see shots of the second Profintern congress.68 Now it is becoming clear our theme is (Soviet-sponsored and -inspired) internationalism in its many forms. The banner of the Profintern flutters with the slogan 'Workers of the world unite' in Russian, German, French and English. The final shots show a textile workers' congress. The film finishes with three titles 'Lenin', 'Lenin' and - with a most interesting choice of word - 'we have faith' [verim]. Before his next film Vertov returned to print with a contribution to the Constructivist periodical Kino-fot. This was a forum, dominated as it was by Alexei Gan and Rodchenko, in which he could expect a favourable and sympathetic reception. His article is a barely controlled howl of frustration: 'With the speed of international communications and the lightning dispatch of filmed material the Film-Gazette [Kinogazeta] ought to be a "survey of the world every few hours".' 69 This is a stunning vision for early 1923. Vertov is calling for what a late-twentieth-century audience would recognise as a television news service. However, he then goes on to face a more prosaic reality: 'It is not. We must face up to this.' Vertov then launches into a passage of powerful imagery: 'The Cine-Pravda is a car kept on a leash, an aeroplane trapped beneath a ceiling: it cannot be a film gazette.'70 The reason (for Vertov) is simple: 'The release of Cine-Pravda as a periodical film magazine is a strategic retreat resulting from economic causes.' Vertov's demands are bold and, in at least one case, open to deep suspicion from the authorities: 'a permanent establishment of contributors, on-the-spot correspondents, and the means to maintain them and move them about, an adequate supply of film-stock and the opportunity for practical links with foreign countries. The absence of even one of these factors is enough to kill the film-gazette.'71 Vertov finishes not with expected bravado, but with the somewhat hopeless pleading which would become his usual tone in later, and harder, times: 'Independent of the changes in the Photographic and Cinematographic Section of Narkompros, the only revolutionary government in the world must have and must defend the revolutionary film-gazette.'72 However inadequate he felt his efforts and support to be, Vertov continued to struggle with film form in his Cine-Pravda series. Edition 15 is titled 'the work of Dziga Vertov'. This film, longish for the series (450m), has been largely ignored. This is probably due to the fact that it is not part of the Rodchenko series or one of the set-piece 'celebrations' with its own title. However, it is a very interesting film full of invention and material and treatments which raise profound artistic and historical questions. The opening credits make an explicit point about the construction of the work: 'Captions/inscriptions on the work [nadpisi na suzhete] of cameraman Frantsisson. Captions/inscriptions on the exercises [nadpisi na dvizhenii] of Beliakov and Kaufman.' Later propagandists would have rejected such transparency.

Russian and Soviet Unplayed Film Section 1 is entitled Against War' and shows a session of the disarmament conference in Moscow focusing on the Polish delegates. Section 2 is Against God', illustrated by an anti-religion demonstration in Moscow. Marchers are dressed as caricatures of priests and other clergy. There then follows what can only be described as a staged drama. A young man is seen entering 'his room' where he takes down an icon and replaces it with an anti-religious poster. We then see him at a Komsomol ceremony. Section 3 gives us 'THE HAMMER OF KNOWLEDGE.' A Red Army library reading room is full of soldiers. Section 4 is 'AGIT-MISSILES' [Agitsnariady]. Red Army soldiers, rather oddly, load a big gun with leaflets. An interesting idea but an odd visual image for a documentary. Section 5 - 'Health' - shows a Red Army hockey match. The next section deals with 'Courage' and shows the morning exercises of sailors in Petrograd. Section 7 is 'MOSCOW ... On Guard' [Na strazhe], where coverage of military activity is followed by a visit to a school and a factory. The film finishes with 'The Danger of War' as a map of Western Europe clearly shows the viewer the areas which are the possible breeding grounds of the next war. So an innovative and inventive film closes as it had begun: with a clear construction of an argument rather than a simplistic, realistic presentation of what we might be tempted to term 'life caught unawares' [zhizn' vrasplokh]. This term, coined by Vertov, is usually taken to suggest that Vertov is looking to present unmediated, unstaged reality.73 Yet this film made at the time of the vrasplokh campaign is clearly, and openly, manipulating and even creating a diegesis.74 Cine-Pravda 17 does have its own title: THE FIRST AGRICULTURAL AND CRAFT TRADE EXHIBITION OF THE USSR, 'The work of Kinok [the first use of this term on film] Dziga Vertov' This edition is also notable for the furious pace of its presentation. Fourteen separate items are featured in just 15 minutes. In addition, many items are introduced or illustrated by inventive animations in which the ideas of travel, production and transportation dominate. Section 1 begins with the bald statement: 'HUNGER'. Women gather in a field of grain.75 Section 2 is just as direct: 'THE HARVEST'. The farm workers go about their business: ploughing, sowing and harvesting. Section 3 shows their children. Section 4 focuses on the most famous peasant in the land: 'The All-Russian village elder M. I. Kalinin' shown with a group of peasant children. Next we see 'Children of the workers' enjoying that year's 23 June school holiday. Miners' children are seen composing a telegram to Lenin: 'Dear grandfather Vladimir Il'yich, we, the children of the miners of Shcherbinov mines on the day of our school holiday send to you wishes for a speedy recovery' Section 6 shows undated footage of the leader. The film finishes with shots from the trade exhibition. An establishing shot is followed by a visit from Lunacharsky. An animation of the plan of the exhibition includes a shot of the red flag and a portrait of Lenin 'in living flowers'. Vertov had perfected an approach to filming and producing finished newsreel.

Forward Soviet! He had taken the form to new heights with his Cine-Pravda series. By 1923 he was experiencing frustration at the scope of the form. The civil war was already history. The Soviet Union was established and its citizens and ruling party were building a new type of state and society. The time was right to build a new type of cinema, which made history as well as reporting and re-reporting it, and Vertov's team believed they were best equipped to do so.

2. Vertov and the Cine-Eye

In 1923 Vertov was in the process of turning away from reportage and moving towards a more lengthy exposition of analytical approaches to 'life caught unawares'. The Party press was still more than encouraging of his efforts. In Pravda on 25 May the reader was informed: ' Cine-Pravda is an illustrated living newspaper ... a newspaper with which none of the printed journals can compete. Neither can still photography. In a newsreel information is totally visual and thus accessible to the masses.'1 Vertov, in a move typical of his career, was decisively shifting away from a newsreel project just when his political masters were appreciating its worth and encouraging it as policy. In its stead Vertov was practising and developing a wide range of techniques in preparation for the longer, more complex works he was to essay in the following years. In the summer of 1923 Vertov returned to his propaganda campaign in print with an article entitled T h e Cine-Eyes. A Revolution', published in Lef in June. The article is a mixture of sections of previous manifestos, including We, and a eulogy to the power of the 'Cine-Eye'. It is also a clear statement of the Vertov group's commitment to documentary and important because it contains some radical ideas about film technique: Our starting point is: the use of the camera as a Cine-Eye, more perfect than the human eye for examining the chaos of visual phenomena that resemble space ... MAKE WAY FOR THE MACHINE!

We cannot make our eyes any better than they have been made but we can go on perfecting the camera for ever.2 A film-maker must, though, beware of producing images, or combinations of images, so dense that the audience is lost. In any event, the Soviet audience may well have been looking for entertainment with its enlightenment; if indeed it was looking for enlightenment at all.


Forward Soviet! The article makes an interesting political point: 'We consider the situation on the cinema front to be unfavourable. The first new Russian productions that we have been shown recall, as was to be expected, the old "fictional" models just as Nepmen recall the old bourgeoisie.'3 It is this disillusioned reference to the New Economic Policy of a limited return to the market economy that is so intriguing. It is not unusual to find this sentiment expressed later but at that time it certainly put Vertov and his team on the left, even possibly in line with the 'left opposition' within the Party. In hindsight, and the Stalinist regime would be extraordinarily fond of hindsight, this position could be damned as 'Trotskyite'. For the Bolsheviks, theoretical manifestos were not enough. In April 1923 an impatient line on culture had been put forward by the Twelfth Party Congress. The 'Resolution on the Questions of Propaganda, the Press and Agitation' was a document of fifty-eight clauses which as usual (the pattern was also seen in Pravda) dealt with cinema and theatre together.4 Section 1 aimed for a single system of 'communist enlightenment' [komprosveshchenie] to eradicate political illiteracy, particularly among the peasantry and nonRussian nationalities. Typically of the Party, the problems were seen as ones which could best be solved by trained urban cadres in a directing role. Trotsky followed the congress line in an extensive article published in Pravda on 12 June entitled 'Vodka, the Church and the Cinema': The character of a child is revealed and formed in its play. The character of an adult is clearly manifested in his play and amusements. But in the forming of the character of a whole class, when this class is young and moves ahead, like the proletariat, amusements and play ought to occupy a prominent position. The most important weapon [amusement as a weapon of collective education] in this respect, a weapon excelling any other, is, at the present day, the cinema ... 5 In this article Trotsky makes a fundamental mistake about the nature of cinema. He makes claims for cinema which would become part of Bolshevik orthodoxy, largely to cinema's detriment: 'The cinema satisfies ... in a very direct, visual, picturesque and vital way, requiring nothing from the audience'. 6 Naturally Trotsky goes on to call for urgent action: 'The cinema is a great competitor not only of the public-house, but of the church ... Here is an instrument which we must secure at all costs!'7 It is important to note here the utterly naive approach to the relationship between the form and the viewer. Seduced by the power of the medium, Trotsky, like so many others, fails to see that the understanding of film has to involve a level of cinema literacy. The urgent issue of 1923 was not so much Trotsky's concern to find a replacement for drink and religion in the workers' free time as how to produce any films at all. In September 1923 the newly established limited company Russfilm launched a desperate search for material. As part of the New Economic Policy of the use of market forces, the company launched a script

Vertov and the Cine-Eye competition. The first prize was 1,500 gold (not paper) roubles. The rules of the competition include four out of nine categories which could have been treated in documentary form: • • • •

The everyday life of the workers and peasants past and present. Contemporary everyday life (not workers' and peasants'). Modernised daily life. The everyday life of Nepmen. 8

Vertov was dealing with all these topics; committed as he was to the capturing of life as and how it happened, he could not have submitted a detailed script. In January 1924 attention was focused on a real-life event of great significance for the whole country: the death of the leader. The Goskino newsreel [Goskinokalendar] treated the trauma with a most interesting political sensitivity. In edition 12 (of late February) coverage begins with a mournful scene: workers gathered at the opening ceremony of a memorial to Lenin (22 January 1924). This is followed by a scene of the funeral's organisers - Dzerzhinsky, Bonch-Bruevich and Voroshilov - on Red Square emerging from the temporary mausoleum. What is interesting is that the rest of the film does not dwell on misery but on activity. The final two items are a feature on a factory canteen and a visit from an Italian delegation. The message is simple: life must go on, further triumphs must be achieved. The Soviet state has a duty to continue Lenin's pioneering work. Edition 13 begins with a celebration of the sixth anniversary of the Red Army featuring parades also seen in Cine-Pravda 13. Where the Cine-Pravda focuses on crowds and long shots of the whole scene, the newsreel still focuses on personalities. This approach would gain dominance as the Lenin personality cult was followed by the years of the Stalin cult and worship of 'heroes'. The state newsreel carried no specific item on the dead leader until edition 16 (April) when one (of two) items deals with the unveiling of a memorial to Lenin's arrival at the Finland Station seven years before. The camera dwells on the message on the statue's plinth: 'Lenin is dead, but his work lives.' The following editions return to the usual material of meetings and demonstrations in the capital, with the notable exception of Goskinokalendar 22 (June) which is a compilation of meetings taking place throughout the new republic. This rather dull sequence does give an impression of normality and the intention to carry on the task of building on the achievements of Lenin's rule. The manner of the presentation here - and in the roughly contemporary Cine-Pravda 18 is still to look forward, not back. For Soviet cinema 1924 was a time of beginnings rather than endings. The Mantsev Commission - mandated by the Central Committee itself - was meeting to discuss the complete restructuring of the cinema industry. In May 1924 the Party gathered for the Thirteenth Party Congress. Naturally the 'best weapon of propaganda' came under further consideration:


Forward Soviet! In the hands of the Party cinema must be the most powerful means of Communist education and agitation. The attention of the broad proletarian masses, party and professional organisations, must be drawn to this matter. Hitherto the Party has nowhere near succeeded in using cinema in an appropriate manner and in controlling it. ... The congress reiterates the resolution of the 12th Congress concerning the need to strengthen Soviet cinema with experienced personnel and instructs the Central Committee to strengthen the cinema industry in the immediate future with a sufficient number of Communists, both in the economic and ideological field, and, together with the Central Control Commission, to conduct an examination of the personnel working in cinema.9 The nature of Party involvement was changing; frustiation had led to determination for much closer involvement. Straight after Trotsky's article, cinema received its own section in the Central Committee's paper. Its obsession - as seen from Edition 174 (8 August) onwards - was 'cinema to the countryside' [Kino-derevne]. The term 'central cinema muddle' [tsentralnaia kinonerazberikha] first appeared in the same edition of Pravda. Yet for almost a year after Trotsky's call to action, very little concrete progress was made. It is indicative of the Party's organisational frame of mind that the 'urgent' response was to set up more committees. The first special Party conference on cultural activity took place in June 1924. The Party cadres had been told their duty by Joseph Stalin: 'Things are going badly in the cinema. The cinema is the greatest means of mass agitation. The task is to take it into our hands.' 10 The crucial point to note was that the Party's interest is one of control not content. It was organisational matters that engaged the Party congresses and conferences and the Ail-Union Cinema Conference in March 1924. The Mantsev Commission finally published its critical report on Goskino. The state cinema organisation was doomed. A new organisation, whose name, Sovkino, stressed its 'Soviet' basis, was established by a decree of 13 June. The foundation of Sovkino ended the autonomy of the Moscow and Leningrad studios. It also absorbed the educational wing of the Moscow committee [Kultkino] and thus threatened Vertov's ability to work without interference.11 With organisational changes occurring and attention focused on the cinema, Vertov had to keep a high profile. His contribution to Belenson's Cinema Today [Kino segodnia] was a review of Soviet non-fiction film, and thus Vertov's career, so far. Vertov discusses the development from newsreel, where the visuals are explained and thus broken up, into a more purely visual form: I was extremely careful in the first numbers of Cine-Pravda. But, as I became convinced that the sympathy, if not of everyone then at least a section of the audience, was on my side, I exerted more pressure on the raw material ... After the 14th number had been released the almost unanimous diagnosis that it was 'insane' greatly puzzled me ...

Vertov and the Cine-Eye Our friends did not understand and shook their heads. Our enemies flew into a rage. Cameramen declared that they would not shoot for Cine-Pravda.12 The experimentation of the Cine-Pravda from edition 12 onwards, signalled by the arrival of Rodchenko, was clearly alienating even Vertov's allies. It is not difficult to see why. Veteran cameramen, used to their material being shown much as it was filmed, might object to unwarranted 'interference' during the editing process. The next line is more chilling: 'The censors would not pass the fourteenth Cine-Pravda at all (or rather they did pass it but they cut roughly half so that it was equivalent of destroying it).'13 Cine-Pravda 14 is, after all, a clear endorsement of the official social and economic policy of encouraging the 'link' [smychka] between city and countryside and a celebration of the Soviet state's leading and inspirational role in the world. Perhaps it was risky to begin the film with reporting of the 'Fourth Congress of the Comintern'. Perhaps the problem is one of content. Is it that 'international' issues were seen as more sensitive than domestic triumphs? This would make the disappearance of edition 16, which contains material dealing with Poland, more understandable. On the other hand, it may just be that the collaboration of Vertov and Rodchenko produced a film too visually complex for the required 'cine-attack' on the countryside (or indeed the cine-clubs). If this is the case then we are dealing with an overt attempt to end experimentation rather earlier than the traditional view would lead us to expect. It is characteristic of his promotional material of the early and mid-1920s that Vertov keeps a very jaunty, self-confident tone in his writing. However strident his attack on his critics may be, his approach is dismissive rather than bitter. The commentary, like the film-making, is the work of a man confident of his ideas and certain of his eventual triumph. The experiences of the past were trials which simply made his method stronger. This following extract is also a rare example of Vertov identifying what he believes to be the target audience for his work:14 Subsequently we managed to eliminate the conflict. Young audiences and workers' clubs were receptive to the film and there was no need to worry about the audiences of 'Nepmen' ... Cine-Pravda made heroic efforts to shield the proletariat from the corrupting influence of fiction film dramas. To many people these efforts seem laughable. The minute number of copies of Cine-Pravda could serve at best thousands of people but not millions ... It is interesting to note that now, a year after the fourteenth Cine-Pravda was released, orders are once more starting to come our way. As you see, this newsreel has not aged and will not age quickly. But in its time it was the most abused number of Cine-Pravda. Today you will see the nineteenth Cine-Pravda. We cannot show the others. They are already worn to the point where they are unrecognisable.

Forward Soviet! ... The normal work of the Cine-Eyes is the experimental film that we make without a script and without any preliminaries resembling a script. This attempt is a very difficult and dangerous reconnoitre, which those who are economically and technically unarmed should not undertake. But we have no right to reject an impossible possibility that has been presented to us. We shall try to seize reality with our bare hands.15 Vertov continues with an attack - aimed at least in part at Eisenstein - on the blurring of fiction and documentary: Comrades, very soon, perhaps even before the appearance of our next works, you will see on Soviet screens a number of surrogates, a number of films made in imitation of the Cine-Eyes. In some actors will depict real life in suitable surroundings; in others real people will play the roles in a most refined script.16 Vertov characteristically finishes with a rhetorical flourish and call to arms, which, for its sheer gusto, deserves full quotation: The world conflagration of 'art' is at hand. With a premonition of disaster, theatre workers, artists, writers, choreographers and other canaries are fleeing in panic seeking refuge, they run to cinema. The film studio is the last strong-hold of art. Sooner or later all sorts of long-haired charlatans will gather there. Fiction film will obtain colossal reinforcements but it will not be saved: it will rather perish with the whole array of soothing edifiers. We shall blow up the Tower of Babel that is art.17 In a public speech in July ('Artistic Drama and the "Cine-Eye"' [Khudozhestvennaia drama i Kino-Glaz]), Vertov carried on the campaign: Comrades, I am speaking on behalf of the Cine-Eye group. It is well known to most of you that this group is not linked either through its existence or through its work with so-called 'art'. We are directly engaged in the study of the phenomena of life around us. We place the ability to show and interpret life as it is significantly above the occasionally amusing puppetry that people call theatre, cinema etc. ... The whole ranks of Soviet and Party workers, who are at the present moment hesitantly involved in so-called fiction film must turn their back on what is essentially a plaything and throw all their resources, all their knowledge and all their experience on to the side of investigating and examining your reality with the camera. ... Skilful organisation of the filmed factual material will make it possible to create a film product of great agitational power, without a persistent and intrusive belief in the grimacing of actors and without the love- or detective-based inventions of one or another's 'inspiration'.18 By the autumn of 1924, Vertov was ready to make the next move in his campaign against the fictionalising tendency within Soviet cinema: the by turns frustrating and breathtaking Cine-Eye [Kino-Glaz]. Kultkino (the non-fiction

Vertov and the Cine-Eye wing of Goskino) had given Vertov the opportunity to put his theories into large-scale practice with a commission for a series of full-length documentaries. Vertov's initial plan was for a series which would juxtapose images to illustrate contrasts and change. In the end, with the demise of Goskino and the beginnings of genuine central control, there was only one film (first shown in Moscow in October 1924). It is a model for much of his later work and sums up his political, as well as filmic, philosophy. Cine-Eye begins with an announcement that it is: THE FIRST EXPLORATION OF LIFE CAUGHT UNAWARES THE FIRST NON-ARTIFICIAL CINEMA OBJECT WITHOUT SCENARIO WITHOUT ACTORS OR STUDIO The titles fill the screen grabbing the viewers' attention. An iris opens - the imagery is obvious but effective (and will be used often in Vertov's later films) - to reveal some brief scenes of religious activity and village life. Vertov moves on swiftly to: THE PIONEER VILLAGE. Three members of the 'Revolution' Pioneer squad are involved in a campaign to promote the co-operative (a theme close to Lenin's heart in his final years). They investigate the prices in a private market. These pioneers are named 'Dziganionak', 'Kopchivska' and 'Latishov'.19 Mother Kopchivska goes to the market. A crowd is gathered around Latishov as he demands to know the price of the private trader's meat. A line of Pioneers marches through the market. The titles proclaim: TO THE CO-OP The film of Kopchivska's mother is run backwards to show her running backwards ... into the co-op. After this simple political point, Vertov goes in for some structural analysis: 'the cinema eye reverses time.' A cow is 'unslaughtered' in reverse action, cows are seen reversing out of the slaughter house back on to a truck. The truck travels backwards to the railway station. The train reverses into the countryside and the cows disembark, backwards, into the fields. Latishov delivers a letter. The audience may be wondering why. The letter is opened. On a blank page words are written: END OF FIRST REEL Vertov and his team continue to make extraordinary leaps in the diegesis (without textual explanation). Reel 2 which deals with life in the pioneer camp is followed by 'How the Chinese magician Xhan-Ti-Xhan earns his daily bread'. The magician, like so many characters in the film, strides down the street to


Forward Soviet! begin his work. Children are entranced by a display of juggling and sleight of hand. In parallel, the viewer is treated to a show of editing and title construction. The simple point is that the cinema eye is a magician too. After a whole reel of Pioneer activities, the fifth reel is a tour deforce in film editing and directing technique. The title 'Sleepers' is followed by shots of various vagrants. 'Permanently asleep' is followed by the image of a man in a coffin 'murdered at the Mosselprom Bar, which is directly below a Pioneer Club'. As the drinkers continue they are showered with leaflets from the Pioneers above. A drinker picks up a leaflet. In close-up the leaflet becomes an animation. A Pioneer harangues a drinker, 'a friend of Tuberculosis'. There then follows a sequence of shots of Tverskaia Street from a moving camera. Much of this material is shown in reverse and speeded up. Shots of trolley buses are followed by shots evidently taken from trolley buses. After shots of a market comes a brutal, confronting sequence: the patients at the Karatchikov Sanatorium are shown berating the camera. Back at the market, 'Chervonets' 20 (a recently released patient) will not swap his Soviet money for dollars. Meanwhile, 'dark dealings' continue with either hidden camera or staged shots of speculators and prostitutes until the end of the reel. A breathless reel 6 begins with a phone ringing at Moscow's Kiev Station. The cameraman joins the ambulance crew. Reviving techniques are highlighted - as is very intrusive coverage of the injured worker's worried wife. The film ends with a series of shots showing black market dealing and street scenes whirling past a moving camera. This is the culmination of the underlying and overarching theme of the film. On a political level, the whole film is an implicit criticism of the NEP: the harrowing sanatorium footage with its voyeuristic interest in the physically and mentally sick is connected to the market activities - both the legal (if criticised) activities of buying, selling, cafes and bars and the illegal speculation in cash and flesh - surely to make the point that both are sordid. The linking of contrasts throughout the film seems to suggest that capitalism is a disease which has not yet been eradicated from Soviet society. Cine-Eye was uncompromisingly pro-Soviet in its message, but that message was delivered in a visually complex manner. The viewer does have to work hard to create sense from the kaleidoscope of images. In the autumn of 1924 this uncompromising approach to cinema was likely to be unpopular, even 'incomprehensible' as Erofeev described the film in his review.21 Vertov was very much on the attack during this period. His public statements made it clear that he had no intention of compromising his vision. As a true revolutionary Vertov takes a purist view Those who are not actively, and totally, friends of the 'Cine-Eyes' are (dangerous) enemies: A small group of conservative hacks, very obtuse people, tirelessly showered praise on filmed preserves (chiefly imported) ... Due to their clumsy efforts every slightly successful revolutionary undertaking is being nipped in the bud ...

Vertov and the Cine-Eye Thanks to these critics, the resplendent image of the American millionairehero glows within the stern heart of the Russian proletariat.22 Almost all those who work in artistic film are either openly or covertly hostile to Cine-Pravda and the Cine-Eyes. That is an obvious point. Since, if we prevail, they will either have to learn to work in a different way or to leave cinema completely.23 After critics and the 'artistic' film-makers, Vertov identifies a third threat: 'Neither group represents an immediate danger to the purity of the Kinoks' position. Far more dangerous are the newly formed intermediate and, as it were, conciliatory groups. Adopting our methods, they transfer them to the artistic drama.' 24 This defence of documentary purity and deep distrust of fiction film would drive Vertov's efforts into the next decade. Purism would also characterise his never less than acerbic forays into print. His attitude would lead him further and further into controversy, personal attack and finally official condemnation for the rest of the 1920s and in the early 1930s. Vertov was driven by a certainty about his methods mixed with frustration at his work's reception. The frustration could still be a stimulus rather than a discouragement because there were many reasons for optimism. Vertov's campaign for a cinema based on documentary was given a strong push from the campaign to build a cult around Lenin. The Lenin cult could be used by Grigori Boltiansky to justify his claims for the significance of cinema.25 Boltiansky's book Lenin and Cinema included Lunacharsky's 'Conversation with Lenin'. This reminiscence gave Soviet cinema its most famous slogan: 'Of all the arts, for us cinema is the most important.' 26 Lunacharsky's reporting of Lenin's thoughts also contained encouragement for Vertov and the basis for the director's (constant) calling for a 'Leninist Film Proportion': 'He once more underlined the need to determine a definite proportion between entertainment films and scientific ones. Vladimir Ilyich told me that ... the production of new film ... should begin with the newsreeW11 Vertov's reciprocal contribution to the construction of the cult of Lenin28 was edition 21 of Cine-Pravda (entitled Leninskaia). This anniversary film was both an exercise in archiving and myth-building. The title, CHAPTER 1, is followed boldly with a mid-shot of a worker, not with a depiction of Lenin: 'I am a worker in a factory named Lenin.' The worker is seen by his (modern) machine. He also has a place in history: T arrested the person who gunned down Ilyich, the S-R Kaplan.' The film continues by linking footage of Lenin with archive footage from the civil war. '1920' internationalises the issues. Lenin is shown addressing the Comintern. Women demonstrate on the streets of Baku. Children carry placards stating: 'Children of all peoples - one family' The title, TO LENIN, is followed by shots of tractors ploughing, machines working, workers lathing metal. '1921' presents its audience with a series of harrowing scenes. Small children stare blankly into the camera. The title, 'We are raising ourselves to the very


Forward Soviet! highest and most difficult tasks in our world-historical struggle', is followed by the simple (single letter) titles: N E P. What follows is a series of shots of the early Soviet technical triumphs, including the first Soviet automobile, radio antennae and T h e course of electrification'. All activity is linked to Lenin, even a lamp-bulb is named Ilyich. The pace of the film slows considerably with CHAPTER 2 which deals with the years of Lenin's illness and death: the funeral sequence begins with Lenin lying in state. Mourners file past in the hall of columns. While we are shown the leadership (including Stalin briefly), more screen time is expended on pioneers and Red Army soldiers. This film, although a tribute to the great leader, is also a celebration of the masses. The film also has a personal, traditional feel. 'Wife' is followed by 'Sister' and again 'Sister' as Lenin's three closest relatives are shown engaged in the human act of mourning. CHAPTER 3 continues the story of the nation. Now others must fulfil Lenin's vision: LENIN IS NO MORE - BUT HIS STRENGTH IS WITH US The title is illustrated by a column of workers on the streets of Moscow on the day of the funeral. The next title, OUR ANSWER TO THE MALICIOUSNESS OF THE BOURGEOIS WORLD introduces a cartoon showing 'capitalists celebrating Lenin's death'. They are startled by shooting. They are under fire from a stream of slogans: LENIN IS DEAD - LENINISM LIVES; 100,000 IN THE RKP; WORKERS COME TO THE RKP. The film also contains a message of support for the city-countryside 'link' [smychka]: 'The Union (using the term 'Union' [soiuz] to relate its importance to the existence of the whole state) of workers and peasants ... the guarantee of their victory' This is not allowed to be read as a call for voluntarism. All activity must be focused and directed by the Party: 'Together with the Party we will fulfil the behest of Lenin.' There follows a series of scenes from various meetings, both in halls and factories, interspersed with slogans: 'Lenin is no more, but Lenin's cause lives. The Leninist Party is living. The Leninists are living.' Particular emphasis is placed on a meeting of Pioneers: 'Young Leninists' in 'The Countryside'. Pioneer leaders meet with peasant children. 'Lenin worked and struggled for workers and peasants.' 'The young Leninists continue Lenin's beginning.' At a 'workers' meeting' peasants speak and workers listen. 'Workers strengthen your links with the countryside, as our Ilyich taught.' The workers nod in agreement. The titles read 'Link' [Smychka] followed by 'Full steam ... ' [Na vsekh parakh]. A train travels past 'according to the reality of Leninism'. 'To the connection between the city and the countryside.' Thus the

Vertov and the Cine-Eye film ends on a positive note, focusing on the future and the growth of technology as well as extolling current Party policy This is eloquent evidence of Vertov's powers as a film-maker. It is also a complex image, used to conclude a complex series of images and relationships. It is material which requires hard work on the part of the audience. While the message is of a piece with the Party line, the chosen methodology of presentation is not. Vertov's post as editor of Goskino's newsreel - about to end with the demise of the company - was producing much more prosaic fare. January 1925 saw no fewer than seven editions - three more than in any other month in its brief history. These short (110-130m) editions are packed with straightforward representations of day-to-day activities. Goskinokalendar, and with it Vertov's involvement in newsreel, had but one month to run.29 By May 1925 Sovkino had organised the production of its own newsreel [Sovkinozhurnal]. The presentation of material is straightforward. Items are announced by a trademarked caption and then the visuals are allowed to run without interruption. Items included in the first edition were similar to those in Cine-Week (with a focus on personalities and the activities of the state): T h e Opening of the 15th Party Conference' features Bukharin, Kalinin and Molotov. 'First of May 1925' features Frunze, Kamenev and Bubnov. Voroshilov, looking decidedly hesitant on horseback, reviews the cavalry. The political personality appearances are a constant feature of the journal as are military parades. The message is clearly expressed. The Bolsheviks are here to stay and the state is prepared to defend itself. A review of the rest of the year's production30 shows a pattern developing. Item one will focus on a major/formal public occasion. Next will come an item about workers and/or visiting delegations from the capitalist countries. The final two or three items will focus on an activity - always building or transport - from around the Union. The two exceptions to this pattern are numbers 14 and 15. The former is given over completely to Frunze's funeral. The latter, shorter than average at only 97 metres, is taken up with the October Revolution celebrations in Moscow. The image presented is of a Union: strong and getting stronger. All its citizens are working, all are happy. The Union is prepared to defend itself if necessary but, by evidence of the workers of the world, the Soviet state is a beacon for all toiling people and leading the (victorious) forces in the historical class struggle. During 1925 the Vertov campaign for an unplayed cinema was not confined to the Cine-Eye films. Vertov could also exploit new publications of the cinema press as vehicles for his ideas and as self-advertisements for his productions. Naturally he was not alone in this. However, he did have the advantage that after the launch of Ekran kino gazeta [Screen Cine-gazette] in January 1925 and in particular the subsequent launch of Sovetskii ekran [Soviet Screen] there were two periodicals eager for material and open to the 'left' which was very keen to champion non-fiction film.


Forward Soviet! Vertov was still in a position to address a public beyond the cinema and to be published in Pravda. His 16 July article is entitled 'Cine-Pravda and Radio Pravda'. It continues his calls for the increased use of technology, international campaigning and, of course, the Cine-Eye method: All workers should see one another in order to establish close and indissoluble links between them. The workers in the USSR should see that in other countries - in England, France, Spain, etc. - there are everywhere workers like themselves and that the class struggle between the bourgeoisie is being waged everywhere ... The Cine-Eye pursues this aim of establishing a visual link between the workers of the world ... 31 This is good internationalist material. In hindsight it could be seen as following a Communist International line that, as with Zinoviev and his colleagues, would look suspicious during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Moving on from politics, Vertov returns to the defence of the unplayed cinema. He launches into an argument about the 'Leninist Film Proportion'. Vertov's 'compromise' and promotion of a mixed programme seems half-hearted: We must promote 'mixed programming' as a slogan: 1) a three-reel newsreel of the Cine Eye type: The Lenin Cine-Pravda, let us say; 2) a one-reel cartoon; 3) a one- or two-reel scientific film or travelogue; 4) a two-reel drama or comedy ... Of course the designated proportion may be altered in either direction. It was in 1922 that Lenin demanded the establishment for cinema programmes of a definite proportion between 'entertainment' pictures (for purposes of advertising and receipts) and a propagandist newsreel From the life and the peoples of the world ... 'the production of new films imbued with Communist ideas should begin with newsreel' ... It is no secret that these insistent instructions on the part of Comrade Lenin have so far not been realised in the slightest measure.32 Vertov goes on to suggest that in the present situation fiction film is receiving 95 per cent of resources. Instead the proportion should be: Cine-Eye (everyday life) Scientific educational films Fiction Drama

45% 30% 25%

The second half of the article stresses the need for documentary penetration into the field of radio, including a 'radio newspaper'. The article ends with the relishing of the prospect of sound cinema: 'We must make preparations so that we can turn this invention of the capitalist world to its own ruin.' 33 The final Cine-Pravda which Vertov produced in the spring of 1925 (number 23; Radio-Pravda) is known only by its title and a fragmentary record of its

Vertov and the Cine-Eye contents from Svilova's archive.34 The film admits the existence of problems as a prerequisite for facing the future. Typically for Vertov, the answers lie in technology. A 'meeting of commissars outside a factory' has a sorry story to tell: 'The countryside is isolated from public affairs' and 'luring peasants into a reading room is very difficult' ... 'to say nothing of women, who are unable to leave their duties' ... 'installing radio receivers would add life to the situation'. The meeting votes for the installation of receivers. Then a peasant buys a radio after being impressed by the information that not only will the signal reach his village '60 versts' away ... but '600 versts'.35 The ubiquitous 'Young Communist' group is seen chopping down a tree to construct a radio mast. The mast is raised in stop-frame action. The titles proclaim: WHAT A MAST - TO THE SKY ITSELF

The reading room is now attractive to the peasants. Using stop-frame animation the radio 'is able to construct itself. A woman in a headset sits in front of a completed radio. 'Tuning', 'Tuning', 'Beginning' is followed by an animation of radiowaves. 'Radio access for all' is followed by shots of workers, children, pioneers, peasants and even train passengers listening to radios (a powerful juxtaposition of two icons of the modern world). Vertov was at his confident best by 1925. But the great theorist Shklovsky, newly returned from the West, was a sharp critic of Vertov's approach. Shklovsky parallels Vertov's strident purism in his analysis published as 'The Semantics of Cinema' in Kinozhurnal ARK (August 1925): 'The Cine-Eyes do not want to understand the fundamental essence of cinema. Their eyes are situated at an unnatural distance from their brains.'36 Perhaps this polemic can be seen as a response to Vertov's own hyperbole. Unfortunately this kind of posturing and name-calling would set a poor precedent for what came later, in much more dangerous times. Nevertheless, this article does point to a weakness in Vertov's work. In all the visual excitement it is possible to wonder where the film is heading (a basic function usually taken by narrative even in the documentary tradition). Often the viewer is bogged down in masses of material with little idea of any argument being built. This can lead to periods of boredom which would surely undermine a film's propaganda value. The Party certainly required a cinema both more controlled and more accessible. The growing organisation of a campaign for more rigorous political use of cinema is well illustrated by the launch of ODSK [Obshchestvo druzei sovetskogo kino], the Society of Friends of the Soviet Cinema in November 1925. Significantly, the organisation's first head was Felix Dzerzhinsky, a senior Bolshevik (and still at least official head of the security police). This could be seen as the last impatient attempt to gain a tighter grip on cinema matters and to develop a more obviously successful and efficient propaganda machine by means of persuasion and exhortation. After its failure37 the authorities abandoned appeasement and declared open war on miscreant or deviant film.


Forward Soviet! Unfortunately, the beginnings of this attack came just when the film-makers, and their various allies and detractors, were declaring war on each other. The year 1926 saw the release of The Battleship Potemkin [Bronenosets Potemkin]. 38 To cineastes and film-makers, Potemkin is an enormously significant film. The Soviet industry certainly tried to give this 'pride of Soviet cinema' a big push. However, it was not a big hit with domestic audiences.39 Potemkin's commercial (and by extension propagandist^) failure was obviously a source of concern for the authorities. In the long term it was a damaging experience for the whole industry. Not only was it a setback for those calling for artistic experimentation, it would also be a source for jealousy about the big, and therefore expensive, promotion campaign. Resentments would colour the debate about the film and, by extension, about Eisenstein's method and methodology in general among cinema workers and beyond. Vertov joined in the widespread debate in Pravda with a call to abandon theatrical work and enter T h e Factory of Facts'. 40 The day before this article was published, Vertov's new film had been premiered in Moscow It was entitled Forward, Soviet! [Shagai, Sovet!].41 The film was produced by Kultkino after a commission from the Moscow City Soviet. The opening titles proclaim: THE MOSCOW CITY SOVIET NEEDS YOU AS IT DID IN THE PAST AS IT WILL IN THE FUTURE The title TODAY is followed by a stream of images: a city skyline, the streets from the Kremlin to the Pushkin monument, a meeting hall, factories, machines, an illuminated light-bulb, a tap and a radiator. These images are contrasted with the past - described as a 'nightmare' - factories are empty and machines stand idle. After shots of queues on the street and a trolley-bus crash comes the title: YESTERDAY. Battle scenes are followed by shots of emaciated women, children and animals. WITHOUT WATER precedes the image of a tap turning but now no water flows. Similarly, WITHOUT FIREWOOD shows books (including the Old Testament) torn up to feed the fire. WITHOUT ILLUMINATION is followed by a light-bulb going out to leave the screen dramatically dark. Reel 2 focuses at length on war damage. In a stunning summation of the leadership myth, the damage is intercut with footage of Lenin's appearance on the balcony of the City Soviet. His message is relayed by titles: Tor great sacrifices'; 'to the struggle'; Tor the Soviet revolution'. Immediately after Lenin's appearance the situation begins to improve: soldiers disembark and charge and big guns fire. The titles give an insight to the role of the Moscow Soviet in all


Vertov and the Cine-Eye this: 'on the one hand aids in the fighting', 'on the other hand overcomes the devastation'. The titles then proclaim: IT IS NOW IMPOSSIBLE TO REST THE PARTY CALLS YOU TO A NEW WAR THE WAR AGAINST RUIN Reel 3 concentrates on 'the new war'. A series of titles, presented as a series of slogans, informs the audience of the activity of the Soviet to: DECLARE WAR ON RUIN (illustrated by a house being built and a happy family unit moving in; they place a portrait of Lenin in the corner where the religious icon would have resided) DECLARE WAR ON UNEMPLOYMENT (a labour exchange) DECLARE WAR ON PROSTITUTION (a factory canteen) DECLARE WAR ON ILLNESS (vaccinations) DECLARE WAR ON DIRT (small children washing) DECLARE WAR ON BANDITS (fingerprints being taken) A model school and a kindergarten are opened. In the new school it is significant that girls are studying science. The boys are learning to sew. In a factory school both boys and girls study technical drawing. Svilova edits some stop-action footage of a pile of loaves growing. So as not to make the struggle seem too easy, we also see bread being rationed. The reel finishes with the theme of 'electrification of the villages', featuring the construction of a bridge - titled LINK [smychka] to highlight the official policy of closer city-countryside co-operation - then (urban) workers string wires between pylons, dynamos, and a log cabin. A light-bulb glows into life, and within the bulb shines the image of Lenin on the balcony of the Moscow Soviet. The fourth reel features the activities of various departments of the City Soviet. Reel 5, in the spirit of the age, illustrates how THE SOVIET HELPS THE PEASANT This caption is followed by a handshake and the title UNITY. The countryside is being transformed by construction: bridges, roads and a reading room are shown. Fields and hillsides are cultivated by teams of 'volunteers'. 'The new dam' and 'the new bridge' were possible through 'credit'. Credit is the method and is also due to the Soviet. THE SOVIET MEETS THE NEEDS OF THE SICK AND DISABLED WORKER In a 'workshop for the deaf garments are sewn. 'The blind' are seen making brushes and baskets. 'Orphans' are shown learning to read. These shots are intercut with a symbolic scene of ice breaking up in the fast-flowing river.

Forward Soviet! Reel 6 is an exercise in the creative power of editing. Naturally it is also a political statement. The components of motor vehicles are seen attending a rally. They are welcomed and told: WE FIGHT ON THE ECONOMIC FRONT. Captions and images then illustrate this fight: 'instead of rifles ... hammers', followed by hammers; 'axes', followed by axes, and so on through 'shovels' ... 'saws' ... 'instead of bullets' ... 'nails' ... 'screws' ... 'bricks'. 'Instead o f is followed by a ruined building. 'Restored' shows factory chimneys evidently working due to the smoke and machines in operation. A wrecked locomotive is followed by a working one. A battlefield scene is contrasted with a field being ploughed. Back at the rally the machine parts look on. A rather puzzling title follows: 'The hearts of the machines are beating.' The answer to the puzzle is supplied by images of more machines working. However, this sequence still continues to be rather confusing. A van trails a banner: 'from thousands - millions'. Finally, a moving camera surveys a traffic jam and finishes with a policeman on traffic duty. Ironically the next title asks: 'What course are you on?' Traffic rushes around at treble speed. The captions question the viewer as alternative shots are shown: church/night-school, club/beer-hall, dispensary/hostel. The titles proclaim: 'The evening is full of contrasts'. Images rush past in rapid succession: a dancer, a beggar child, a snooker hall, a gunman, a woman drinker, a piano player (hands and arms only), a ballerina, an ice skater, a typewriter (machine and operator), a car being directed by the traffic policeman, buses, a curtain being pulled back to reveal a drinker, dancing feet and a gramophone record. What is particularly striking is the attempt to make connections which signify sound i.e. the ballerina and the piano, and the dancing feet and the gramophone. Clearly, political connections are being made too, but to gain a clear impression of the sequence requires several viewings. For a worker or peasant audience it must have been over-rich fare. In the final sequence of the film, various pieces of machinery and types of electric lights fill the screen. The editing is so swift that the images seem to overlap. Titles are intercut: WE STRIVE TO BUILD A NEW WORLD BUILD SOVIET STRIDE SOVIET


The film ends with shots of Lenin speaking (at the Tenth Party Congress) intercut with machinery.

Vertov and the Cine-Eye The release of the film caused a sensation - among film critics. In discussing Vertov's film, Shutko - a member of the editorial board of Sovetskii ekran, was full of praise (in an article entitled 'All Stride' [Shagaite vse]): '[Vertov's film] is a picture of our new, our most high standard ... it is necessary to stride forward',42 but he also expressed a deep concern at the film's distribution problems: 'A cinema manager of one of our better Moscow cinemas decided to hire the film Stride Soviet for his theatre. He was prepared for the energetic propaganda of this cine-eye production ... The manager was not able to hire Stride Soviet.'* In the same edition, Shklovsky took an opportunity to hit back at Vertov's polemic campaign and criticised his film-making approach with an article whose title punned on Vertov's recently released film, 'Where is Dziga Vertov Striding?'.43 Shklovsky had the temerity to cast doubt upon whether Vertov had even shot the material he presented as 'life caught unawares'44 and went even further: 'Vertov's talent is a general cinematic talent and it is not in doubt. There now arises the question of the film's fictional tendency.'45 Shklovsky then goes on to criticise the paucity of titling in Vertov's work: A montage of everyday life? Life caught unawares. Not material of world importance. But I think that newsreel is in Vertov's treatment deprived of its soul - its documentary quality. A newsreel needs titles and dates ... The whole sense of newsreel lies in date, time and place. A newsreel without this is like a card catalogue in the gutter. Dziga Vertov cuts up newsreel. In this sense his work is not artistically progressive ... 46 Shklovsky would have enjoyed the newsreel production of 1926. The Sovkino newsreels are very clearly labelled. The opening title of every piece contains a geographical location top left. That being said, there were some stylistic developments in the newsreels; in particular more use is made of animation. Also, images, particularly of leaders, are mixed and superimposed with crowd and activity scenes. These developments certainly make many of the films more visually interesting. While most of the leadership make regular appearances, Trotsky appears not at all and Stalin appears only twice: in edition 27, given over entirely to Dzerzhinsky's funeral and edition 28 where he addresses the Peasant Conference. There is also more foreign material on view. American technology is particularly prevalent. The 1926 newsreels appear more 'produced' and their ideological thrust seems to be part of the last flowering of internationalism and, one is tempted to suggest, the NER This last contribution of Vertov's to 'Nepism' was completely contrary to requirements. Vertov finished the year by completing the film which had been commissioned by Gostorg (the Soviet Trade Organisation). The film was entitled (with reference to the sheer size of the Soviet Union) A Sixth Part of the World * Shagai can also be translated as 'stride (forward)'.


Forward Soviet! [Shestaia chast' mira]. Its interest lies in the disparity between how Vertov wished to represent the Soviet Union (and indeed how the regime had been happy to be portrayed to domestic audiences) and how the regime wished it to be portrayed internationally. The film opens with a visit to 'the nation of capitalists'. There follows a sequence of lightning montage - most of the shots are less than a metre in length - mixing images 'in a nation of capitalists' (German footage) which features faces, hands and feet, eating and dancing ('the fox-trot') with shots of workers and 'slaves in the colonies'. We are then transported to Berlin, where a black jazz band and dancers perform. The dancing is intercut with ethnographic shots of Africans. The montage speeds up to a blur of faces, hands and feet. Spectacular editing and interesting juxtapositions to be sure, but what does this torrent of signifiers signify? Reel 2 concentrates on the ethnic groups of the Soviet Union. But it is addressed to them and decidedly not to possible trading partners. Most of the titles begin with YOU (either singular or plural) and the images link people doing similar work in contrasting surroundings. After one YOU the camera turns on a Russian cinema audience watching the footage we have just seen. In a direct sense we, the audience, are told we are part of a great WE. The titles spell out the political/historical message: A N D YOU W H O O V E R T H R E W THE CAPITALISTS IN O C T O B E R W H O D I S C O V E R E D T H E PATH TO A N E W L I F E

Vertov then shows a Moscow parade intercut with men, women and children from the Soviet nations. Vertov uses national costume to underline the identity of several groups. This sequence continues the project of taking an interest in, and highlighting the significance of, ordinary people first seen in the Cine- Week and so stressed in Cine-Pravda. It also highlights how non-Russians are represented by Vertov's group: as exotic and in need of cataloguing and organising. This sequence ends with the titles IN YOUR H A N D S IS T H E ... S I X T H PART O F T H E W O R L D

and the image of national costume wearers gathered round a globe. Reel 3 moves on from diversity to focus on sheer size. As the titles proclaim: 'from the Kremlin' (clearly the place to start) 'to the Chinese border', 'from Matochkin' ... 'to Bukhara'. The from-to relationship continues: 'from New Russia' (Asia) ... 'to Leningrad'; 'from a lighthouse above the Arctic Circle' ... 'to the Caucasus'; 'from the golden eagle on the hand of a Kirghiz' ... 'to the Arctic rocks'; 'from Polar owls' ... 'to Black Sea seagulls'.


Vertov and the Cine-Eye Pride in such vast resources is then proclaimed by the title: ALL IN YOUR HANDS

This statement is reinforced by titles followed by one-shot images: YOUR FACTORIES YOUR OIL YOUR COTTON WOOL ... FISH ... FLAX ... TOBACCO ...

This montage is followed by a long sequence which shows grain being harvested, bagged, transported and loaded on to a ship. Reel 4 continues the theme of transport. Trains, horses and carts carry products 'along all the roads of the Soviet People'. Camels march and men in eastern dress drive their herds. Fruit is packed - by stop-action photography - into boxes marked 'Gostorg'. This sequence is joined to footage of a Gostorg trading post. The legend 'Gostorg' appears everywhere: on trains 'at the dockside', on barrels of oil. 'Grain in an endless flow' is loaded on to 'foreign ships'. We see more trading posts 'where there are no roads'. Natural products - furs and feathers like those we have seen being hunted and collected - are 'destined for export to capitalist countries'. Reel 5 transports us 'far beyond the Arctic Circle', 'where the sun does not set for half a year', 'and night lasts half a year'. The Inuits await. A freighter appears. Now it is their turn to receive. They go aboard and are given manufactured items including cloth and guns. One smokes a cigar as others listen 'to a record of Lenin'. Important links are none the less being made. The freighter leaves 'and here in the capitalist countries' (we see the opening sequence again) the pelts are sold at the Leipzig Fair: THE PELTS OBTAINED BY TUNGUSES, OSTIAKS AND SAMOYEDS ARE EXCHANGED FOR MACHINES FOR THE SOVIET PEOPLE

Titles explain that 'even peoples living under capitalism contribute to socialism'. Clearly this contribution is via technology: 'machines which build machines.' The reel ends with the title: THEY BUILD SOCIALISM

followed by images of tractors ploughing on a peasant co-operative and machines operating in 'soviet' factories TOGETHER

The sixth reel features various peoples from the Black Sea and the Baltic.

Forward Soviet! This particular travelogue features 'the old ways'. There are no tractors here as the soil is tilled with a stick. Women wear veils. These are lands of superstition: 'The old ways pass slowly.' Inuits dance around a slaughtered reindeer. Central Asians, again in traditional costume, attend a mosque. The message of the restricting power of religion is extended across the Soviet Union. Orthodox believers attend services and Buddhists are seen entering a temple. An obvious but none the less complex and well-crafted metaphorical sequence follows. It shows how Vertov can load a series of images with layers of meaning and make political and film-making points simultaneously. The fact that he also tries to construct an advertising slogan at the same time illustrates his ambitions as well as his failings. We are returned to the frozen north: I SEE ... SHIPS ARE STUCK IN THE ICE followed by THE ICEBREAKER ... The ship comes to the rescue; the name clearly displayed on its prow is, of course, 'Lenin'. It breaks the ice. Having made the point about Lenin's beneficial effect on religious restrictions, Vertov can return to his c o m m i s s i o n . TO C L E A R THE WAY ... F O R OUR F R E I G H T E R S ... SO THAT T H E Y MAY E X C H A N G E




FOR THE MACHINERY WE NEED. The tone of the titles is grudging. The presentation, intercut with port shots, is perfunctory. After the dull port shots, the screen is flooded by images and juxtapositions. Shots of workers are superimposed on machinery. The titles announce, I SEE: eastern women cast off the veil, more women in traditional costume read, a group of tribesmen read a foreign-language edition of Pravda, allowing the titles to proclaim: TRUTH. The ubiquitous 'electrification of a village' sequence follows. Shot after shot of smoking chimneys are titled: FACTORIES ... AND STILL MORE FACTORIES. Stalin is shown speaking.47 In a very reverent manner, the titles which report the speech are projected with only brief, simple illustrative intercuts of the products mentioned: IN OUR COUNTRY WE ARE BUILDING A COMPLETELY SOCIALIST STATE This title is followed first by a brief glimpse of Stalin and then by a shot of the Kremlin and Lenin's Mausoleum. This juxtaposition was firmly in line with the twin leadership cult Stalin and his supporters were trying to build at the time. The final shots of the film show a piston and wheel: INTO THE CURRENT OF THE COMMON SOCIALIST ECONOMY The film was released on the very last day of 1926. Criticism mounted in the press. Sokolov's review lambasted: 'montage [which] deforms facts. The

Vertov and the Cine-Eye rearrangement of pieces changes their sense.'48 The point surely is that montage is supposed to give material (whatever the nature of that material) meaning. The fact that 'life caught unawares' had to be organised in its presentation was a lesson which Vertov more clearly understood after Cine-Eye. Richard Taylor's observation on the film that 'life as it is' is being replaced by 'life as it should be' is very astute.49 That this process prefigures Socialist Realism is both pertinent and intriguing. Sovetskii ekran responded to the film with enthusiasm. Both editions 40 and 42 featured stills on the front cover. In number 40 Urazov writes of 'Our great victories'.50 It is noteworthy that Urazov praises both fiction and non-fiction in stating that: 'These films reveal to us that Russian cinematography has found the correct path.' Two weeks later Urazov returned to the subject of Vertov's film. He admits that Sovetskii ekran had carried out 'a campaign' to publicise A Sixth Part of the World.51 Perhaps the most significant point of this article is the fact that the film needed a campaign. As Urazov put it: 'Since all of the work of the Cine-eyes had not arrived on the screen, the spectator simply did not know about them. Cinema specialists saw them. Many learnt from them.' 52 A year later, N. Kaufman looked back at these frustrating years in Vertov's career: 'Cine-Eye was shown once in public and after that removed. Forward Soviet was briefly shown on three screens. It was not advertised. One Sixth of the World was not shown on the first-run screens. Vertov was quickly sacked.'53 The previous year, 1926, ended with Vertov looking for a job54 and another call to arms from Lunacharsky couched in the terms of a reminiscence of Lenin and (naturally) entitled 'Cinema - Greatest of all the arts'. 55 The article begins by noting this slogan is 'constantly being repeated'. Lenin's judgement (and presumably by inference that of Lunacharsky, the Commissariat and the Central Committee) is a purely functional one: 'he valued above all its colossal agitational and propagandistic force.'56 The rest of the article celebrates the power and wonder of the moving picture. The need to focus decisively on the development of cinema was to became urgent in 1927 as the anniversary of the 'Great October Revolution' was to be celebrated, portrayed and utilised by 'the most important of all the arts'.

3. Esfir Shub and the Great Way Forward

The year 1927 was to be a testing one for Soviet cinema. It was the year that both fiction and non-fiction film-makers had to come to terms with the challenge of celebrating two anniversaries: of the collapse of the Romanov dynasty and of the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917. These politically significant commemorations presented great opportunities to show the artistic and social power of film. They also represented a danger. Any perceived failure, especially involving the expenditure of scarce resources with press, public and Party attention lavished on their efforts, could be disastrous for individual film-makers or even the industry as a whole. The first film-maker to take up the challenge was Esfir Ilinichna Shub. Like Vertov, Shub had come to Moscow as a student and became caught up in the artistic avant-garde. She was a lifelong friend of Mayakovsky and worked with him and Meyerhold in the theatre section of the Commissariat of the Enlightenment. She soon gravitated towards cinema. As she put it in her memoirs:1 'a method of expressing all that the Great October Revolution had brought ... A new life was beginning. New people were building this life. In art - another October. Forward, innovators, seekers of the new roads! Cinematography is the art of the future/ 2 Shub did not apply to GTK (the State Film School). Instead she tried a more direct entry into the practical side of the industry. After a number of false starts and refused applications, she secured a job in the film section of the Commissariat of the Enlightenment. She worked at re-editing and re-titling foreign films to render them ideologically sound.3 In 1924 Shub was transferred to the Third Workshop of Goskino where she worked on editing Soviet fiction films. She learned how to work with limited resources under the pressure of tight deadlines. The experience allowed her to work efficiently when more opportunities came her way: In a small room, not very light, with one window on to the alley, we spread out

Esfir Shub and the Great Way Forward a flannelette blanket on the floor. We threw all the clippings on to the blanket and started to select film ... After a few months I was managing a splendidly equipped - for that time - montage workshop ... In a bigger lighter room stood 5 montage tables.4 The year ended with her assisting Eisenstein with the script of Strike [Stachka, 1924], She recalls that she was not chosen to be a member of the filming collective for the film but in retrospect seems to feel this was an opportunity to try a different approach. It is at this point in her memoirs that she mentions meeting Vertov. Vertov is described as 'my close comrade'. 5 Shub's first sortie into print, T h e Manufacture of Facts', 6 was, in part, a criticism of Vertov's arrogance in T h e Factory of Facts': Tt is not only those who look at the USSR with cine-eyes ... who want to work in non-played film.' She then goes on to make a statement about the way to best exploit cinema: The studio must ... become simply a factory for non-played cinema, where people could work on editing newsreels, films of the history of the Revolution made from newsreel footage, where scientific production films and general cultural films could be made as a counter-weight to played entertainment films. We do not need a factory of facts if it is to fabricate facts.7 In 1926 Shub had to consider what her next career move should be: 'Clearly not only newsreel, not only that alone appertains correctly to convey our epoch. It is clear that work in newsreel must begin with artistic labour. Newsreel apart from this must begin with history, profoundly with the party chronicle of our epoch.' 8 Much as Vertov's civil war work shaped his style, the experience of adapting and re-editing others' work to the needs of the Soviet regime was to have a profound effect on Shub's own productions. Shub's two compilation documentary films of 1927 The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty [Padenie dinastii Romanovykh] and The Great Way [Velikii put'] are pinnacles, as well as the early standard setters, in the history of the genre. Initially Shub was blocked from entry into her historical project. Trainin and the management of the Third Workshop insisted she continue editing fiction films. She went to Sovkino and was given a commission by Pavel Bliakhin (head of the literary and artistic section). Shub noted that: 'At the end of 1926 I went to Leningrad. There it was even harder.'9 Shub had a small team (led by the historical consultant M. Tsetlin) to help in collecting the scattered, often insufficiently catalogued scraps of film. 'For two months I watched 60,000 metres of film.'10 The sponsors and the Museum of the Revolution could be a hindrance as much as a help.11 Shub had to create some coherent and artistic as well as ideological whole from the material available. In addition to differences in style and quality of filming, different formats of film stock and differences in emulsion quality, few sequences would have been of any great length. This problem was actually turned into one of


Forward Soviet! the major strengths of the films. Brief scenes are brought together or intercut with bold titles (written by Shub and Tsetlin) to create a direct, powerful, yet graceful montage form. Shub's portrayal of the past and present of the Soviet state is very different from Vertov's. While Vertov created an energetic kaleidoscope of vigorous, but not always clear, images and juxtapositions, Shub's vision is more prosaic. Her first film begins at a slow, even pace to create an impression of serious examination of the historical material. The opening images of Fall of the Romanov Dynasty portray a doomed regime, beginning with the title: TSARIST RUSSIA ON THE EVE OF THE WAR The images which follow are of priests, soldiers drilling and crowds milling in the snow The next title states: IN SAINT PETERSBURG THE STATE DUMA SAT FOR THE TSAR The irrelevance of these 'politicians' is made clear by the following caption: 'Governors appointed by the Tsar ruled the country' IN THE PROVINCES ALL SEEMED QUIET AND SERENE Shub knows how to conjure up a rural atmosphere by the slow pace and miseen-scene. The title LANDLORDS OWNED VAST PROPERTIES is illustrated by a vast panorama in which are placed herds of cows and a huge country house. AND SIDE BY SIDE Shub can show her skill in juxtaposition with views of the peasants' hovels. The viewer is asked to observe the actions and demeanour of 'THE GOVERNOR OF THE TOWN OF KALUGIN' - the governor is a gift to the filmmaker as his size and conduct produce an iconographic typage. He, his wife and his dog - all well-rounded - stroll down the stairs of his mansion and seat themselves in the garden. Their leisure activities are cross-cut with the peasants' toil. Shub continues her set pattern of presenting a title before the material, often in ironic juxtaposition. 'A pleasure cruise' is in fact a sequence of battleships. A scene of officers and their ladies waltzing on deck is followed by the caption 'in a sweat', followed by shots of peasants toiling. An aristocrat and small child check on the ploughing with blissful disregard for the ploughman. Shots of agricultural labour and smoking chimneys are linked with the caption: 'They

Esfir Shub and the Great Way Forward laboured ... at the plants and factories ... in the deep mines ... in dark quarries/ T h e landless, persecuted, needy peasant was forced from his h o m e ... and those w h o protested against the Tsarist regime were thrown into prison' prisoners are shown being marched through the streets. 'Exiled ... or sentenced to hard labour.' So the reel ends with scenes of misery. Shub is building to a sharp juxtaposition. After the caption '24-27 MAY 1913', the nobility of Russia parades on a walkway above the crowd. A series of titles (literally) is displayed on the screen: EMPEROR OF ALL THE RUSSIAS ... GRAND PRINCE OF FINLAND ... TSAR OF POLAND ... NICHOLAS THE SECOND ... AND LAST ... The Emperor parades with his wife, children and attendants: THE THREE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ROMANOV DYNASTY Shub gives the event a pathos as well as grandeur by the length of shot. She n o w goes on to give her story an international context. 'Europe at the time' is illustrated by 'The Stock Exchange ... banks ... gold'; and 'King George the Fifth of England' in a huge coach, surrounded by the p o m p already associated with his cousin the Tsar. The emperors of both Austria and G e r m a n y are shown as small, lost, distracted individuals surrounded by military personnel. The text proclaims: ALL COUNTRIES WERE PREPARING FOR WAR Shub presents evidence of this statement with several minutes of troops in different uniforms drilling. The titles: NEW MODERN MEANS OF MASS DESTRUCTION WERE DEVELOPED and FACTORIES TURNED OUT DEADLY WEAPONS are illustrated by a Zeppelin, aeroplanes and hundreds of big shells stacked for delivery. Then Shub returns the audience to the empire of the Romanovs: TSARIST RUSSIA MARCHED IN STEP WITH THE OTHER IMPERIALIST POWERS 'War Minister Sukhomlinov' is followed by 'Those w h o wanted war ... Svitonov, owner of munitions factories' and 'those w h o will be sent to war', described as 'CANNON FODDER': more and more soldiers appear. Shells explode. The guilty parties are easily identified: 'On the eve of the war Poincare visits Russia ... A parade in his honour ... C a n n o n fodder was given ... in

Forward Soviet! return for a French loan.' The Fall takes a purist Marxist line by identifying the secular forces which combined to create the conditions for war. Shub also takes the honour of producing that rare thing: a documentary about the First World War which does not mention the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand. Shub briefly presents Nicholas' manifesto to the Russian people. Scenes of the demonstrations before the Winter Palace can hardly disguise the mass popularity of 'the manifestation' so she cleverly underlines the manipulation of the masses by focusing on the priests in the crowd. Shub continues to illustrate her liking for text by dwelling on the order for mobilisation. Workers march out of a factory; after the caption 'mobilisation', they march back in the opposite direction. Preparations for war are captioned: THE PEOPLES ARE SET IN MOTION. Film originally taken to reassure now looks painfully complacent. 'In the trenches' features shots of priests blessing troops. A long shot of waves crashing against the shore precedes the title 'War' which expands to fill the screen. Its diagonal expansion is matched by the flare of a searchlight. In a sequence which lasts seven minutes (without captions) the new technology of war is paraded. The titles return to keep the score: DEAD AND WOUNDED IN WORLD WAR ONE ... 35 MILLION is illustrated by trenches full of corpses. THE FACE OF WAR shows buildings blown up, women mourning, refugees and wounded Russians being placed on to a hospital train.. The titles bang out a message with little interruption from the pictures: THE COUNTRY WAS DEVASTATED THERE WAS NOT ENOUGH FOOD PEOPLE WAITED ANXIOUSLY FOR NEWS FROM THE FRONT MANY CAME FROM DISTANT VILLAGES TO VISIT THEIR WOUNDED RELATIVES This unbroken stream of text allows a change of pace and a contrast with the previous flood of images. The next reel begins with '1917 ... A year of bitter cold and much snow'; women are seen trying to clear the streets. 'Fresh battalions were sent to the front'; priests bless and officers dish out medals. 'AT THE FRONT UNREST GREW ... THE FRONT CRUMBLED'; the trenches are full of dead. Now Shub chooses to show the text of a Bolshevik leaflet dated 25 February: 'we are starving and dying ... arise!' Crowd scenes are punctuated by the caption: ON FEBRUARY 25TH THE PETROGRAD WORKERS STRUCK ZNAMENSKAIA SQ. WAS THE CENTRE OF ACTIVITIES The camera pans down the text of the edict to keep order. The film is now dominated by crowds of men - many in uniform - standing around, occasionally cheering or waving banners. 'The rebel troops marched to the Tauride

Esfir Shub and the Great Way Forward Palace' with bands, playful children and a banner which proclaims 'Greetings to our comrades from the trenches!' Leaflets are tossed into the crowd. Another banner comes into focus and passes: 'Long live the Workers', Peasants' and Soldiers' Soviet.' The final reel begins with: PETROGRAD IN THE GREAT DAYS OF THE STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM A slow pan takes us across a crowd largely made up of men in uniform. Banners flutter in the wind. The text informs the audience that T h e Provisional Committee appealed for support'. Ministers Guchkov and Miliukov smile selfconsciously at the camera. Their embarrassment is followed immediately by Lenin's 'letter from afar'. Certain lines are highlighted: T h e new government cannot offer the peoples of Russia, or the world to which we are bound by this war, peace ... bread ... or freedom.' Kerensky, a well-known figure, appears before his title caption. He is surrounded by a cheering crowd. The next title announces: IN THOSE DAYS IN MOSCOW

Leaflets are dispensed, banners wave. 'Whole army units went over to the Revolution.' Columns of troops march past carrying banners including All Power to the People's Army'. Women join and then dominate the march. More soldiers carry banners proclaiming 'Freedom and Brotherhood'. Many contain the words 'Freedom' and, at least two, 'Republic'. More and more groups of people mill around. They are joined by Cossack cavalry as the titles state: 'policemen were arrested ... spies were arrested.' A hapless figure is surrounded by large men pointing hand-guns at him. ON MARCH 4TH IT BECAME KNOWN THAT THE TSAR HAD ABDICATED

The camera pans down the Tsar's abdication notice. Shub cuts to crowds reading the proclamation, cheering and waving hats. Tsarist regalia are strewn on the ground. She then solemnly introduces the viewer to the aftermath of this glorious historical and popular moment with: MARCH 23RD IN PETROGRAD THE FUNERAL OF THOSE WHO HAD DIED IN THE STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM

Shub used lengthy sequences from the Skobelev Committee newsreel of the funerals. Coffins are carried through huge crowds. She also selected more personal shots where relatives and comrades are crying. As the human results of death are so graphic, Shub uses the tragedy to attack her new political


Forward Soviet! enemy: Kerensky. The film reveals, very slowly, his order for a new offensive. The camera lingers over the text, picking out the word 'forward' [vpered] and the new war minister's name. By his own actions (and Shub's context) he is damned. Soldiers line up to kiss the flag and be blessed in scenes which clearly echo the ones of 1914. Huge crowds are seen in front of the Kremlin. The viewer is informed that 'Kerensky himself visited the front to raise the morale of the troops'. From the perfunctory nature of his handshakes he seems to have failed. The very next shot is a front page of Pravda announcing 'A DEMONSTRATION TODAY'. After 70 minutes The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty brings itself to an unavoidable conclusion. Shots of the mass demonstrations in Petrograd are edited together with pages from Pravda calling for Teace, Bread and Land'. The initial crowd shots show a chaotic mass wandering around, staring bemusedly at the camera, until we see the front page of the Bolshevik newspaper calling for demonstrations. Then the crowds are shown lined up and organised. The slogans in the paper are echoed on the banners in the crowd. We are led to wonder what the fuss is all about. Why are these people massing? The crowds are not looking towards the camera, but off to the right. The screen direction leads us to a point of focus: shots of Lenin (without captions) addressing a vast crowd. This effect cannot be produced by archive work (however good). It is the work of an experienced and highly skilled montageuse. The film's concluding shot shows a smiling, confident Lenin greeting well-wishers. Shub ends her narrative with this triumphant moment. Shub relished the favourable reaction with which her first film was received. She notes that the film was well advertised and that, on 11 March, 'queues stood by the box office in all [sic] the big cinemas in Moscow'. This may well be an exaggeration of the level of distribution offered to the film. However, it clearly illustrates the film-maker's aim to make a film that would attract the widest possible audience. This is Shub's reaction to the first showing: T walk through the cinema and my eyes could not tear themselves away from the auditorium ... The Soviet spectator, how does he accept my first work? I study him. He the spectator will decide now whether I have carried out the delivery of my task. The film is pleasing. I felt deeply content.'12 By the summer of 1927 Shklovsky was taking 'The Temperature of Cinema' in Sovetskii ekran and made a most interesting point about 'the box-office success of The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty which for five thousand roubles is overtaking The Decembrists ... Even box-office considerations do not rule out factual films.'13 Shub's film was a piece of 'popular' cinema with a political agenda. As such it was a success. This achievement helped Shub as she finished the preparations for her second film. The Great Way was another triumph. The film's length and pacing, as well as its subject matter, give the impression of a huge historical pageant. The film is none the less tinged with humour. The Great Way begins with a shot of the

Esfir Shub and the Great Way Forward back of a statue. The viewer is first confronted with a horse's posterior. The shock of this highly unusual establishing shot is briefly undermined by the realisation that Tsar Alexander III is astride the beast. However the power and pomposity of this image is in itself instantly undermined by the very next shot of broken statues. The impotence of the Tsarist symbols is shown by the small child playing amongst the debris. The very next shot is of the red flag flying over the Kremlin. The text then proclaims: ON THE STAGE OF OCTOBER STOOD THE VICTORIOUS MASSES

The street scenes from Petrograd 1917 show the masses as actors in history The diegesis takes a huge leap 'over the heads of the capitalist world'. THROUGH THEIR LEADERS THE PROLETARIAT OF ALL LANDS ARE SOLIDLY BEHIND THE WORKERS' AND PEASANTS' REVOLUTION

Shots of German communists drilling are followed by crowd scenes from 'Mexico' and 'China'. These shots are joined to shots of workers in the new Soviet republic. A sequence of titles informs the viewer: UNDER THE RED BANNER, THEY VOW THEY VOW TOGETHER WITH THE MASSES OF THE SOVIET STATE UNDER THE RED BANNER TOGETHER WITH THE WORKERS OF THE SOVIET REPUBLIC WITH OUR OWN LEADER

The leader appears: LENIN

Crowds mass before the camera: LENIN TO THE WORLD OCTOBER

Reel 2 begins with a lengthy title quoting Lenin's 'Decisive tasks of the Revolution' before the titles inform us: 1917 RUSSIA IS THE FIRST STATE IN THE WORLD THAT THE WORKERS AND PEASANTS TOOK INTO THEIR OWN HANDS

The titles indicate the headquarters of the Bolshevik Central Committee as well as the Petrograd Soviet and the Military-Revolutionary Committee. The

Forward Soviet! damaged Winter Palace is described as 'the last citadel of the bourgeoisie'. Shub is making a critical point about the nature of the post-Tsarist regime which had to be removed too. Portraits of the new leadership - Lenin, Lunacharsky, Krylenko, AntonovOvseenko and Sverdlov - follow (none of the 1920s ruling group appears). The audience is informed that THE WORKERS DEMAND T h e camera lingers over an order from Lenin (dated 5 January) calling for peace. This call is followed by film of fraternisation which looks, frankly, bogus. T h e cameras are placed behind the 'German' trenches and the behaviour of the troops is actorly. At the end of the sequence the troops hold a b a n n e r demanding: ALL POWER TO THE INTERNATIONALE In contrast to this appears the 'PEACE' [sic] AGREEMENT at Brest-Litovsk. The only film used to illustrate the meeting is some shaky footage of the Austrian delegation. The sequence ends with a shot of the agreement signed by the Kaiser. Shub goes on to tell the story of how THE WHOLE WORLD WAS AGAINST THE PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION WITH BLOCKADE AND INTERVENTIONIST ENCIRCLEMENT Shub is capable of making hard-hitting statements with the m i n i m u m of extraneous interference. O n occasion she even keeps the original captions (as evidenced by the old-style orthography). She was aided in her task by the need of those wielding power, however temporary, to expose themselves to the potentially powerful m e d i u m of the moving image. For example, the G e r m a n s had filmed themselves arrogantly strutting the streets of the Ukrainian capital. They also filmed the 'UKRAINIAN INDEPENDENT NATIONALISTS' w h o can thus be portrayed as collaborators. The 'MENSHEVIK GOVERNORS OF "DEMOCRATIC" GEORGIA' are shown meeting and greeting French military attaches. They enjoy a 'Friendly Breakfast'. The use of 'enemy' material is both amusingly audacious and powerfully effective in illustrating Shub's argument. Reel 4 illustrates h o w IN A CAPITALIST ENCIRCLEMENT - THE SOVIET STATE BECOMES A BEACON A long sequence of titles reminds the audience of slogans promulgated by the Second Congress of the Communist International and statements from Lenin: ' N o w begins a new era in world history.' There follows a funeral of


Esfir Shub and the Great Way Forward 'Commissars defending Soviet power against the English'. An old woman mourns over one coffin. The crowd carry a banner stating: WE VOW TO TAKE THE COMMUNIST REVOLUTION TO THE WHOLE WORLD

Reel 5 begins with the 'Struggle with enemies'. The sequence features footage of destroyed buildings, refugees and children queuing for food: 'On Kuznetsky Most all the shops are shut and down at heel women sell odd objects on the corner.' The text of Lenin's rationing order is illustrated by a hand holding five slices of bread, then one. After more scenes of destruction Lenin calls for the days of voluntary extra labour [subbotniki] to begin: THANKS TO THE LEADER

A series of shots of building activity are intercut with footage of Lenin speaking and troops drilling. Shub is building on the cinematic myth of Lenin as the inspiration for all positive activity which had begun with Vertov's Cine-Pravda 21. Reel 6 begins with a clear statement of Bolshevik orthodoxy: UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY THE TOILING MASSES GO TO WAR

Scenes of military and cultural activity, featuring an agit-train, are followed by images of the military leadership. Faded footage of Chapayev is followed by Trotsky greeting the 'oldest' and 'youngest' volunteer; underlining the 'old and new' theme, this reel ends in triumph: THEY WERE VICTORIOUS

This slogan is supported by footage of the Red Army entering Kiev, Odessa and Vladivostok. The sequence ends with the commanders Voroshilov and Budenny and their officers: ON GUARD FOR THE USSR

Thus Shub mixes the messages of triumph and continued vigilance which fit with the political mood of the late 1920s, and she sets the tone for the rest of the film. Reel 7, now stressing the official position of 'Socialism in One Country' as opposed to the Trotskyite belief in accelerated world-wide revolution, announces: THE VICTORY OF COMMUNISM WILL BEGIN WITH IMPROVEMENT ON THE ECONOMIC FRONT

Forward Soviet! A panorama of factory chimneys and mines follows. UNDER THE DIRECTION OF LENIN VLADIMIR Footage of Lenin at a demonstration. ILYICH Lenin in his office stroking a cat. A new train comes off the production line and begins its journey. The train is named 'Hammer and Sickle'. The viewer is transported to the 'Universal store'. Its windows are full of goods. Inside a man tries on a new leather coat under the admiring gaze of other customers. The new rouble is issued and queues form at the cashier's desk. Shub needs to build the image of a successful state because the next section of the film has to deal with the sad event of 1924. Ships are stranded in the ice and snow. A flag flutters in a strong wind. A newspaper headline states: 'Lenin is dead.' Again the (presumably) red flag flutters. Another, rather better preserved, flag flies above the Kremlin. Crowds mass inside and outside the Hall of Columns. Continuing the film's overarching theme of the old and the new, footage of the leadership (THE OLD GUARD) is immediately followed by shots of mourning children. The funeral is shown at length and largely from crowd level. The tattered red flag flutters again in the strong northern wind. A solemn and moving moment but Shub will not dwell on negative aspects. The reel finishes with the titles: LENIN IS DEAD BUT HIS VENTURE LIVES ON The factory hooters blow and the work continues. Reel 8 begins with a bold, single word title: THERE Wall Street fills the screen with frenetic activity. A sequence of activity on the Paris stock exchange contains a particularly striking image of the stone gryphons of Notre Dame looking down on Paris intercut with speeded-up footage of the traffic below. 'NEXT DOOR' are the slums of Paris, and 'IN THE COLONIES' the workers are 'SLAVES'. The film makes connections between all workers, particularly as the following images are of a strike in the USA. The titles confidently state: THE LABOURING MASSES WILL REMEMBER However: 'they could not save ... Sacco and Vanzetti ... from the electric


Esfir Shub and the Great Way Forward chair.' Archive footage of the hapless anarchists w h o went to the electric chair is chillingly followed by shots of illuminated signs. The capitalist world and its evils need to be connected to the Soviet Union. Shub does this with a caption:

THEY ARE READY TO ATTACK Battleships are seen in formation WE SEE Eye-holes open, periscopes are raised, guns are levelled WE ARE READY Troops drill and tanks roll forward. USSR THE FIRST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD WHERE WORKERS AND PEASANTS ARE SUCCESSFULLY BUILDING SOCIALISM T h e camera now tours a Soviet city, concentrating on transport and traffic signals in particular. Workers 'escaping from repression' arrive in Moscow. They are greeted with banners in Russian and G e r m a n declaiming 'Workers of the world unite'. A crowd demonstrates under the floodlights of the Moscow Soviet. The word LENIN on the front of the building is constructed in lightbulbs. The foreign visitors are shown 'how construction continues'. They visit a bridge and a construction sight. Then they observe 'the culture of peopleness' [narodnost']: newspapers, leaflets, women (of various national groupings) learning to read. WE ARE BUILDING FACTORIES AND PLANTS (this section features model housing) WE ARE BUILDING A NEW LIFE GETTING WOMEN OUT OF THE KITCHEN Both m e n and w o m e n work in the new factory kitchen. The c o m m u n a l dining r o o m is neat and tidy. Small children eat and smile. THE FIRST SOVIET TRACTORS arrive on the land and drive past and, in a telling image, obscure the horsedrawn ploughs. EVERY NEW TRACTOR STRENGTHENS THE LINK BETWEEN THE PEASANTS AND THE WORKERS

Forward Soviet! Kalinin visits the peasants to drink tea and to introduce ELECTRIFICATION OF THE COUNTRYSIDE It would be difficult to miss the contrast between this scene of progress and the previously shown uses made of electricity in the capitalist world. The original audience for The Great Way would have been struck from the very beginning by the motivating effect of seeing themselves as actors in a reallife historical epic drama. Vertov had already exploited this use of real people from his earliest films but with S hub's pacing and deliberate triumphalism the project takes on an uplifting feeling. After an eloquent exposition of the struggle for Soviet power and its consolidation, the film ends with an emotive climax. Those who have suffered for their homeland look on as the new generation pledges to continue the struggle. This is an example, as is the whole film, of a motivating myth presented in cinematographic form. The caption AND THE YOUNG LENINISTS is followed by a shot of the Komsomsol banner with a group of teenagers and younger children grouped in front. Then single-word titles hammer home the message: STRONG - is followed by gymnasts drilling BRISK - by their marching past the camera HURRAH FOR CHANGE is illustrated by an old woman waving her handkerchief and mouthing a cheer. This image dissolves into children in a well ordered march past. THEY SWEAR one mouth, several mouths, faces TO FINISH THEIR FATHERS' WORK The lines of pioneers march solemnly and determinedly out of frame. ON THIS GREAT WAY FOR ILYICH AND THE STRENGTHENING OF THE SOVIET UNION Shub's films14 of the 1920s were constructed with a more deliberate rhythm and juxtaposition than Eisenstein's and Vertov's work. Vertov would have argued that his method was more 'true to life'. However, with reference to its propaganda value, it is worth noting that the signifier (i.e. virtuoso editing of 'life caught unawares') often obscures what he hopes to signify (i.e. the power and moral superiority of socialist construction). Shub's celebration of the

Esfir Shub and the Great Way Forward anniversary is more readily engaging than Vertov's work and more inspiring than the Sovkino newsreels of November and December. Many parades are shown - edition 44 is taken up entirely with the Moscow parades - but they are of the dull, formulaic march-past variety. Immediately preceding and following the release of Shub's second film, a debate raged about both form and content in the future Soviet cinema. This debate was fuelled by controversies about how the revolution should have been celebrated. Shub's close friend Mayakovsky was prominent in the arguments which centred on the 'New Left' [Novyi Lef ] group. In October Mayakovsky spoke in the debate on T h e Paths and Policy of Sovkino'. He joined in the general criticism of the national film institution, while defending the artists themselves: People point to Eisenstein and Shub. There's no doubt that these directors are the pride of our cinema but they became that in spite of Sovkino ... People talk about Shub. But she's an artist because film is based on a completely different principle. The montage of real shots without the slightest reshooting. What's Sovkino up to? ... It refuses Shub royalties.15 Mayakovsky finishes his lengthy statement with a return to the subject of newsreel: We've strayed away from newsreels. What do we have for the tenth anniversary of October? ... Sovkino in the person of Eisenstein will show us a fake Lenin ... I promise that at the most solemn moment, whenever it may be, I shall hiss and pelt this fake Lenin with rotten eggs. It's outrageous. And the blame for this lies with Sovkino who have never been able to appreciate the importance of the newsreel and do not appreciate it even now.16 On the anniversary of the revolution Mayakovsky wrote 'On Cinema' in the Leningrad publication Kino: My greatest wish for Soviet cinema in the tenth year of the October Revolution is that it should reject the muck of productions like The Poet and the Tsar and provide the resources that are pointlessly wasted on this kind of picture to shoot our revolutionary worker's newsreel. This would safeguard the making of such fine pictures as The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty and The Great Way etc ... We do not want to see on the screen actors playing Lenin: we want to see Lenin himself, albeit in a small number of frames, looking at us from the cinema screen. This is the valuable aspect of our cinema. Let us have newsreels!17 The unplayed branch of cinema was experiencing some (distinctly qualified) success. Sovetskii ekran had celebrated the opening of the first theatre specifically

Forward Soviet! for 'educational films' [kul'turfirmy] in an editorial at the start of September. However, it was worth considering that this opening could lead to tokenism and further ghettoisation rather than further and wider viewing: To demonstrate them only in a special theatre does not solve the problem. These films need to be seen more widely. To judge by the letters of workers to the papers, the audience genuinely wants educational films. It is necessary to overcome this waste, to give equal weight to our cine-hire.'18 The editorial of 1 November (in an edition taken up with non-fiction film) celebrated 'One hundred editions of newsreel' as a triumph despite, rather than because of, the administration: T h e 100th edition of the newsreel comes out. This is a victory for the spectator, the overcoming of the idea that newsreel and educational film are not necessary, that the spectator is only interested in tricks and galas of dubious American stars.'19 Wishful thinking perhaps, but clear evidence none the less that some commentators were as interested in nonfiction (and its propagandists value) as the administrators seemed uninterested. Novyi Lef number 11/12, published to celebrate the anniversary of the Revolution, gave over all of its pages to a discussion of the future of Soviet cinema. Undoubtedly the paper's editorial group felt it necessary to set out a position before the Party Conference on Cinema. They did not wish to suffer a similar defeat to that experienced over literature and theatre. This - and the absence of Vertov - may explain the conciliatory tone of the contributions. All the contributors readily accept the need for fiction and non-fiction film. The tone of comradely solidarity on the left of art is set by Sergei Tretiakov. The point, which comes across in all of the articles, is that the organisation of, rather than the nature of, the material is pre-eminent. Shklovsky's 'Mistakes and Inventions' is particularly scathing of Pudovkin's End of St Petersburg [Konets Sankt-Peterburga], 'Because of the absence of plot structure'. The critic then moves on to Eisenstein: After viewing some Eisenstein sequences a man who is intelligent and conversant with cinema said to me, "That is very good. I like that a lot but what will the masses say?" What will the people we are working for say? What can you say to that?'20 Before commenting - reasonably - that 'We must give the audience time to mature', Shklovsky asserts: 'But we must now produce works to gain applause, to please immediately and to please everyone.' The critic was fast coming to terms with the need, in the political climate of the day, to reach the masses. Osip Brik, who edited the paper with Mayakovsky, and Esfir Shub discussed the best approach for dealing with factual material. Brik's contribution dealt with T h e Fixation of Fact': 'abandon "artistry" and discard from everyday use the plot schema that are no longer serviceable ... Our immediate task ... [is to] accumulate the largest possible quantity of real facts and details ... This is the battle of fact against creative device, the battle of actual reality against artistic schema that distort and deform that actual reality.'21 Shub took a more conciliatory (if determined) line as seen in her contribution

Esfir Shub and the Great Way Forward to the debate in 'We do not deny an element of mastery': T h e whole question is what shall we film now? Once we see that clearly, the terminology - played or unplayed film - is unimportant.' 22 This is a line which was becoming more and more the orthodoxy among the 'left', including Tretiakov. Shub was more inclined to defend newsreel but to mix the forms: What is important is that we are LEF. We think that in our epoch we can film only newsreel and thus preserve our epoch for a future generation. Only that. This means that we want to film the here and now, contemporary people, contemporary events ... Let us talk about unplayed cinema. Let it have its played moments. But what is the difference if you look, for example, at a remarkable played film made three years ago? You will not be able to watch it because it has become quite simply indigestible. When you look at an unplayed film this does not happen: it survives, it is interesting because it is a small fragment of life that has really passed.23 This is somewhat out of line with Shub's belief that: It is all a matter of technique. If you have good lighting equipment, if you have the technical opportunities to arrange the filming properly, then the played element falls away. Now we no longer have to struggle to film a newsreel. All over the place, in the newspapers people write that we need newsreel. There is no longer any need to agitate for newsreel.24 For the rising star of non-fiction cinema, this must have been a point of supreme confidence for Shub. In a public statement she can suggest that the battle is over: Our work agitates better than any article. Now it is important to fight for the opportunity to produce work of high quality. We are gathering the raw material: we shall acquire the mastery as years go by ... Are we really denying an element of mastery? We are not denying it. We are convinced that with great mastery it is possible to make a film from non-played material that is better than any fiction film. It is a matter of aims and method. That is what we must talk about.25 At the end of the year Adrian Piotrovsky, who was about to begin his ten years as artistic director of the Leningrad studios, wrote two articles in Zhizn' iskusstva [Life of Art]. They are confident and energetic in tone. In 'Let us be Maximalists', Piotrovsky celebrates the defeat of 'the Left Front' in literature (at the conference in May) but points out that cinema, as a new art, should be treated differently. Indeed, the more radical the solution for the future of cinema, the better. The 'bourgeois' cinema was running out of energy and ideas:


Forward Soviet! Our slogan must be: no protection for sham cinema academicism. No bowing down before its techniques, before its established academic methods and genres. We must recognise that the Soviet mainstream cinema is already becoming the only course powerful enough to safeguard the future and the genuine growth of cinema in terms both of its social influence and class lucidity and of its formal technique.26 During the article Piotrovsky talks of a new cinema speaking in the Voice of the "Five-Year Plan", the voice that speaks of the industrialisation and the electrification of our country'. Clearly, here is a man with an understanding of political as well as artistic imperatives. He also has a grasp of the practicalities of cinema. In his final article of the year, '"Ideology" and "Commerce"', Piotrovsky points out that contemporary films can make money and that even the successful costume dramas fail to turn a profit due to high production costs. It is necessary to take notice of these ideas as expressed by a most influential figure. It is crucial to understand that at this great turning point in Soviet society and arts, the future of cinema was not definitively decided. Krupskaia's statement to the ODSK conference - 'Soviet cinema must prepare and show such films as will help the mass spectator to understand more deeply the actualities and ideas of the revolutionary struggle'27 - did not lead to strictures about the form or nature of future cinematographic product. The call to 'help the mass spectator to understand' did not at this stage necessarily mean a move towards facile, immediate, unproblematic intelligibility. It was still possible to see that a radicalisation of the political economy could involve a radical approach to 'the greatest of all the arts'. It is also important to understand that radicalisation can take many forms. Included in the possibilities could be a suspicion, even abandonment, of expertise and, by extension, over a period of time, of innovation and questioning. In retrospect it is significant that the theorists and film-makers were not concentrating, like Piotrovsky, more closely on the politics of the situation. Their natural attraction to the radical may well have blinded them to the repercussions of cultural revolution to the form and content of their own industry as well as to its products. The year 1927 was a period of building for the Soviet cinema. The clearest sign of this was the planning of the complex in the Sparrow (later Lenin) Hills designed to take seventeen production units at any one time.28 Soviet cinema was at last becoming an industry.29 This development had advantages and opportunities, of course. Resources, including those of time and space, would be more readily available. However, it should also have been borne in mind that industrial process tends towards homogenisation and vast, costly, complex operations need control in any environment. In the climate of the 1930s, mixed with the Party's (and particularly Stalin's) interest in film, originality of any sort was liable to rouse suspicion at the very least.

Esfir Shub and the Great Way Forward Shklovsky naturally wanted to comment on the opportunities available. He was also perspicacious enough to feel the need to discuss how the newly emerging industry should be directed and by whom. Shklovsky focused on the weaknesses which had already shown themselves in the Soviet film industry ('better than any other film factories') and warned of the difficulties ahead. The fault in Cinema's disposition and in its poor labour protection ... lies first and foremost with film-makers. The film-maker is often a dilettante. The film factory is full of philistines. If you want to come to cinema's aid do not rush to the screen. Pause to think a hundred times, a thousand times, on the doorstep of the film factory. Best of all: Stay in the audience. A conscious exacting audience.30 Shklovsky's call to 'stay in the audience' may strike the reader as snobbish and elitist. However, bearing in mind the type of characters who did seize control of the industry, his warnings were more than pertinent. So is his call for a conscious, exacting audience. This is precisely the kind of audience which film-makers had called for and mass spectator cinema industries had avoided (and would continue to do so). In any event, this 'enlightening' approach, wherein an art form has to raise the consciousness of the audience rather than succumbing to the lowest common denominator, does not sit well with the urgent exigencies of the Stalinist plan to supercharge the productive powers of the Soviet Union and its citizens overnight. Cultural hegemony would have to be a matter of domination pure and simple. By the time of her film-making career, if we are to believe her autobiography, Shub was thinking about the contemporary social as well as artistic situation, though hardly in a systematic manner. Her views on the New Economic Policy are particularly interesting: 'for the time being I understood that this was an unavoidable and singularly correct decision of the party.'31 This reads rather like the repetition of a catechism. Shub is no more convincing on her state of mind: 'devoid of mental peace. I looked at Moscow strange and inconceivable. The slime of the past was revealed to me on the streets of my town.'32 This could well be an example of retrospective Stalinist orthodoxy. On the other hand, it (and other examples) seems to illustrate Shub's impatience with the social effects of NEP which is typical of left-wing intellectuals and Party cadres in the period of the policy's breakdown.33 These feelings of frustration and impatience were a contributory factor to the background which allowed the Stalinist leadership and its supporting cadres to launch its social, economic as well as cultural campaigns. After 1928, in which Shub completed her historical trilogy with an 'unseen' film, The Russia of Nicholas II and Lev Tolstoy, 1929 was a year of complete inactivity. Film-making stopped while negotiations for foreign footage dragged on. She had to content herself with an active year as a theorist. In 'Unplayed


Forward Soviet! Film', Shub discussed how best to film documentary. The great editor pays due respect to the crucial role of the cameraman as well as the need for detailed reconnaissance and constant reworking of the shooting plan. In a particularly valuable and intriguing part of this lengthy article Shub grapples with the relationship between documentary realism and political needs: The workers of non-played film want, in a business-like way, to play a part in the rigorous construction of today. They want to use all the technical qualities and possibilities of the camera to exploit for us our quickly passing life in all its many forms, in all its complexity, to understand it and having understood it to fix it on film.34 The key words in this passage are 'exploit' and 'understand'. Shub does not seek to hide the fact that she wants to use reality as well as show it. She grapples with the difference between fiction and non-fiction film as a propaganda medium and concludes that the latter has an almost moral superiority. While fiction film tells its audience made-up stories, documentary challenges and stimulates its collective intellect. Shub states that she and other workers in non-fiction film want to produce: 'works which agitate and propagandise the struggle with our class enemies, works which reveal the failures and successes of the only country in the world which is building socialism. Here is our task ... Nothing is more convincing than the fact which is scientifically verifiable and inventively subjected to the clear aim of serving a social goal.'35 For Shub, unplayed film was not only a valuable source of genuine enlightenment, it was by its choice of material a far more persuasive propaganda tool. She also asserted that, along with a number of other talents, the qualities of the 'author' (an interesting choice of word in itself) must include 'political literacy'. 36 There is an obvious dichotomy here between the film-maker's understanding and exploiting function, and a tension between the needs of documentary realism and Shub's grasp of its potential propagandising and educating role coupled with a belief that this is exactly the role it should play. It is difficult to imagine that so subtle a film-maker could have been unaware of the dichotomy. The fact that Shub ignored this tension, or possibly is uncomfortable with it, is illuminating to the mind-set of a committed Soviet film-maker of the period. The fact that her attempts to construct her own theory of documentary were not always conclusive or even clearly thought out is not detrimental to their richness or value as a challenge to the reader's powers of interpretation. In November 1930 Shub finally released a film about the present; indeed, it was entitled Today [Segodnia]. This was Shub's first commission from Soiuzkino. The film is a prime example of her abilities as a film-maker and propagandist. It develops and refines her technique of comparing and contrasting Russian/ Soviet developments with (sardonically presented) events in the West. However, the film had already been damningly reviewed by Lev Shatov in Kino i zhizn'

Esfir Shub and the Great Way Forward [Cinema and Life]. The political point of the film's catalogue of 'tit-bits' [vkusnykh] is not made clearly enough. T h e captions do not convince.' The attack on the film develops into a general attack against documentary filmmakers: Tt is possible and necessary to struggle against elements of formalism in documentary film, particular to a few directors ... ornate "formalistness" of method in whole or in parts, the decadent depravity of the artistic practice of Erofeev, Shub, Schneiderov and Bliokh.'37 Today begins as a natural continuation of The Great Way with film of the strong, youthful republic. Shub is looking forward now: FROM THE BALTIC TO THE BLACK SEA THE ADVANCE SUCCEEDS ON ALL FRONTS The titles inform the viewer that these are the words of Molotov. Molotov's speech goes on to tell us about 'the two worlds' (capitalist and socialist). However, the images that follow are of the Soviet Union and give the impression that the socialist state is a vast and various world in itself. Shub begins with 'the North' with Karelia's reindeer. Thatchers repair a cottage in the 'rural settlement'. From here we are transported to a collective farm where tea is being grown. This is presumably in Azerbaijan as the next shots 'in the eastern streets' show the alleyways - and Turkish bath - of a city which is immediately followed by 'The new proletarian Baku'. These shots feature an 'electric railway' and row upon row of houses (which look prefabricated). Unfortunately, 'the old' style looks a good deal more interesting than 'the new', but clearly a point about modernisation is being made and the new buildings link neatly with the next section which takes place 'In Moscow'. Trams (by now the Soviet icon for urbanisation) hurtle along crowded streets. The camera flits past shops, including a post office, and settles on a group buying booklets from the Sixteenth Party Congress. As the camera makes connections (the post office and congress booklets are surely significant), the titles make a geographical connection: TODAY TOMORROW'S MOSCOW IS BEING BUILT The all-pervasive nature of this building is made clear by the titles: FROM THE BALTIC TO THE BLACK SEA OUR SUCCESS IS ON THE OFFENSIVE ON ALL FRONTS Shub discusses the Five-Year Plan: THE SOCIALIST OFFENSIVE ON A NEW FRONT At a 'metal works' the 'IN FOUR YEARS' banners are on display.


Forward Soviet! It is interesting to compare Shub's film to Vertov's work at this point. Shub is dealing with almost exactly the same material as seen in The Eleventh Year [Odinnadtsatyi, 1928]. Vertov's film is more involving. This is due to the quality of the camera-work. Put simply, Kaufman and the other cameramen get closer to the action. The spectator feels more engaged. In addition, Vertov and Svilova find it difficult to let scenes run for long. Shub will allow her material to parade before the spectator. The result of these two elements is that with Vertov one feels like a protagonist; with Shub the feeling is of being a spectator. This is true of most of their work but this comparison of similar shots illustrates it most clearly. The next section of Today deals with that other key plank of the first FiveYear Plan: the kulak question. After shots of a funeral of - as the banner held by the mourners proclaims - a 'peasant-activist murdered by Kulak* the 'answer' is given (after a church is demolished) by the caption: L I Q U I D A T E T H E K U L A K AS A C L A S S

A meeting is signalled by time-lapse photography showing a hall filling. This section ends with a 'collectivisation brigade named after Stalin' off to the Dnieper 'to help'. The spectator is shown the building sites of the Dnieper dam complex. A major part of the film (two reels) deals with 'The Capitalist World'. Shub begins with an establishing shot: an airship hovers by the Statue of Liberty. We also see the statue being cleaned. The grime is significant. Here too construction goes on. Indeed, some of the scenes are very similar to the shots of the Dnieper hydroelectric plant which had preceded them. Machinery lumbers as workers scurry about their business. Shub undermines the moral value of 'capitalist' construction by inserting shots of the flippancy which accompanies it - from roller derbies to under-water weddings. Some of the general activity shots may remind the viewer of Vertov's anti-NEP footage. Women wear ridiculous hats and fashion shows feature the usual bizarre creations. The madness of the activity is illustrated first by the dancing of wild-eyed women in church on St Vitus' day and then by the increasing speed of the editing and the action itself. It is interesting that Shub eschews titles for several minutes. She can make her points with visuals alone. When the captions are used they make a repetitive point, hammering home the word: SENSATIONS. Shub finishes this section by returning to serious matters. A particularly strong visual point is made when shots of the American armed forces on night training - 'war games' - are followed by a Ku Klux Klan meeting. Life in the capitalist world is merely a series of sensations; even its unplayed film footage is sensationalist. Shub's point is now made internationally as the spectator is taken around the world: THE FASCISTS


Esfir Shub and the Great Way Forward STRENGTHEN


- footage of Mussolini posing SOCIAL FASCISTS

Footage of German paramilitaries (including the Stahlhelm) being blessed by clergymen leads into a lengthy section of religious activity featuring the juxtaposition of priests and penguins at the zoo. A clear link of exploitation is made by the next title - 'slaves' - followed by footage of black soldiers in the French army (apparently on the Maginot line). After a tour through the streets of 'Egypt' we are returned to New York's 'poor areas'. Here 'thousands are without work' in a land of 'strikes' and 'shanty towns' where the workers look to the communists. The 'unemployed' certainly look like vagrants lounging on park benches. We are shown the offices of the Daily Worker and leaflets being handed out. Scenes from a picket line in Pennsylvania are followed by a huge public gathering which is captioned as 'a communist party meeting'. Shub then shows us the results of 'cold-blooded' capitalist 'rationalisation': surplus workers being evicted from their homes. She edits shots of the Statue of Liberty together with unemployed workers demonstrating in New York. The demonstrations turn into a riot as the titles proclaim 'To the defence of the socialist fatherland ... USSR' - yet another fine example of Shub's skills as ironist and utiliser of 'enemy' material. The final glimpse of the statue is captioned 'FREEDOM'. The coup de grace is served by following this sequence with shots of Soviet workers working 'At Dnieproges'. DAY & N I G H T S O C I A L I S M IS B E I N G BUILT THERE

They are preparing for a new important struggle. WE

gunboats ON GUARD

tanks READY


READY workers march and troops drill W I T H US ARE READY

Forward Soviet! TO DEFEND THE USSR

THE PROLETARIAT OF ALL LANDS So the film ends, showing that Shub not only knows how to pace an argument, but also when to let words speak directly without visual distraction. The film as a whole, with its skilful use of others' material and powerful montage to produce telling political points, shows Shub at her best. The film is also an important contribution to the mythology of the Stalinist party line of the first Five-Year Plan, i.e. that the citizens of the Soviet Union must be prepared to defend the state (the one hope of the workers of the world) as enemies gathered abroad and the class war intensified at home. As a cinematic and propaganda success, Today was the last great silent Soviet documentary.

4. Beyond the Cine-Eye

Shub's star rose during the debates in Moscow about how best to celebrate revolutionary history and the building of the Soviet Union. Dziga Vertov had fled from Moscow with the accusations of the industry and critics ringing in his ears. Ippolit Sokolov damaged Vertov not only by attacking T h e deformation of facts'1 but, significantly, by highlighting his profligacy (26,000 metres of film for a 1,140m film) and failure to make a profit. When Vertov hit back in a letter2 which was much less conciliatory than Sokolov's original criticism (The unwillingness, or rather, inability of I. Sokolov to understand the structure of A Sixth Part of the World should not provoke surprise'), Sokolov brought forward the 'evidence' he had been holding back. In short, Vertov was accused not only of staging shots but also of the uncredited use of material from other people's documentaries including Lebedev's Through Europe [Po Evrope]. Lebedev confirmed this accusation.3 Vertov continued to develop his own (more and more clearly idiosyncratic) approach away from the sniping of Moscow in the relative freedom of the Ukraine. A brief entry from his diary (22 June 1927, Zaporozhe) illustrates his happiness in his work: Covered with red dust, coated with slivers of cast iron, tired and soaked to the skin ... Our shoes are charred, our throats parched, our eyes strained ... The clock shows four. Up there above ground, dawn must already have broken. It is possible to roll our cameras only when the water pumps stop. We spend hours waiting for those moments, shifting from one leg to the other, huddled against the cold. Kaufman sleeps standing up. Barantsevich warms himself by hugging a rheostat which has not yet cooled ... I hesitate to talk of 'being in love' concerning my feelings ... But, in truth ...4 Mark Tseitlin, one of Vertov's crew, was less romantic in his view of the shooting experience. He wrote in Sovetskii ekran:

Forward Soviet! Each meter is obtained then ... with blood ... 1350°, the temperature of living metal ... amongst the heat and the sparks, filming the flow of the metal. At top speed Kaufman rushes with the camera, almost overtaken by the metal. Vertov at the same time cries out at the top of his voice. What he cries is not clear but we can easily surmise. Turn the handle! The next shooting was the very highest chimney in the USSR.5 In March 1928, as Vertov and Svilova edited their film, the Party Conference on Cinema met in Moscow. The conference, organised by the agitation and propaganda section of the Central Committee, was opened by the section head Krinitsky. The event, which ran from 15 to 21 March 1928, had been exceedingly well planned. The agitation and propaganda section had been meeting since the previous August to discuss the 'question of the development of cinema'. 6 In January ARRK (the Association of Worker in Revolutionary Cinema), ODSK and the Union of Cinema Workers were in discussion about 'the paths and policies of cinema'. 7 One hundred and twenty-seven delegates attended the conference with voting rights. Of them 94 were from Party organisations and the Komsomol. It was a decision-making process entirely dominated by Party cadres.8 At the opening of the conference, Krinitsky urged that cinema 'must be a weapon for the organisation of the masses1.9 There was to be no dichotomy between commercial success and ideological purpose. If the right kinds of film were made, the workers would flock to them. Sovkino came under widespread condemnation from Krinitsky and others. Kosior - another member of the agit-prop section - stressed (rather impatiently) 'the need for Soviet film-makers to learn the ideology of the proletariat'.10 Kosior also stressed the need to look carefully at the cadres of the industry. The conference resolution, which summed up the mood of the meeting and set the tone for the later statements,11 is a superb primary source for a history of the first Five-Year Plan (including calls for 'cultural revolution' and 'involving the basic mass of the peasantry in the orbit of socialist construction') as well as the Soviet cinema. In the long term perhaps the most important section of the resolution is the following: 'The main criterion for evaluating the formal and artistic content of films is the requirement that cinema furnish a "form that is intelligible to the millions".'12 Immediately after the conference the agitprop section went back into session. These deliberations eventually produced the Central Committee decree 'On the Strengthening of Cinema Cadres' [Ukrepit' kadry rabotnikov kino] of 11 January 1929.13 The final resolution was directly relevant to one film-maker who was unable to attend: the socio-political content of Soviet cinema amounts to propaganda through the depiction of the new socialist elements in the economy, in social relations, in everyday life and in the personality of man; to struggle against the remnants of

Beyond the Cine-Eye the old order; to the enlightenment of the masses, in their education and organisation around the cultural, economic and political tasks of the proletariat and its party, realised in the period of socialist construction; to the class elucidation of historical events and social phenomena; to the dissemination of general knowledge and international education of the masses, to overcoming the nationalist prejudices.14 Vertov was already working on precisely those terms. He was also the beneficiary of the dispute between VUFKU (the Ukrainian Cinema) and Sovkino which, among other things, allowed a certain level of autonomy of production. Vertov, working on a range of new and re-editing projects, was unable to complete an anniversary film in 1927. He made a virtue of necessity and produced a documentary which not only celebrated the past but, as with The Great Way, looked forward. The film was originally planned as Ten Years of October [10 let Oktiabria] but was finished as The Eleventh Year [Odinnadtsatyi]. Its Kiev premiere took place in April and it opened in Moscow in May 1928. The film was shown in Germany before it reached the capital of the Soviet Union. Sovetskii ekran pointed this out in its May editorial, before listing all the excellent reviews the film had received. A month earlier a short article had pointed out that 'the spectator needs non-played film' and noted that: T h e success of The Fall and The Great Way revealed that the spectator needs nonplayed film. Dziga Vertov's The Eleventh Year now plays in Kiev. In three days the cinema was visited by 10,000 spectators. This figure is uncommon even for so-called "hits".' 15 The film had been discussed at a meeting of ARRK on 16 February. Vertov told his colleagues 'about the film The Eleventh Year' thus: First of all, The Eleventh Year is written in the purest film-language, the 'language of the eye'. Secondly, The Eleventh Year is written by the camera in documentary language, in the language of the fixification of facts on film. Thirdly, The Eleventh Year is written in socialist language, in the language of the communist decoding of the visible world.16 Vertov's comments at the meeting are interesting in themselves, not least for their defensive tone. Much of his presentation is phrased as a series of answers to possible criticisms, including 'symbolism' and the 'use of complex shots'. Vertov's reply to the latter is important: 'We resort to complex shots either to show simultaneous action, or to separate a detail from the overall film-image, or to contrast two or more facts. The explanation of this as a trick method does not correspond to reality.'17 It is also significant that much of the article dwells on a defence of Vertov's team working 'without a scenario'. Vertov can continue to argue that he 'organises' the real world. However, avoidance of planning would become increasingly unacceptable. The film itself18 begins with brief credits and a dedication to the 'Soviet

Forward Soviet! Ukraine' and T h e Soviet Union'. The first moving picture is an aerial shot, specifically captioned as 'Half-way between Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporozhe featuring impressive rapids named "insatiable" [nenasytnyi]'. Vertov then presents a '2,000-year-old' skeleton. A change in pace and approach is signalled by the title: ASSAULT ON THE DNIEPER. Shots of a steam shovel, mine carts, diggers and men carrying coal are intercut and superimposed. Up to four images appear and overlap on the screen at any one time. Shots of ten frames or fewer produce a strobing effect. After a title ('echo') the hammering is superimposed over the skeleton. The camera, literally, moves on with a series of tracking, crane and hand-held shots through a building site. The titles proclaim: WE BUILD The skeleton flashes briefly on to the screen superimposed over men silhouetted against the sky. Warnings are given. This is illustrated by shots of bells and megaphones. Vertov is struggling with a desire to express sound. HERE - shots of burning fuses and the skeleton WE BUILD - explosions THE LARGEST HYDROELECTRIC STATION IN EUROPE The reel ends with a close-up of the skeleton's skull. Some wondrous images and juxtapositions are presented to the viewer. Sophisticated connections between construction and destruction - on several levels truly revolutionary are made. But what is the viewer to make of the skeleton? There is no time to dwell on the question. Vertov has moved on. Reel 2 begins with water. Flowing water is superimposed over buildings. It is possible to speculate that we are being shown the flooding of a village by the creation of a dam. The caption 'Electricity rises' introduces the viewer to a sequence of water and pylons. Peasants toil in the field as a worker climbs a pole and attaches a wire. The peasants stop their activities, including carrying water, and gather around an 'electricity co-op'. This scene is linked directly to peasants working with a threshing machine. The connection is straightforward. The sequence ends with wheat piled high against the electricity pole. Of course, Vertov cannot allow a whole reel to pass in simple presentation. Reel 2 finishes with a sequence of machines, first in close-up then in ever more complicated superimposition. The whole screen fills with moving machinery, giving the impression of a single, hugely complex machine. Reel 3 deals with the mines: AT THE UNDERGROUND BASE OF SOCIALISM. Miners go about their business and the wheel of the mine, silhouetted against the sky in under-cranked shots, turns. The mining activity continues. Mid-way through the reel the male miners are replaced by a shift of women. The women work as the titles proclaim:



Reel 4 features the Soviet Union on guard with shots of 'a sentry on the Black Sea', 'a sentry on Volkhovstroi' who guards a battleship, and "Voroshilov' seen addressing the cavalry. In a marvellous geographical leap of montage via a watchtower on the Romanian border, the viewer is returned to the 'electricity co-op'. A group of Young Communists sit round a table. A lamp lights up and illuminates a window, described as: LENIN'S LAMP IN A PEASANT'S HUT

Quickly the film returns to the theme of machinery. Locomotives and mine works are intercut with shots from cloth-making factories. The titles spell out a clear message: WE ARE BUILDING BLAST FURNACES WE TURN OUT LOCOMOTIVE AFTER LOCOMOTIVE MACHINE TOOL AFTER MACHINE TOOL SHOP AFTER SHOP THE NATION STRIVES TOWARDS SOCIALISM ON THE GROUND

UNDER THE GROUND AND ABOVE THE GROUND A whole flight of planes passes the camera as an international theme develops: A C O M R A D E FROM CHINA ... A COMRADE FROM AFRICA ... A COMRADE FROM INDIA Shots of the air display and the factories are superimposed and intercut. Parades are shown once then twice then three times simultaneously on the screen. The impression is of an ever-growing and strengthening force. The screen is filled by the guns of a battleship before the announcement that: WE WILL NOT SURRENDER THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE REVOLUTION: WE SHALL GIVE OUR LIVES


Forward Soviet! Reel 5 repeats and amplifies images already seen. Workers march silhouetted against a sky glowing from furnaces. This effect is achieved by triple superimposition. Cranes swoop, machinery whirls, tractors plough and wheat is piled up, chimneys smoke. The message, while referring to the past, is confident and forward-looking: ON THE LAND CONFISCATED FROM THE LANDLORDS IN THE FACTORIES CONFISCATED FROM CAPITALISTS RISES THE SECOND TEN YEARS RISES THE ELEVENTH YEAR

More and more images of construction are intercut and superimposed as the film comes to an end. A recurring image is the connection of flowing water and turning turbines. The message of this film is power. The skeleton is still not explained. Vertov's shooting log does point to a possible meaning for the image: T h e Scythian stares from his eye sockets, through the black holes of his skull. As though he's listening to the explosions ... The Scythian is in his grave - and the din of the new offensive. The Scythian in his grave - and cameraman Kaufman focusing in amazement on a silence of two thousand years.'19 This is an interesting juxtaposition of 'the old and the new' but one easily lost while actually watching the film. In the weeks before the film's release, the Lef 'Ring' returned to the subject of representing Soviet reality in a debate which compared Vertov's celebration with that of Eisenstein: the much vilified October. Tn the Ring' were Brik, Pertsov and Shklovsky. The article was entitled 'Comrades! A Clash of Views!' (published in Novyi Lef'4, 1928). The key question raised by the 'anniversary' films was one of how best to show historical subjects as well as the new Soviet reality. Brik was in no doubt: Eisenstein was wrong, Vertov was doing the right thing but in the wrong way What was required was: A montage of documentary film shots. That is what Esfir Shub did in her films The Great Way and The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty'20 Brik begins with a very mixed review of Vertov's film. He praises Kaufman's camera-work, 'But as far as the montage is concerned, they have not managed to make the film into a united whole. Why? First and foremost because Dziga Vertov did not deem it necessary to base the film on an exact strictly devised thematic script21 ... This is a great mistake.'22 Brik also appears to be suggesting that the audience will have difficulty in following Vertov's train of thought. Vertov gets off quite lightly compared to Eisenstein, who 'finds himself in an extremely difficult and silly position'.23 He is portrayed as a victim of his own fame. Both Vertov and Eisenstein are damned in comparison with Shub:

Beyond the Cine-Eye [Compared to The Elenth Year] ... Snub's film The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty which is composed of old film sequences, produces a much more coherent impression because its thematic and montage plan has been carefully devised ... [with reference to Eisenstein's October] For those of us in Lef this is a task that can be executed in only one way: by a montage of documentary film shots.24 For documentary film, it could be argued that the years of maximum achievement in terms of variety, originality and diverse progression were the years 1927 and 1928. Shub and Vertov both produced masterpieces and were receiving some acclaim. Other film-makers released well-made, powerful and committed work. Mikhail Kaufman put his experience with the Cine-Eye group to use in his own film. He worked closely with an old colleague, Ilia Kopalin. These two shared the scenario duties on a film celebrating a day in the life of the capital city. The directors shared editing duties (in this they were helped by Svilova, who is uncredited). Moscow [Moskva] begins at daybreak. As the city remains still, the camera moves. The viewer is transported through 'the workers' district' along tram-lines past buildings and over junctions. Before each shot a simple caption names the next image: 'streets'; 'a co-op store', etc. An interesting feature of the early sections is how few people are seen. Kaufman seems genuinely interested in architecture - after all, in itself a defining element in the make-up of the city - and lay-out in the way his brother was fascinated by machinery. Reel 2 takes the viewer to the Zoo. Now the screen is populated by people and other animals. The public are filmed in unguarded moments - often aping the animals' movements (naturally, mainly apes) - in classic Cine-Eye style. The tour of the city resumes, utilising a wide range of filming and editing techniques. There are several slow-motion and combination stop/reverse action sequences. Divers at an outdoor pool are pushed and pulled up, down and across the screen at will. As Kaufman cruises the streets of the capital, the viewer is bound to be reminded of Cine-Eye (or indeed any of Vertov's experiments in non-titled excursions). In reel 3 people, particularly women, and machines are combined and intercut. Particular attention is paid to telegraph equipment and switchboards. As the female switchboard operators go about their business (making connections), their movements are matched by lathe parts. The sequence is overprinted with light-bulbs. This section is finished with shots of buildings intercut with sportsmen performing; the Soviet citizen has time to play as well as work. The final reel takes the viewer on a night tour of the capital featuring 'nightclubs'. There is little filmed actuality. Kaufman produces his effect by flashing illuminated signs across the screen. One word is repeated often: 'operators'. This is an effective use of resources and both a pun on the activity of the clubs and a visual pun - particularly good as it involves words and pictures - on the entirely praiseworthy activities of the previous reel. Naturally, this downside of

Forward Soviet! city life cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. The nightlife is contrasted with the edifying sight of the - fast becoming ubiquitous - 'Workers' Club'. Here the scrubbed-up 'typical' workers (signifying flat caps and scarves to the fore) read, play chess and receive medical examinations. Once again women are predominant in these scenes, as they are in the final sequence which takes place in a kindergarten. It has to be said that much of Kaufman's film is, perhaps not surprisingly, very derivative of his brother's (and therefore his own earlier) work. On the other hand, it should be noted how many sections are repeated in very similar style in Vertov's later Man with the Movie Camera.15 Two other Cine-Eyes managed their own film in 1927. Sovkino commissioned Kopalin and Belnikov to film the anniversary celebrations for A Holiday of the Millions [Prazdnik millionov].26 The film is dedicated, as the title would suggest, to a visualisation of the power of the masses.27 For example, reel 4 focuses on the marching crowds of 7 November. In Vladivostok and Kharkov, 'from the cold of Omsk' to Batumi. The camera is often positioned at crowd level. For the demonstrations in Krasnoyarsk, Samarkand and Bukhara, the camera is actually in the crowd. The section titled 'They go out to the October celebration' takes place in Moscow. Here a statue of Lenin is unveiled. In the Chuvash Republic the crowds march through the snow carrying a banner: 'All power to the World October.' Similar scenes take place in Nizhni Novgorod, Yaroslavl, Kiev and Kharkov again. Clearly the whole Union is joining in this memorial and exercise in solidarity. Reel 5 begins with the slogan 'A column of the millions', and the demonstrations in Odessa which take place on the famous 'Potemkin' steps. In Leningrad, 'the cradle of October' people climb the trees desperate to see the parades. The camera has a privileged position close to the passing columns. In true Cine-Eye style, we also see the cameras which film the events. The titles state boldly: 'On the October March ... To your greater victory' More and more soldiers march past as the titles declare: ALL POWER TO THE WORLD OCTOBER TO A WORLD SOVIET OF SOCIALIST REPUBLICS

Reel 6 opens with brief sequences of demonstrations from around the Soviet Union. Then the kinoks pull back for a sequence of 'life caught unawares' signalled by the title 'early' Women clean the Moscow streets at dawn. Cavalry and infantry troops arrive in the capital. 'On Red Square'; 'The arrival of Foreign Workers' Delegates'; 'Nine o'clock'; 'Voroshilov presents the troops to Kalinin on the Square'. If the overriding message of the film is the power of the Union, it underlines that this strength has to be defended militarily. This is perfectly in line with the change of ideology within the leadership towards an urgent need for (industrial) strength. The point is hammered home by the arrival of 'foreign war attaches' to observe 'column after column' of troops. As part of the display Cossacks charge across Red Square. The camera retreats

Beyond the Cine-Eye behind the Mausoleum to film the crowds as they march past {not from point of view of the leadership). Both Moscow and Holiday of the Millions can be seen as part of an increasingly popular genre of documentary which Sergei Drobashenko dubbed 'expeditionary pictures' [ekspeditsionnaia kartina].28 While Kaufman concentrates on a single day in a single city, he does give the impression of a travelogue made by an inquisitive visitor. This tendency developed from Sovkino consistently sending its newsreel cameramen out into the republics. The honour of being the first full-length 'expeditionary picture' should go to Vladimir Schneiderov for The Great Flight [Velikii perelet], a film of an aeroplane excursion from Moscow to Tokyo via Mongolia and China. These expedition films were of general interest to the public. They were a source of information, entertainment and, at least in part, satisfied curiosity about the world away from day-to-day existence. In addition, the political importance of this genre is obvious. The urban audience in particular needed to be educated, and reassured, about the nature of the great Union. An important point could be made about the solidarity of the still young state and, if extended beyond the borders, concepts of international proletarian solidarity and class struggle could be made. The great hit of 1928 (at least in Moscow) was an example of this type of film. Yakov Bliokh - born in 1895 and therefore actually older than Vertov made his first film Shanghai Document [Shankhaiskii dokument] in 1928. The film, based upon footage taken by Stepanov during the 'people's rising' of the previous spring in the Chinese city, began its long and popular run in the capital on the May Day holiday.29 Bliokh was a representative of a new type of film-maker. He had joined the Party in 1918. Bliokh's film begins at a very slow pace (even when compared with Shub at her most ponderous), but what is interesting is the noticeable lack of captions. Once the titles announce that the 'holiday cruisers' are American, Bliokh seems content to allow the travelogue and ethnographic shots to speak for themselves. For the first two reels we have an ostensibly unmediated 'document'. It should be noted that the relative lack of text and the steady presentation would make the film more readily understandable to the wider, less sophisticated audience both the industry and its political masters were seeking. Reel 3 does require more text because the ideas and connections being made are somewhat more complex and the material less familiar. After scenes of 'Buddhism', the viewer is presented with 'the English exploiters' and 'Chinese bourgeoisie' who ape their masters' behaviour and dress. From an 'English school', Bliokh follows an 'English sports car' through the streets of the old town until its path is crossed by a rickshaw. The viewer is presented with the rickshaw driver and told: 'after two years he will be an invalid.' Bliokh, like his comrades, is struggling with the problem of comprehensibility. Ideas must be simplified if textual messages have to be kept simple and to a minimum. In a period when cinema was (finally) going into the countryside, this is a necessary


Forward Soviet! constraint. Visual complexity tends to bring with it a necessary textual thickening. The alternative is Vertov's challenging but often confusing visual approach, or (as many non-fiction film-makers were beginning to realise) the need for sound. Reel 3 ends with a brilliant sequence at a marionette theatre. The Chinese audience watch entranced. The film-watcher has the added ability to watch the show, and the audience and, in addition, the puppet masters. The Chinese characters are being manipulated at every level. Reels 4 and 5 parallel the 'activities' of Europeans and Chinese. As the whites 'foxtrot' and enjoy a 'British holiday' (sunbathing), the Chinese struggle in terrible conditions in 'a match factory' for '15 hours a day'. While white children play in the sunshine, Chinese children are seen labouring 'in an atmosphere of phosphorous'. Three images are cut together for maximum effect. White women sip tea, Chinese peasants drink from a communal ladle, and whites dive into a pool. 'European culture' is illustrated by dancing by the pool. The white children continue to play as the film returns to the factory where 'children work from six years old'. 'A twelve-year-old girl - 30 kopecks.' Rapid cuts between the two situations enliven some dull footage. A film-maker with ten years' Party experience could not allow his film to continue in such a negative, if angry, tone. The final reel gives cause for fury and hope as it focuses on 'the metal workers - avant garde of the Chinese proletariat'. Shots of a metal works and a textile factory, where the work-force is female, are followed by the title: 'Last year strikes occurred more and more often.' The communist takeover of Shanghai is described as 'THE MARCH REVOLUTION'. The Kuomintang (KMT) suppression is illustrated with newsreel film from both sides of the conflict. Shots of executions are intercut with archive footage of Sun Yat Sen and an 'internationalist' Indian speaker. These inserts are there to criticise the behaviour of the KMT. The film of the executions continues. Bliokh, in a manner reminiscent of Shub, is using enemy material to criticise its own makers. The sequence ends with a lengthy lingering over beheaded bodies and the scattered and fly-blown heads of the Chinese communists. The titles make the political point clearly: AGAINST THE WORKING CLASS

The film ends with more factory shots. These are clearly intended to remind us that the proletariat still exist and that their exploitation remains to produce a revolutionary situation. Bliokh's problem was in presenting what was a defeat, not only for the Chinese Communist Party but also for Soviet foreign policy.30 The Partyeducated film-maker was sufficiently sensitive to avoid any reference to a factional dispute between Chinese political forces, and simply presented the events as a heroic, if defeated, struggle against oppression which would teach valuable lessons for the future. In effect, the Shanghai fiasco was to be the

Beyond the Cine-Eye Chinese '1905'. As Cull and Waldron put it: 'Shanghai Document offers a rigidly ideological interpretation of the events of 1927 ... Bliokh imposes an alien analytical framework, drawn from Western Marxist concepts rather than Chinese reality.'31 Even more apposite is their comment: 'Bliokh's rigidly ideological approach to the events in China was necessitated by the political situation within the Soviet elite of the time.'32 Not only was the Party taking a more careful interest in the content of films, new film-makers33 were entering the industry who understood their political task much more clearly than the 'old masters'. Vladimir Erofeev, another Party stalwart (he joined the Party, aged eighteen, shortly after the Revolution) was entrusted with a series of expedition films: Beyond the Arctic Circle [Za arkticheskim krugom, 1927], The Roof of the World [Krysha mira, 1928] and The Heart of Asia [Serdtse Azii, 1929]. His trustworthiness had been proved, after years in the Leningrad newsreel section, by a year as head of Sovkino's Leningrad documentary section. It is typical of the heightening paranoia which followed the power struggles of the late 1920s, that his period as representative of Sovkino in Germany in 1925 also made him open to suspicion and thus unemployable for periods in the 1930s.34 Bliokh, Erofeev and the independent Cine-Eyes were representatives of a putative 'new wave' whose films focused on capturing life as it happened but presented it in a rather more straightforward manner than Vertov and with less consistent seriousness of tone than that found in Shub's historical epics. Their work, particularly Kaufman's, was experiencing some success with the public. Meanwhile, a constant stream of lively, engaged newsreels was being issued from central, local and specialised agencies. The 1928 Sovkino newsreels show a more variable visual style than the earlier numbers. There is more commentary and engagement in the titling too, e.g. 'DEMOCRACY' SHOWS ITS TRUE FACE (in edition 3) is followed by shots of French policemen attacking workers. In general there is more 'foreign' material. This must be due to increased availability but could also be a result of greater confidence in the use of film. The example of Shub may well have been an inspiration. Cartoons became more and more complex, e.g. edition 14 features a complicated animation of falling stars to advertise the Red Army and a puppet show entitled 'What is to be done' [chto delat'] (about the fight against crime). It would be disingenuous to suggest that the whole year's output was an inspiration. Edition 22, for example, contains a very dull sequence of communists demonstrating on May Day in London. This is followed by a visit to the 'New University' (Moscow) which overstays its welcome by several minutes. The camera tours through departments and rest rooms and watches a pingpong match of little visual interest. An edition like number 70, however, is a revelation as to what can be achieved in a standard newsreel format. It begins with an item about the spread of radio (mixing animated maps and a variety


Forward Soviet! of construction and meeting scenes). Other items take us throughout the Union. Every sequence has a different visual style but they all fit together beautifully. A puppet show ends with the camera pulling back to reveal the filming set-up. Troyansky, the newsreel cameraman, illustrates the techniques of film animation. The whole film (which has been organised around the theme of youth) ends with a Komsomol meeting. Seventy-four editions of the newsreel were produced in a year of real innovation and achievement. If there was much to praise in the quality of product, the distribution problem had not been solved. Sovetskii ekran continued its campaign even after the installation of its new editor - V. N. Russo - in June. The first editorial of October began: The quantity and quality of released non-played films grows quickly. But for the present, these films clearly do not reach the public. There are two causes here - we do not have a wide distribution for scientific films. Until now the directive about the form of programme has not been fulfilled ... scientific film suffers from a crisis and more lies in the box than on the screen.35 The editor bemoaned the lack of quality in so many 'geographical' films. Nevertheless, other October items spoke confidently about future plans for the Moscow studio and in the Ukraine36 and praised the work of Shub and the Cine-Eyes. On the 'played' branch of the cinema industry, the situation looked less healthy. The master Soviet fiction film-makers, for example Eisenstein and Pudovkin, were scrabbling for themes and faced with lukewarm public and critical response. Thus it is possible to see the period after the tenth anniversary as a golden age for the non-fiction film-makers in the Soviet Union. There were triumphs to celebrate. There was relative freedom to criticise (constructively) the Soviet Union as well as the West. The increasingly powerful commissioning/ funding system looked upon non-fiction film with some sympathy. It does need to be borne in mind that the resources available were still rather slight. This relatively comfortable situation (relative to the chaos and shortages of the civil war and the dangers to follow) was to be short-lived. What is ironic in this situation is that, just as they were receiving such encouragement from the opportunities of the cultural revolution, the very same project, its demands and its reactions were about to crush experimentation. As the New Economic Policy became the old economic policy, the newly triumphant and increasingly confident Stalin group and its supporters began to institute crash programmes of industrialisation. This was tied to the collectivisation campaign. All propaganda media would be needed to engage the population as a whole in the new struggle ahead and to institute a new cultural revolution. The Party's attention turned with force upon 'the most important of all the arts'. A Sovetskii ekran editorial of 18 December 1928 damned 'Formalist madness, the play on the "film shot" and its combination' (i.e. montage) and noted that 'Given correct leadership, given the presence of a clear Party line



1 .ABOVE. The Tsar as icon (from 1910 newsreel film)

2.RIGHT. The Tsar as salutary lesson (1913 Tercentenary celebrations as utilised by Esfir Shub in * Fall of the Romanov Dynasty, 1927)

3.The people as cadres:Young Leninists carrying a 'TO LENIN' banner (Shub's Great Way, 1927)


l.Shub in 1927: the 'enchantress of the montage table'

2.Shub in 1947: the Stalinist apparatchick

3.Vertov in 1921: the constructivist strikes a pose

m§ llElffc;

illill •Ml

4.Vertov in 1931: a less confident stance

5. ABOVE. Vertov's team in 1924: instilled with the confidence of the 'cme-eye' 6.BELOW. Vertov's team in 1931:'enthusiasm'less evident


1. Lenin as inspiration (female shock-worker from Vertov's Three Songs of Lenin, 1934)


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2. Stalin as object of adoration from Festival (May Day); Still from Blossoming Youth (1929)

LOOKING BACK ... LOOKING FORWARD 1. ABOVE. The closing shot of Babak's More Light (1997) 2. BELOW. The memorial at Solovky from Goldovskaia's Solovky Power (1997)


IMAGES F R O M T H E G O L D E N AGE OF THE DOCUMENTARY AVANT-GARDE: 1 .ABOVE LEFT. T h e front cover of Alexei Gan's manifesto for d o c u m e n t a r y Da zdrastvuet dcmonstratsia byta (Long Live the EJemonstration of Life!, 1923) 2. ABOVE R I G H T . Poster forVertov's C i n e - e y e (1924) 3.LEFT. Man with the Movie Camera (1929)

Beyond the Cine-Eye in our cinema, given the tireless promotion of new young and healthy cadres from both the film workers and the mass audience, cinema will successfully fulfil a powerful role in the cultural revolution.'37 The previous week, Sovetskii ekran had reported the resolution of the Sovkino Workers' Conference. The resolution called for a much more formalised control of film activity from film school to the studios as well as 'artistic expression that is intelligible to the millions'.38 The Central Committee was poised to issue its decree 'On the Strengthening of Cinema Cadres'. Proletarianisation was under way with all of its opportunities and dangers. Sovetskii ekran editorials of early 1929 made it clear that the cinema was crucial to the project of 'cultural revolution'.39 The need for accessibility was also stressed, for example, in this article celebrating the 200th edition of Sovkino newsreels: '[non-fiction film] can and must address the millions. And its language? Through simplicity and accessibility, through clarity and ingenuity, through evidentness [nagliadnost'; which could also be translated as visual directness].'40 Vertov, with his usual supremely bad timing, chose this moment to issue one of the most challenging and visually sophisticated films in the history of world cinema: The Man with the Movie Camera. Ostensibly a filmed diary of Mikhail Kaufman, it is in fact a box of tricks and delights exploring the nature and potentiality of film with enough (possibly too much for 80 minutes) invention to thrill any student of cinematography Again Vertov had rushed way ahead even of his admirers. When praise for his work did appear, it was for four-yearold films. Another (non-related) Kaufman praised the Vertov team in January 1929, comparing their work - as a cultural artefact - to the cathedral of Rheims: 'Nothing can replace a single copy of the Lenin Cine-Pravda, or the photographic newsreel of our day is a document of first-rate importance through which future generations will be able to study the living history of our days.'41 The Man with the Movie Camera was previewed during the autumn of 1928. It was finally released in Kiev in January 1929. It reached Moscow three months later. Vertov had been working on the project for at least a year. There is a proposal for the film dated 13 March 1928. He begins by (rhetorically) turning his back on the studio: You will find yourself in a small but extraordinary land where all human experiences, behaviour, and even natural phenomena are strictly controlled and occur at precisely determined times ... We are at a film studio where a man with a megaphone and a scenario directs the life of an illusory land ... Playing at 'revolution' ... Playing at 'the new life' and 'the construction of socialism'.42 Naturally, Vertov has the alternative to all this playing. One has to admire his consistency in defence of the absolute superiority of the 'unplayed': 'high

Forward Soviet! above this fake little world ... high in the real sky burns a real sun over real life. How is the ordinary, naked eye to make sense of this visual chaos of fleeting life. A little man, armed with a movie camera, leaves the little fake world of the film-factory and heads for life.'43 The film begins with a detailed sequence of credits which, in essence, forms a manifesto: THE MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA A REPORT IN SIX REELS PRODUCED BY VUFKU, 1929 (FRAGMENTS FROM THE DIARY OF A CAMERAMAN) ATTENTION VIEWERS THIS FILM IS DEDICATED TO EXPERIMENTATION IN CINEMATIC COMMUNICATION OF VISUAL PHENOMENA WITHOUT THE HELP OF TITLES (A FILM WITHOUT TITLES) WITHOUT THE HELP OF A SCENARIO (A FILM WITHOUT A SCENARIO) WITHOUT THE HELP OF THEATRE (A FILM WITHOUT SCENERY, ACTORS, ETC.) THIS EXPERIMENTAL WORK IS DIRECTED TOWARDS THE CREATION OF A GENUINE, INTERNATIONAL PURELY CINEMATIC LANGUAGE, ENTIRELY DISTINCT FROM THE LANGUAGE OF THE THEATRE AND LITERATURE

No one could accuse Vertov of not boldly stating his aim, or indeed of not warning the viewer that something extraordinary was about to occur on the screen. However, it is ironic - and symptomatic of the work and of its maker - that this, the most accomplished of the films discussed in this volume, is the most divorced from the political and historical reality it purports to represent. The Man with the Movie Camera is without doubt a masterpiece (however flawed) but its sheer genius lies in an ability to manipulate, even play with, reality in a manner which, while making profound comments on the nature of the form and its content, makes it practically useless as a documentary of a historical or propagandist nature. If this film propagandises anything it is the Vertov method. By its failure to address the political priorities of the late 1920s it fails to be much of an argument for the methodology either. That is not to say that it is a film that is unworthy of analysis. Quite the reverse. It simply positions itself outside the political/historical project to which documentary was pressed in the Soviet Union. The Man with the Movie Camera can only receive a cursory analysis here (and

Beyond the Cine-Eye certainly not as detailed a dissection as it deserves).44 Nevertheless, description of some of the more astonishing sections will give a taste of the masterpiece and help to explain why it was so unwelcome at the time of its release. The first image of the film is a piece of double exposure. In the top of the picture a cameraman sets up his tripod. The bottom two-thirds of the screen is filled by a camera. The cameraman is supported by his camera. The cameraman is represented as dominant due to screen position but the camera dominates in size and its position. It is literally the basis of the relationship. The cameraman takes up his equipment and strides out to work. A sequence of preparations in a cinema follows. All of this is a fascinating attempt to represent cinematography and cinema. However, it has no political content. Chapter 1 introduces the central theme of a single day 'caught unawares' by beginning in the early morning (street lights are silhouetted against a lightening sky). The camera zooms and tracks through a curtained window (this image stresses an oft-repeated motif of the camera revealing the previously hidden). Vertov utilises close-ups of a (sleeping) woman's arms, hands and head. A character on a movie poster gestures the viewer to be silent. Vertov reveals images of the sleeping city. Up to this point the pace of the film is sleepy and the images vague in their meaning to the film.45 Vertov will not be able to work at this pace for long. He presents a brief hint of what is to come with a series of views and objects which will reappear later in the diegesis. Bits of buildings flash on to the screen. A lift rises. A typewriter is followed by an abacus. A street scene is followed by a telephone and telegraph wires and the offices of Izvestia. Pigeons (another means of communication) are seen flying in normal and reverse action. The flood of images keeps flowing: more streets and banners, a telephone, tanks of oil, machines. Traffic signals spin in silhouette against a brightening sky. This is a simple yet inventive method of producing the effect of time passing and a city awakening and going into action. The cameraman - his function signalled by his tripod - emerges from a darkened hall and jumps into the car. The movie poster reappears: the film in question is The Awakening of a Woman [Probuzhdenie zhenshchiny, 1927]. As Kaufman goes about his working day, Vertov and Svilova juxtapose images of communication and film-making. For example, the viewer's attention is taken by intercut shots of the woman changing. The lens now contains a superimposed eye. As the waking woman blinks, blinds are seen opening and closing. The woman opens a window and a camera shutter (seen through the lens superimposed with an eye) is adjusted. Flowers are shown going in and out of focus. This may not be particularly subtle juxtaposition but it is a simple, and witty, primer in basic photography. The woman blinks again and the camera irises. After a reel of increasingly frenetic action littered with visual puns, Vertov and Svilova treat us to an exercise in editing. This sequence begins with stills


Forward Soviet! of an old woman and moving pictures of a little girl (featured in the magician sequence in Cine-Eye). Sections of The Man with the Movie Camera which we have already seen are seen labelled and hanging in Svilova's editing room. Reel 3 continues the examination of the editing process as Svilova is 'caught unawares' organising material labelled Traffic', 'City', 'Factory', 'Machines', 'bazaar', and 'magician'. Svilova brings bits of film - a small boy laughing, the little girl and a woman with the scarf (already seen as a still) - 'back to life'. This process will be examined several times in the film. As Vertov put it himself: 'Note: A small, secondary production theme - the film's passage from camera through laboratory and editing room to screen - will be included, by montage, in the film's beginning, middle, and end.'46 The fourth reel begins with a camera reflected in the lens of another camera. After travelling along a street, the film returns to the world of change and illusion. Women are being shampooed and manicured. A working woman slaps mortar on to a wall. She turns to laugh at the camera. A man is being shaved. An axe is sharpened. The images are under-cranked and shortened in duration until the film arrives at a lightning montage of shots as short as two frames each.47 Hands make connections in a telephone exchange as others type. More hands are seen: cranking a camera, raising a gun, hanging up a phone, sharpening an axe. Svilova's hands organise her films. As miners work, the cameraman films and the editor edits the shots. The final, and longest, section of the film is an exercise in exhibiting the power of cinema to capture and present life. It is also an attempt to bring real life - even sound - to the screen. It may not be entirely successful but its energy and invention are worthy of praise as well as attention. Its ambition is breath-taking. Inside the 'Lenin' club is a radio. A hand tunes the radio. Images of 'sounds' are superimposed upon the radio speaker: hands play an accordion, a piano keyboard, a woman singing, spoons and bottles being played. Superimposition overlays superimposition. As a reminder of what is occurring, a short shot of Svilova is inserted. Faces from earlier in the film return. The tempo rises to two to three frame shots. A symphony of various sounds is presented in visual form. A cinema audience are watching a camera, in stopaction, perform a self-assembly. This process is cross-cut with reaction shots. The camera leaves and its case follows. The audience shows its evident delight. The screen is filled with musical elements. Images are coming fast and furious, often three or four at a time. The telephone operators return to make connections. The typists return in split-screen combination. Women's faces are superimposed over lines and wheels. A shot of the cameraman on a motorbike is intercut with the same shot on the cinema screen. The screen is split into four horizontal bands showing similar shots of a street scene. A shot of train wheels is juxtaposed with the wheels on the screen. The crowd scenes are now on a diagonally split screen. The crowd watch as shots of a girl on a cart, cyclists, women walking, cars and trams pass before their eyes. Much of this

Beyond the Cine-Eye material is from earlier in the film. The impression is that this audience - part of the diegesis of The Man with the Movie Camera - are watching The Man with the Movie Camera. Above the crowded street we see a giant cameraman filming. A metronome - a simple and directly transposed icon of both sound and time - is set in motion. In an image redolent of Vertov's constant campaign against 'art', we see that temple of the most theatrical of arts - the Bolshoi Theatre - collapse upon itself. The metronome builds the tempo of the sequence. Old friends from earlier in the film, including the women in the carriage - return. The women and the cameraman appear as whole-screen shots and on the screen in the film's cinema. Trams rush by and biplanes fly over. We are returned to the hallway of the cameraman's block. Now the street outside is being collapsed into a V. A train is seen as filmed and as shown on a screen. The train passes over the camera twice. The speed of action in the shots is now very rapid due to drastic under-cranking. The pace increases as film passes a light-box and the editor's eye fills the screen. These final moments remind us that this film is as much an editor's tour de force as a record of the cameraman's life. Trains and trams hurtle past as the traffic indicator spins. In the projector's beam the metronome speeds up and the editor's eye flickers.48 The film ends with the camera's iris closing. The audience, any audience, will be left breathless and either excited or bemused by this flood of images. Perhaps they could turn to Vertov to discover the intentional effect of this. For Vertov (in his proposal), the cameraman's journey of discovery has revealed and explained 'Life's chaos' which 'gradually becomes clear as he observes and shoots'. What is it that is revealed? 'Nothing is accidental. Everything is explicable and governed by law ... The camera is present at the great battle between two worlds: that of the capitalists, profiteers, factory bosses, and landlords and that of workers, peasants, and colonial slaves.'49 Vertov had indeed tried to illustrate the first point, the dichotomy between capital and labour, but it seems to have landed on the cutting-room floor. What are more evident are the last vestiges of Nepism and implicit criticism of various forms of anti-social activity. If the film was to have an 'international' theme it has been lost in a Soviet-specific analysis. Any historical grasp is entirely lost in attempts to visualise the passing and manipulation of time. In particular, material from different filming assignments and indeed different cities is intercut. Material used in, or out-takes from, Cine-Eye, Forward, Soviet! and a Sixth Part of the World are placed together in a diegesis which in totality bears no resemblance to any actual temporal (or geographical) reality. There is no clear historical point of view. Time is played with via ellipsis, sollipis and the juxtaposition of unrelated shots. What the film illustrates is the film-maker's ability to manipulate. This came at a time when political and artistic orthodoxy was moving towards a position of hiding the manipulative power of film.


Forward Soviet! Clearly the 'subject' of the film is more a matter of the process than of material. Vertov had developed a visual style which is not so much constructivist as productionist. In this approach the project of production is not only celebrated on screen but also in the way it is presented on screen - including the conscious presentation of the film production itself.50 The film is a (purely) visual contribution to European Modernism. That modernism is very much urban and reflexive and thus absolutely divorced from Soviet (regime, industry and audience) requirements of the time. It is typical of Vertov's (lack of) sense of timing that he was becoming more analytical at a time when the call was for more simplicity and practicality. In addition, while he was turning his attention to the city, the party was more concerned with events in the countryside. For its urgent political purposes, the work of Kopalin (a graduate of the Vertov school) was more useful. Kopalin specialised in making shorter films on agricultural themes, e.g. For the Harvest [Za urozhai, 1929], Renovation Work [Obnovlennyi trud, 1930] and The Countryside [Derevnia, 1930]. Kopalin was in no doubt as to his duty when filming in the villages of the Volga region: 'In the countryside inherited peasant characteristics, such as distrustfulness, the desire to see with their own eyes, to feel with the hand, still survived. This dictated the need for our work to be absolutely concrete. Our work had to be logical and in dealing with the subject of countryside events has to reveal results without fail.'51 Vertov spent the summer of 1929 on a Sovkino-sponsored tour of Europe. Among the group which visited Berlin was Esfir Shub.52 He wrote to Svilova from Berlin in a letter dated 7 July, disturbed that the German press thought his work was 'a more "fanatical" extension of the theory and practice of Ruttman'. Vertov angrily notes: 'This quasi-supposition, quasi-assertion is absurd ... '53 He also self-righteously points out that the 'day in the life method' had been part of his methodology since Cine-Eye. Later in the tour he wrote from Paris to remind his wife of their commitment to 'substitute the document for the mise en scene'.54 One cannot help but admire Vertov's (if anything increased) determination to adhere to his principles. In 1929 he seemed to have become more strident in his defence of his increasingly radical approach. This makes his later capitulation all the more worthy of attention. Amid these dangerous developments, Vertov continued to plough his ever more isolated field. In April 1930 he took the opportunity to reply to letters that had been sent to the editors of Kino-Front. He begins with an understandable sense of self-satisfaction brought on by the pleasing thought of steady work. How much he must have enjoyed writing: 'Recently, I've had a lot of work to do, both day and night. I've written this in snatches.'55 Clearly, Vertov also felt that he needed to mark out a distance between himself and the Formalists. This is undoubtedly for both personal and political as well as artistic reasons: 'ridiculous attempts to saddle me with formalism are continuing, and I am not able to explain them except by complete ignorance, absolute lack of

Beyond the Cine-Eye information about the question under discussion on the part of comrades responsible/ 56 Vertov is asked: 'Do you maintain at present the creative platform published in your 1922 manifesto?' Vertov's reply is actually rather conciliatory in its tone towards fiction cinema. However, his approach tends towards condescension, e.g. 'our respect for individual (actually very rare) examples of the acted film.'57 It is most interesting to see Vertov suggesting that as his method is 100 per cent cinema, the best, indeed only, way forward for fiction cinema was to develop a 100 per cent fiction style. This is exactly the reverse of what actually occurred - in both wings - during the first Five-Year Plan. We continue to regard the documentary film as the founding method of proletarian cinema and the recording of the documents of our socialist offensive, our Five-Year Plan, as the founding objective of Soviet cinema. This does not in any way mean that the theatre or the acted cinema deriving from it is exempt from participation in the battle for socialism. On the contrary, the sooner acted, theatrical cinema abandons the falsification of reality, a feeble imitation of the documentary film, for frankly 100 per cent acting, the more honest and powerful its appearance on the socialist front will be.58 Vertov is next fed a question to allow him his head in a self-defence of his method: 'In your opinion, do films such as The Man with a Movie Camera answer the political demands made on revolutionary cinema?' Vertov replies: 'So far, not a single documentary or acted film has fully answered the political demands made on revolutionary cinema.' He then returns to his favourite theme: 'It is essential to triple our energy, to recognise film production and distribution on the basis of the "Leninist ratio", to organise a factory of documentary films, to assign cadres of film production workers along the entire front of the Five-Year Plan.'59 In the spring of 1930 the key issue was not so much the 'film ratio' but rather one that had exercised Vertov from even before he entered cinema: sound. It was symptomatic of the times that both issues conflated and amplified each other in an increasingly acerbic exchange of views within the industry in the following years.

5. The Impact of Sound and < Documentalism,

At the beginning of the 1930s the key cinematic issue for film-makers was the use of sound. The non-fiction film-makers were noticeably enthusiastic on the subject. Rather less praiseworthy was their desire to argue abusively about the future (present and past) nature of documentary. These issues exercised the theoretical/experimental proclivities of the pioneers of the 'unplayed*. Energetic engagement in these debates distracted from the business of actually planning, promoting or making films and left a vacuum for more pragmatic film-makers to fill. In addition, internecine warfare left the pioneering film-makers (of both played and unplayed film) open to attack from the Party and industry apparatus that was only too willing to seize the opportunity to denigrate 'Formalists' and other deviants who did not accept the simplistic call for 'intelligibility'. Sound cinema was not an entirely new subject for discussion among Soviet commentators. It is possible to begin the history of Soviet sound cinema - at least as an idea - with Alexander Fevralsky's article in Molodaia gvardiia [Young Guard] 7, 1925: 'Radio-cinema should come to the aid of the printed word and sometimes even replace the book and newspaper. At the present time it is impossible to appreciate fully the enormous significance which radio-cinema might have as a tool for education and propaganda ... the prospects are unlimited.' 1 Richard Taylor uses this article - quite rightly - to illustrate his thesis of high expectations leading to frustrations.2 It also shows that the nonfiction camp, at least the Vertov watchers, were getting excited about the possibilities of technology in general and the potential of sound in particular. As is well known, by 1928 such masters as Eisenstein, Pudovkin and Alexandrov were more circumspect,3 although Pudovkin was bold enough to state: 'Newsreel sequences that fix and assemble factual events will, when provided with sound recording, be even more important, even more significant. The organisation of a newsreel round a precise record of a real fact will be more acutely and perfectly achieved.'4 Vertov would have balked at Pudovkin's

The Impact of Sound and 'Documentalism' suggestion that while 'artistic' cinema should fly into the realms of the contrapuntal, non-fiction should concentrate on the diegesis. Unplayed film-makers seemed much more enthusiastic, and perhaps less understanding (or caring), about how sound might affect the formal visual values and possibilities of film. For example, Shub sounds entranced and empowered by the prospect of the 'advent of sound': 'For those of us working in unplayed film there is no doubt. We know that the sound film and the radio screen will give the non-played film a real opportunity to become the most perfect instrument of international communication,' 5 For the rest of the article Shub appears to take a line very similar to Pudovkin's. She relishes the chance to get out, away from the studio, and record (presumably live) sound. However, she does use the term 'organisers of sound' which puts her closer to Vertov's position. She certainly shares his lack of fear. Vertov discussed the question of sound cinema in his 'Replies to Questions (To the editors of Kino-Front)1 dated April 1930: As to the question of sound and documentary we hold our original point of view. We regard 'the radio-eye' as a very powerful weapon in the hands of the proletariat, as the opportunity for the proletariat of all nations to hear and see one another in an organised manner, as the opportunity - free from the limitations of space - to use facts for the purposes of agitation and propaganda. The possibility of radio-cinema documentaries of Soviet construction will oppose the exploitative radio-cine documentaries of the capitalist world.6 Vertov goes on to question some of the ideas put forward by Eisenstein and Alexandrov: 'Declarations on the exclusive necessity for nonsynchronisation of the visible and audible moment, like declarations on the necessity for sound films or for silent films - are all worthless [vse eto ne stoit] - as the saying goes.'7 The periodical Kino i zhizn' was making its position crystal clear. Sound cinema was a most powerful method of propaganda. Whatever its problems and opportunities, it had to be used as quickly and powerfully as in the capitalist world and - as Nikolai Anoshchenko put it - wasting such potential on mere entertainment was not the correct way forward. The sound cinema was a political weapon: ' That is why we think that the main type of sound film here in the USSR should be the political educational film and the sound newsreel ... there is no doubt that we, given the profusion of tasks confronting us, need at least a weekly sound newsreel.'8 Anoshchenko's call is predicated by belief in the power of newsreel,'if properly exploited'. In the summer of 1930, Shklovsky wrote in the same journal of the daunting problems of getting any sort of sound film on to celluloid, never mind the screen.9 By the end of the year the editorial board of Kino i zhizn' were asking, 'Is there a Soviet sound cinema?', to which the answer was a resounding 'negative'.10 Vertov's Enthusiasm or Symphony of the Donbass [Entuziazm or Simfoniia


Forward Soviet! Donbassa] was released in April 1931. It was the first great Soviet sound documentary.11 The alternative title makes clear that the film, while ostensibly about the struggle between church and factory, is also about the pride (and relief) in using sound. Let us not forget that Vertov began his experimentation with sound before his interest in film developed. The libretto for the film is breathless with excitement. A clock is ticking. Quietly at first. Gradually louder. Unbearably loud (almost like the blows of a hammer ... gradually softer, to a neutral, clearly audible level. Like a heart beating ... Footsteps approaching, climbing a staircase. They pass. The sound dies away. A clock is ticking. Again, approaching footsteps. They come close. Stop. The clock ticks, like a beating heart. The first sound of a tolling bell.12 This is the work of a man who is enraptured by the ability to use sound at last. Vertov's 'enthusiasm' is obvious: Fragments of a church service (the better-known motifs) are commingled with the sound of bells. The chimes, mingled with the motifs from the service, cannot maintain solemnity for long. A note of irony appears. The solemnity is continually undercut. The religious motifs seem to dance about. For a moment or two the sounds disappear, replaced by the ticking of a clock, then once again waves of sound quickly begin to rise. A long factory whistle bursts in to meet and intercept them ... A signal for action - a long, piercing whistle ... Against a background of drawn-out whistles, in a procession of Pioneer drums, komsomol; motifs and workers' bands develops ... One long, resonating note remains, like the humming of a motor.13 Vertov also utilises a sense of 'irony' which may seem rather broad for modern tastes: 'the comic squeal of a cross tumbling to the ground. The band emits a cry of delight. A whistle. A cross tumbles once again with a comic squeal. The band applauds enthusiastically. A whistle. A bell falls with a comically simpering sound effect and on hitting the ground emits a death moan.' 14 Vertov is clearly struggling to express his ideas for sound in words, e.g. 'or rather, it has the attitude of a "death moan", evoking not pity, but grins.' It has to be noted that he was having equal problems conveying his ideas in visual terms. He returns to the image of the clock. Surely Vertov is saying (trying to say?) something about time as well. As is usual with Vertov, the closing sections of the sound score build to a frenetic climax: The wireless is transmitting a message. A fanfare's cry, repeated three times, cuts in sharply against the background of growing audible alarm ... A general review of factory noises, by group, begins.

The Impact of Sound and 'Documentalism' Gradually joining these are groups of (1) signals (factory whistles, cries of shunting engines, banging against cast-iron and copper plates, siren etc.), (2) the greeting and calling wind instruments, (3) the light drum-roll, (4) kettledrums and clashing cymbals, (5) propellers, (6) deafening radio cries, (7) socialist trains speeding furiously off into the future. Amid the waves of enthusiastic sound the ear catches the tune of 'The Internationale'; greatly accelerated and amplified. A flood of sound to a piano playing The Internationale' distinctly; a swelling of sound to a Kremlin clock, chiming The Internationale'; once again a flood of sound to the pianist. While, at that very moment - the stroke of midnight. The pianist rises, closes the piano lid (a thump) tight, not in utter silence but against the sound of the wireless that has re-emerged ... 15 This passage is quoted at length because it is so evocative of what Vertov is trying to achieve and contains such muscular and effective use of language: 'Amid the waves of sound ... A flood of sound.' It is tempting to suggest that the description of the score is more successful than the film. It is a measure of the film's difficulty that, on a number of occasions, the author's libretto is required to make sense of all this material tumbling on to the screen accompanied by a torrent of sound which often seems neither to match the pictures nor to be linked to the sounds preceding and following. The film opens with credits for the sound equipment used (Shorin) and for the musical contributors (Timofeyev and Shostakovich). A young woman puts on a headset and adjusts the dials of a cumbersome radio set. Through the static emerges the sound of a metronome. Timofeyev's march begins. General church scenes play to a soundtrack of bells, radio noises and 'God save the Tsar'. The director's description is as follows: A church with crosses, chimes, double-headed eagles, the tsar's monogram and the crown, with anathema pronounced against the Revolution, the pope, a religious crusade, drunkenness, brawling, women weeping, idlers, unconsciousness, broken heads, and the moaning of the wounded, with 'God Save the Tsar', old women in a state of addiction, religious icons kissed, ladies in coats of Persian lamb, crawling on their knees, and other such shades of the past.16 More shots of church buildings - taken from various non-matching angles follow. A row of angels is made to disappear. The radio operator appears again. She has tuned her equipment to Leningrad. Obviously the point is to underline central control and leadership. Thus, the decision to use the city of Lenin seems apposite. However, considering later political developments (and Stalin's feelings about the city), it would have been more sensible to choose Moscow. The station announcer informs the listener/viewer that (in a moment of self-reference) they are about to hear the march 'Final Sunday' from the film Symphony of the Donbass. In a copy of an early scene in The Man with the Movie Camera, a conductor prepares, a metronome clicks, the woman sits before her


Forward Soviet! radio and the church scenes continue. That something is wrong is signalled not by the visuals but by the sound. The chimes are distorted before the camera begins to swing more and more wildly. Pan shot after pan shot produce a sense of nausea. As the camera becomes more drunken it (almost) focuses on drunks staggering around outside the church. This sequence is halted by a factory whistle. The next image is of telephone wires. Feldman suggests that this may be a visual reference to sheet music.17 If so, it is a very obscure reference and leads to a momentary confusion on the part of the viewer rather than any sense of epiphany. Vertov's written description of the effect of the first and second reel is rather more direct and powerful than the final film: Transformed (not gradually, but in a revolutionary leap, with an explosion of crowns, crosses, icons, etc., with the shades of the past executed by the hurricane blaze of socialist factories) .,.' 18 The second reel begins with the radio operator tuning in to more factory whistles. Some workers march towards the camera carrying effigies of priests. Their progress is followed by a group of old women. Bells toll fifteen times as we see fifteen church scenes of half a second each.19 Bells are replaced by a choir. The choir is replaced by the march. The marchers lead a cart carrying a portrait of Lenin. The women continue to watch. The radio operator rises and walks out of frame. The march continues. The operator returns to her radio. This sequence is not only ill-conceived, it is also ill-fitting. What follows is a more straightforward sequence of the demolition of a church.20 As the march music is mixed with trumpet calls, the religious visuals are literally deconstructed. Vertov and Svilova use rapid cuts, dissolves and a prism effect to produce a sequence of iconoclasm. A spire is toppled twice, once with live sound, once to the accompaniment of a rifle shot. Marchers display their banners: 'Struggle with Religion' and 'Struggle for a New Order'. Now the screen is filled with more and more spires superimposed in their destruction. A red star rises to the top of a spire (in reverse action). The spires continue to fall. A former church is now, in the classic Vertov style, a 'workers' club'. A truck with a red star on its radiator drives into the camera to the sound of a trumpet and the metronome. A city (Kiev? Kharkov? How Shklovsky would have railed against the lack of labelling) is followed by shots of a woman and a workers' club and a cinema.21 This sequence looks like a remnant of The Man with the Movie Camera] neither in the film nor in the libretto is it explained or related to any other sequence. It is important to remember that Vertov was being allowed to direct the first Soviet sound documentary. In the context of the times, vast amounts of resources were being sunk into this project. Was it not reasonable for the sponsors of this film (ultimately the government) to expect some kind of return for their investment? Reel 3 begins with oil tanks, smoke stacks and piles of coal presented to the sound of engines humming. Workers wander against the sky-line. The narrator intones: 'It was in the Donbas, in the days of the Five-Year Plan, in 1930.'22

The Impact of Sound and 'Documentalism' Workers enter a meeting hall. 'Coal from the Donbas' is followed by multiple and multi-superimposed images of railway trucks. The word 'SHORTAGE' [nedostatok] is shown five times on a screen in the auditorium. As Feldman points out, the screen has speakers on either side.23 It could be suggested that Vertov is attempting an elaborate coup de cinema in which the audience is invited to believe they are watching a viewing of the film they are watching as part of the film they are watching. This process is an extension by one further step of the process of audience voyeurism illustrated at various points in The Man with the Movie Camera. This is of course a physical impossibility and yet can be achieved through the power of cinema. It is a thought-provoking piece of film-making which can also be used to entertain an audience. Vertov tried to explain the narrative thrust of this part of the film: On the one hand - the Five-Year Plan for the construction of socialism. On the other - the Donbas with a glaring work stoppage ... The result: a revolutionary alert. A Donbas worker speaks at a large rally: 'The country's threatened with a coal shortage.' ... At the Donbas the secretary of the party cell, greeting the first convoys of volunteers ... The shock workers, the enthusiasts commence the attack ... Coal has arrived.24 On screen this juxtaposition is achieved by cross-cutting between the audience in the meeting hall and a generic all-powerful worker statue. The audience rises and sings T h e Internationale'. As a man (not identified on screen) harangues a group of workers, railway tracks are superimposed upon more railway tracks. A group of men exercise to the soundtrack of a machine. This shot is intercut with miners working. The soundtrack is a mixture of machine noises. One worker speaks (in synchronised sound): T promise to fulfil the quota!' Then a woman repeats the line. Women are seen sorting coal. The narrator returns: 'Our success depends on you!' Reel 4 begins with railway trains, a marching band, a factory whistle and a mine (all with synchronised sound). Another male voice states: 'Young Communists come to the Donbas front ... shock workers come ... enthusiasts come.' Trucks rumble past. Then a band marches past the camera. 'Metal comes ... coal comes ... an offensive is launched on the Donbas.' Molten metal flows and its movement is matched with coal carts. The march strikes up again. A voice intones: 'The All-Union Furnace will fulfil the quota for the decisive third year of the Five-Year Plan.'25 There then follows a sequence of mines and railways with the length of shot steadily shortening. Reel 5 begins inside a factory. A man's voice declaims: 'Coal for blast furnaces ... coal for factories.' The workers continue their march. Various views of industrial plant are superimposed. The soundtrack features cheering and


Forward Soviet! shouts calling for the fulfilment of the plan in four years. This rather dull material is enlivened by the steady shortening of the shot lengths, ending with rapid 'machine gun montage' of images of the factory.26 The reel ends with a 'hurrah' and a factory whistle. The sixth and final reel begins with railway trucks being coupled. A disembodied voice declares; 'full steam ahead' and 'from the Donbas come freight trains, squadrons with metal and coal'. Images of trains are intercut with harvest scenes. The shots are long (approximately 20m)27 and visually unexciting. Vertov is apparently moving past Shub's prosaic style into a production style which eschews the power of editing. It is reasonable to see Vertov's obvious delight with the ability to record and utilise (and therefore edit) sound overwhelming his usual stress on picture juxtaposition. The preponderance of lengthy shots, with or without camera movement, must also be considered as part of a more general stylistic change which would be further developed in Three Songs of Lenin [Tri pesni o Lenine, 1934].28 To extend the context of this phenomenon, it is worth noting that, with the introduction of sound, world cinema experienced a general lengthening of shot length.29 As a final observation, it is worth considering that the changes in approach so clear in this film are part of the 'comprehensible to the millions' project. Enthusiasm continues at an outdoor meeting of 'The Sixth Shock Worker Brigade' challenging their comrades in the fourth brigade to a production race. The marching continues. On the stand the dignitaries include a young Nikita Khrushchev. The sound is synchronised. This phenomenon is underlined by the changes in sound - band, marching, horses' hooves - as different elements of the parade pass the camera. The soundtrack is overlaid with a choir and women singing. This sound match is used as a link to the next set of images which are of women dancing in a field to an appreciative audience of children. To break up this lengthy sequence, Vertov introduced footage of a tractor. The narrator announces a 'battle of songs' and the film ends with a rather uninspiring sequence of choirs and marching bands. The film's final flourish is to pan track a marching band. The camera stops following and as the band marches out of frame the sound fades. Vertov's views of what he had achieved are touchingly enthusiastic: 'When these greetings and slogans, the military band music, the sounds of parades, speeches, and revolutionary songs enter the factory, take root in the sounds of machines ... ' He seems to be grappling with a method to express his hopes as well as his achievement. He continues: the cries of workers, the sounds of competing shops, and when, in their turn, the sounds of the All-Union Stakehold arrive at the square, enter the streets, accompanying the socialist parades with their machine music - all the work of liquidating the Donbas work stoppage turns into a gigantic communist Sabbath, a gigantic 'day of industrialisation' into a red-starred, red-bannered campaign. Wireless messages run past in the glow of the blast furnaces. Socialist whistles

The Impact of Sound and 'Documentalism' rush off, hooting, into the future. The night is continually shot through with fireworks of blinding steel sparks. Bessemer sun after sun rises. The sounds of the machine tools merge with that of The Internationale'. And special machines compute the enthusiasm of the Donbas workers, converting it into figures.30 In February Vertov wrote 'on his film' in Sovetskoe iskusstvo [Soviet Art; 27 February 1931]. In the article he speaks with pride, but also with frustration, at 'the special obstacles which rose'. Vertov is particularly scathing about the limited vision of technicians whose objections came down to: 'it is impossible to shoot documentary (in particular, outdoor) sound.' He continues: 'The primary, the particular significance of Enthusiasm is in its decisive resolution of the vexed question of the possibilities and impossibilities of documentary sound filming on location.'31 Vertov then goes on to celebrate his team's achievement in overcoming the technical limitations, particularly in bulk, of sound equipment. On 16 April 1931 Vertov wrote 'First Steps' in Kino: Newsreel film workers spoke long ago of the possibility, not only of radio broadcasting, but of recording and filming sound-and-image documentaries, radio-cinema films from a distance; they discussed the possibility for proletarians of all nations, all countries, to see, hear, and understand one another. It was this preparatory work that enabled film-makers in newsreel (unlike those in acted cinema who were caught off guard) to embark immediately and confidently on the first experiments in sound newsreel in March 1930 ... Enthusiasm not only completely refuted the 'theory of caterwauling' [teoriia koshach'ego kontserta]32 and other anti-newsreel 'theories', it opened wide the door for the production of sound newsreels, of unplayed sound films, and it also cleared the way for future production of audio-visual [zritel'no-zvukovykh] documentaries outdoors.33 In this article Vertov places the blame for any shortcomings firmly with the technology, and 'the administration'. Finally, 'some of our critics' are given a broadside. Their urge for simplification and ease is condemned with a beautifully crafted neologism: 'to doremifasolize' [doremifasolit].34 Even today Enthusiasm is striking for its attempts to develop a use of sound but, frankly, visually the film is rather disappointing. The first half is a repetition of Cine-Eye tricks; the second half is repetitive and becomes rather boring (especially on repeated viewings). As a representation of contemporary Soviet history it does not have either the grandeur or the emotive power of Shub's work. Having revealed himself as such a power in the previous decade, Vertov's loss of visual inventiveness is, on a personal level, both sadder and more intriguing and, on a wider level, more indicative of the state of Soviet cinema than any amount of hack-work done in the name of the regime in the 1930s. It is also somewhat disturbing to watch, and be unmoved by, lengthy shots of happy peasants dancing in what purports to be an area we now know was

Forward Soviet! experiencing one of the worst famines in the history of the human race. However disappointing in quality and based on a lie as it may be, this film is most definitely part of the building of the Soviet Union. The audience is simply confronted with an impossible fiction and told to believe it. As a rather poor fiction, the film is a symbol of the situation it purports to portray. This film is part of the mythologising project so central to the Stalinist political and cultural hegemony. It is part of a world where, according to the official record, the whole country was engaged in a battle to complete the first Five-Year Plan in four years (and did so). It is part of a whole with the newsreels of the time filled with smiling peasants and noble workers who tell us - in a slogan increasingly prevalent as the 1930s went on - that: 'Life is getting better, Life is getting happier.'35 These scenes are invariably juxtaposed with scenes of 'the mounting crisis' in the capitalist world. The introduction of sound was a thoroughgoing challenge to Soviet filmmakers and to the economic and logistic strength of the Soviet film industry. It was to be a long and hard test.36 Attempts to deal with the challenges (not least financial) and changes of the period were an opportunity to put forward solutions to the whole 'problem' of Soviet cinema. Film-makers already in the industry, especially those with particular aesthetic/political axes to grind, those who wanted to gain entry, and the machinery of industry and state would try to seize this opportunity to gain hegemony in the cinema. Thus the period between 1930 and 1935 was one of argument and condemnation. This was useful for those who wanted to control film37 but, in retrospect, a disaster for those working in the industry; including those who wished to defend or further the position and/or integrity of the 'unplayed'. Shortly after the release of Enthusiasm, a debate emerged in the cinema press about 'documentalism'. It was launched in the pages of the newly retitled (with clear class-struggle purpose) Proletarskoe kino [Proletarian Cinema]. 38 Early numbers of the magazine made it clear that its view of cinema would be strictly functionalist. In May 1931 an article by Ivan Borisov entitled 'The Documentalists and Sound Cinema' appeared. It is about more than that. The article begins with a section of the Izvestiya review of Symphony of the Donbas (written by Radek): 'no advancement ... lack of dynamics ... it is a stride backwards in Soviet cinema.' Borisov attacks the 'narrow-mindedness which proclaims itself above all in the fetishism of fact and dogma of the spontaneous'. 39 This is clearly a direct attack on Vertov. The article also attacks Kopalin but concentrates its real ire on Vertov's 'leftist negative art'. Borisov's intervention comes as a response to a series of letters and articles which constitute a dispute between Erofeev and Michael Kaufman which began in edition 2 and carried on through numbers 4 and 5. The respected critic and film-maker Nikolai Lebedev underlined this argument in his article 'For a Proletarian Cinema of Fact'. He calls Marx's Treatise on Feuerbach as witness for the prosecution. 'The documentalists are only looking

The Impact of Sound and 'Documentalism' at the world; the point however is to change it.'40 'A film-maker' replies with a short article 'we do not fetishize fact', but Lebedev can call Comrade Stalin to the cause of clarity: T h e weekly press is a tool that helps the Party every day, every hour speak to the working class, necessarily in its own language.'41 The next article explains 'How to Work in Soviet Newsreel'. Its author, Pavel Gavriushin, continues the linkage between press and newsreel. The tone of the article is critical. ARRK and the periodical Kino come in for particular attack. Gavriushin also gives the impression that film - unlike newsprint - is inherently untrustworthy (even dangerous) because as a powerful weapon it could point both ways: 'It is well known to everyone that any fact can be elucidated variously, depending on the representative of which class comments on it. We know that material on film about our construction ... played sometimes into the hands of the bourgeoisie and social fascists (abroad).'42 By early 1932 Vertov was clearly retreating and defending himself by reference to foreign praise for his film Enthusiasm. Edition 3 of Proletarskoe kino contains the lengthy - and desperate - compilation entitled 'Charlie Chaplin, the Hamburg Workers and the Prescriptions of Doctor Wirth'. After abasing himself for 'the large-scale shortcomings of the film, which a few comrades have revealed to me', 43 Vertov goes on to reveal page after page of his press clippings (all German and English). He made a foolish mistake in calling Charlie Chaplin as a witness that the film is 'a definite glorification of the FiveYear Plan'. Vertov had miscalculated by quoting a clown from Hollywood (however popular) when only Comrade Stalin's opinion was germane. The editors replied immediately to this article with a bitter attack on the author. He is damned for 'self-advertisement'. The article finishes with a flourish: 'We accommodate Comrade Vertov's "article" as a symbol of "documentalist" work. In this article, as in his own films, Comrade Vertov only collected facts and documents. However the "article" turns out to be a lie.'44 Vertov was allowed the luxury of a further reply. Presumably this was done because he never failed to be aggressively provocative in print. He was not to disappoint. His article is a disconnected rant in which he lashes out in several directions.45 The real enemy is 'typage' and 'transitional cinema' [promezhutochnoe kino] by which he means acted film in the style of Cine-Pravda. Naturally his target is Eisenstein. It is this approach which is the real, and therefore damned, 'documentalism'. His calls for a 'full-blooded development of newsreel' - and repetition of the call for the 'Leninist proportion' - can only have left him open to accusations of 'fetishisation'. Edition 3 of Proletarskoe kino ends with an article by Erofeev: 'Having published a series of discursive articles, from which a few contained clearly mistaken attitudes, the journal did not always expose them critically. It did not fulfil its own promise to sum up the discussion. I, as an author of one of the discussion articles must amplify the self-critical aims of this periodical.'46 Obviously Vertov's self-promotion would not fit this bill. However, for the


Forward Soviet! rest of the article Erofeev makes common cause with Vertov and attacks the accusers as having misunderstood the aims of the documentary-makers. He accuses the editors of 'demagogy' and having nothing in common with Comrade Stalin. Vertov may have hoped for fewer friends like Erofeev as the editors fired back: 'Erofeev writes that the editors are probably confused in bringing together formalism and documentalism ... The editorial staff understand that formalism - the bellicose and idealistic theory - and documentalism - a vulgar, materialist mechanical conception ... are anti-Marxist theories.'47 The editors also point to the damning fact that Vertov - and presumably the rest of a long line of filmmakers (including Shub) - were vigorously portraying themselves disingenuously as 'irreconcilable enemies of "documentalism"'. In edition 4, Sutyrin joins in with a fairytale about a frog which thinks it is an ox.48 Erofeev is the self-important creature. Vertov is roped in as the author of the 'authoritative' statements which Erofeev has used to display 'worthlessness of unwarranted affirmations'. Sutyrin goes on to pour scorn on Vertov's attempt to call fiction film-makers 'documentalists' and to identify a whole (Sutyrin-defined) group of film-makers for attack: 'Any worker in cinematography (apart of course from Cde. Vertov and his fellow-travellers) when asked to point out the family of documentalists will name Vertov, Kaufman, Shub, Kopalin, Erofeev, and not Eisenstein or Room.'49 Proletarskoe kino continued its 'self-critical' discussion of the documentary question in edition 5. The editorial continues 'the struggle': 'A significant part of this issue of our journal is devoted to the notorious "documentalism". 50 Why this attention? Why the hospitality afforded by the editors to the documentalists on the pages of recent issues of Proletarskoe kinoV51 Naturally, the stimulus for all this activity is Comrade Stalin. Having made their genuflection the editors can continue: 'we have managed a significant advance in the exposure of Formalism ... We have forced our well-known cadres52 to engage in creative self-criticism and above all to purge itself of the influences of formalism.'53 Unfortunately, it would appear that the 'documentalists' - followers of 'an illiterate, presumptuous and excessively pretentious theory' - were not responding to treatment: 'They do not change their views. Comrade Erofeev proudly declares "We are continuing the struggle" (the title of his article in Kino, No. 10). Comrade Vertov does the same. It is true that each of them is fighting first and foremost for his own interest.'54 Vertov is again berated for his habit of publicising his own biography. The editorial sets up the debate between Erofeev, Vertov and Lebedev:55 '[Vertov] has in the past made a number of crude political and methodological errors in his work but was basically correct in his critique of documentalism [this is a reference to his Literatura i iskusstvo article October 1931]56 ... We stand on the positions of implacable struggle against documentalism, we have set ourselves the task of destroying it completely.'57 Thus the documentalists will be allowed

The Impact of Sound and 'Documentalism' to damn themselves with their own articles. Vertov attacks Lebedev in edition 5. Once again his article is a defence of his own career. Where Lebedev had mis- (or selectively) quoted him, Vertov refers in detail to whole articles. Vertov also berates Lebedev with the latter's performance while editor of Kinozhurnal ARRK in 1925 and as author of the book Kino. He continues in the following disgraceful (and dangerous) vein: At that time the viewpoint of N. Lebedev on cinema concurred not with the views of Lenin on cinema, but with the point of view of Trotsky ... Lebedev in this book (page 108) writes from a Trotskyite point of view ... It is completely clear why N. Lebedev was not able to publish our debate in 1924, when his point of view, the point of view of Lebedev-Trotsky [tochka zrenii LebedevaTrotskogo] set itself against 'the Lenin Proportion'.58 Later in this edition Erofeev joins in the attack and (quoting Stalin) attacks Lebedev's book as following 'the Trotskyist conception of cinematography'. 59 Erofeev states that Lebedev's new epithet 'proletarian cine-publication' [proletarskaia kinopublitsistika] is simply a new label for the old theories he had been hawking since the mid-1920s. Lebedev replies with a 'discussion'60 of Vertov's and Erofeev's views. He claims (feigns?) incomprehension before going on to assert: '"Documentalism" as an ideological tendency in Soviet cinema does not exist. It is a myth. It is a "fabrication of opponents".' 61 The rest of the edition is filled with a repetitive 'dialogue' between the three sparring theorists. All three use a compilation technique. Now the aim, at least for Erofeev and Lebedev, is to slur the other with extremist or 'anti-Marxist' views at an earlier date. Observing film-makers constructing their own 'show-trials' is an unedifying sight. This spat is not just an interesting footnote to Soviet film history; it is one of many examples of how study of the films and film-makers of the period gives us insights into the motivations behind some of the unpalatable actions of the 1930s. It illustrates how fears and suspicions could be manipulated in the building of a Stalinist-Socialist Realist hegemony in the arts. Vertov had expressed 'Trotskyite' views in the 1920s.62 These 'mistakes', as they were viewed with hindsight, could only draw more suspicion on the nonfiction camp(s). Vertov's ostentatiously stated position of not using a scenario is by definition 'anti-planning' and goes against the new ethos which worshipped planning. Vertov's whole career up to this point could be seen as subversive to the new Party orthodoxy. In the new 'proletarian' hegemony the film-makers of a pre-1930 vintage were seen as 'intellectuals', possibly too 'internationalist', maybe even as a Jewish elite.63 In short, they were a perfect target for the prejudices of the new, ill-educated Party cadres. They could be portrayed as members of a sophisticated clique with avant-garde, European backgrounds and lacking links to the proletariat. This would be a major reason for their problems - not least a lack of resources - in the 1930s.

Forward Soviet! Shub did not involve herself in the personal sniping in print. Indeed, in Proletarskoe kino 4 (1932) she joins in a debate on 'Approaches to the Second Five-Year Plan' to call for calm ('Unfortunately, Soviet cinema in the first FiveYear Plan has had a line of profound problems in all sections'), to admit her own faults ('I also have not been perfect'), and to make it clear fiction and nonfiction film have a part to play.64 There is plenty of evidence to show that she kept on friendly terms with documentalists, fiction giants (e.g. Eisenstein) and Party hacks alike.65 The majority of Shub's journalistic output is part of the aesthetic/ideological debate about form and content in Soviet film. She had already distanced herself from Vertov's complete rejection of 'played' cinema. Which branch of cinema one should work in was a matter of choice (although one choice appears more worthy): 'I work in the area of a definite school, the school of Constructivists. The mission of this school of cinematography is to work on authentic not dramatised material ... Played film appeals to the emotions of the audience, we to its intellect.'66 She then clearly rejects Vertov's purism: 'When we speak about played and unplayed cinematography we are not saying that in order to abolish played cinema.'67 In her most important article, 'Unplayed film',68 Shub developed her ideas about the relationship between camera and subject. She accepts that the presence of the camera affects the behaviour of the subject but refuses to see this as a weakness and turns the fire back on denigrators in the fiction camp, 'you shoot actors, you write scenarios, you play at life ... ', and continues: 'It does not frighten us that for many people the sight of a camera dislodges them from their usual behaviour because in "playing" they demonstrate themselves and each pose serves to reveal basic characteristics of their personality.'69 Shub refers this particular point to film of Kerensky used in Fall of the Romanov Dynasty. She then goes on rather pertinently to attack the increasingly common practice of mixing dramatised and factual material: 'the audience ceases to believe in the facts.'70 The dangers of this particular phenomenon will reveal themselves more clearly in the following chapters. Shub followed Today with KShE {Komsomol-Patron of Electrification) [Komsomol-shef electrifikatsii, 1932]. Shub's first sound work (with assistant director Felonov) was 2,750 metres in length (six chapters) and therefore her longest film. KShE is, apart from the pioneering use of direct sound recording, a disappointing film but a fascinating historical document. In this film the ironic tone and thought-provoking juxtapositions are missing. Irony and iconoclasm are replaced with complacent, even reverential presentation. Technology is worshipped rather than exploited. Images are no longer manipulated to form an argument; rather they are presented as a series of icons representing the growth of Soviet power. Shub's sudden loss of visual and critical power has to be related to wider issues in Soviet cinema and society. KShE begins with the title:

The Impact of Sound and 'Documentalism' A C O U N T R Y M U S T K N O W ITS H E R O E S

The prologue begins in a recording studio. The camera dwells on the shiny new equipment. In a sequence very reminiscent of The Man with the Movie Camera we see a projector being threaded and a conductor's hand poised. The difference is, of course, that in KShE when the conductor's hand sweeps down, the music starts. In what is becoming a classic scene, women are seen working a telephone exchange. The sound seems to be recorded live on site. Indeed, like much of Vertov's Enthusiasm, it sounds like a 'wild track'. Back in the studio they are recording a radio programme. The message for transmission is: W O R K E R S OF THE W O R L D


This is a recording for the Comintern. The station is broadcasting the 'Hymn of the Comintern'. After a brief glimpse of Lenin's mausoleum, the conductor continues to wave his baton. The music plays as the camera enters an electric light-bulb factory. Women work in the factory. One speaks (the sound is poor): 4 ... we are all Komsomols.' A Young Communist meeting takes place at which every speaker states his or her allegiance. At a turbine factory another American expert is seen advising technicians.71 Yet, it is the American who complies with the Soviet workers' suggestions: All right, we will do as you say.' The new turbines are chalked with their destination: 'Dnieprostroi'. The orchestral score swells again. These images link to the next sequence which takes place in a generator factory on the Dnieper. Again Shub uses live sound, producing an unpleasant melange of machine noise. By way of a diversion, Shub's team filmed an entertainment in the factory. Unfortunately they failed to edit it. Dancing scenes go on for minutes at a time. A group of sailors go into a slapstick routine and the workers clap to the music and laugh heartily. One of the turbine castings is scrawled with the name 'STALIN'. Chinese slogans are seen decking the walls. After the 'entertainment' ends, a meeting begins. A stern-looking fellow announces that the Young Communist League is visiting the factory. The ragged band strikes up the 'Internationale'. More speeches follow (with sound dubbed). The factory scenes are truly dull. There is no camera movement and the material is uninspiring. The sound, when not obviously dubbed, is awful. The dubbed and undubbed sound is unmatched. This whole sequence, which lasts 10 minutes, proves that when it came to visual tedium in pioneering sound films, Shub was at least Vertov's equal. One speaker calls for a veteran to address the meeting. An old man does so and calls upon 'Klimov'. Klimov turns out to be the personification of new soviet man: strong of jaw, cheerful of disposition and dressed in leathers. He declaims on the subject of enthusiasm and finishes his speech with the phrase: T h e Komsomol is the chief of electricity.' The chairman of the meeting calls for 'better and better' and 'greater and greater' effort. The chairman finishes his speech with the phrase: 'The Komsomol is the patron of electrification.'

Forward Soviet! The next reel begins - as a rare caption anchors an image - in: AZOGAZ

The lack of captions is important. In 1932 sound projection facilities in the Soviet Union were few and far between outside its two largest cities. Shub's film was therefore of little use for a national 'cinefication' campaign. The visuals reveal an area which appears to be ruined. Oriental music plays on the soundtrack as sheep and a bullock cart meander past the camera. There are signs of progress, for example the iconographic pylons. As the music speeds and gets louder we see trains and planes. It is as if the area is coming to life. The music continues to speed up as the train speeds up. On a dam construction a site meeting is taking place. There are lots of women at the meeting but they are listening not speaking. Finally a woman speaks. There is no camera movement. The meeting, which now features a Russian-speaking 'expert', is shown in a sequence of talking heads. Her previous career furnishes us with copious evidence of Shub's ability to edit. KShE casts doubt on her ability to direct the shooting of film. Much blame can be laid with the cameraman Barkovsky and even Felonov but ultimately the responsibility must lie with Shub and her bosses at Soiuzkino. G. Prozhiko, who was part of Shub's team, reminisced about the film in 1978: 'the film carries the audience from an electrical factory in Leningrad to a huge workshop-hangar where turbines are put together for Armenia, DZORAGES and DNEPROGES ... [the film] brings the atmosphere of the time.'72 Prozhiko quotes Lenin, 'Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country', and goes on to catalogue the difficulties: 'huge, cumbersome camera, complicated and capricious sound recording equipment.' Prozhiko was also frustrated by the recurring problem of people's behaviour as subjects for non-fiction: 'we see people react to the camera.' A contemporary review of the film (by Grigori Kozintsev) makes some interesting points: What is remarkable about KShE? Above all its attentiveness, namely to draw out from reality that which characterises it and to make further connections ... 'The Country must know its own heroes.' We see Katia Paramovin who works on the conveyor of an electric lamp factory. She tells us about her friends 'in the brigade'. The majority of her (girl) friends are from the countryside and for the first time using the technology was not easy. But they in the end managed to cope ... These are the 5-Year Planners, the new industrial proletariat building the 'New World' ... Then Klimov appears several times in the film speaking about his personal experiences in a Ukrainian accent - another use of sound for representation.73 This is clearly personality-driven documentary and thus a break with the Cine-

The Impact of Sound and 'Documentalism' Eye tradition. Vertov himself would abandon his depersonalised approach after Man with the Movie Camera. This change is an example of how the cult of personality would radically affect culture in many ways and areas. The third Soviet sound documentary film was In the Name of Lenin [Imeni Lenina, 1932] directed by Mikhail Slutsky. The film was a record of a celebration for the opening of the Dnieper hydroelectric plant. Slutsky shows lots of folklore' activity, rather than concentrating on the 'official' formal activities. Slutsky seems to have worked in a Vertovian fashion by utilising ethnographic shots in a 'life caught unawares' manner. Slutsky also followed the early nonfiction orthodoxy in the use of sound. Drobashenko notes that 'the sound was exploited in counterpoint'. 74 He described the film as a 'film poem'. Technological innovation, including sound, was transforming non-fiction film. The November celebrations were filmed (with sound) and shown at ten Moscow cinemas the very same evening. The January 1932 edition of the new sound newsreel included Maxim Gorky recording his 'Tasks for the Soviet Cinema' ('make the cinema into a vigorous weapon of culture'). However, it must be stressed that sound cinema was not operating outside Moscow and Leningrad, never mind penetrating the Soviet countryside. By the time it did penetrate the films were not being made by experimenters, Formalists or any kind of 'documentalists'. By the mid-1930s the cinema, including its unplayed wing, was in the hands of more pragmatic and politically trustworthy cadres whose steel had been tempered not in the avant-garde of the early 1920s but in the more rigorous atmosphere of the second decade of Soviet history.

6. From Realism to Realpolitik

While Vertov and Shub struggled to adapt themselves to changing political situations within and outside the industry, a third wave of film-makers, more versed in the realpolitik of Stalinism, was joining the battle for the future of non-fiction film. Film-makers new and old, both Party and non-Party were making huge efforts in the propaganda campaign. The leadership of the country clearly was not satisfied and increased the pressure. The Central Committee met in January 1929 to discuss cinema and decided that the industry was not capable of putting its own house in order.1 A directive on 'Cadres in the Cinema' was issued on 11 January and further publicised in Pravda on 3 February The campaign for 'proletarianisation' - signalled so clearly to the whole country by the Shakhty trial of May 1928 - had reached the cinema.2 One phrase appeared more and more often in the Party and cinema press: the need for productions to be more 'intelligible to the millions' [poniatnii millionam] as the contemporary phrase - launched at the March 1928 cinema conference - put it. The Stalinist conception of propaganda was to contain no element of raising the consciousness and intellectual sophistication of the masses. The consciousness-raising project, which had played some part in the cultural philosophy of Marxism-Leninism (at least for the leadership of both wings of the RSDLP before the Revolution), was not to be entertained. Instead it was necessary only to aim for the lowest common denominator, to preach at a simplistic level, not to stimulate anything apart from unquestioning obedience to the party line. A corollary to this would have to be a simplistic 'intelligible' style. (Although debates about what that style should be still had years of development ahead.) It has to be borne in mind that the momentum towards 'intelligibility' was also partly commercial. The Party Congress of 1927 had stressed the need for all sectors of the economy to gain self-sufficiency. The easiest way for entertainment industries to achieve this would be to make easily accessible products. In any event the costly programme of building a cinema network across, and into, the country was reliant on profits being made in the towns and cities.3 It is also

From Realism to Realpolitik possible to see the ideological and economic priorities combining in the need to squeeze popular, foreign - particularly US - product from the market. The first All-Union Party Conference on Cinema Affairs of March 1928 has rightly been identified as 'the end of an era. After it, the issues which had provoked genuine - if obstreperous - debate ossified into formulae.'4 The organised attack on Sovkino, the campaigns for 'self-criticism'5 and the ensuing reorganisations resulted in nothing less than a purge. The purge became official policy with the invitation to film-makers in June 1929 to provide personal information to aid a 'Workers and Peasants' Inspection' of the studios. The purge was in full swing by the spring of 1930 and led directly to the replacement of Sovkino by Soiuzkino in June 1930. In the following year cinema workers, whether directors, scriptwriters, technicians, teachers or critics, found their opportunities to work dwindling or disappearing completely.6 The new cadres who benefited from the job opportunities7 were far better suited to the tasks of unproblematic, and unquestioning, 'Cultural Revolution'. Sovetskii ekran editorials of 1929 made it clear that the cinema was crucial to the project of 'cultural revolution'.8 The need for accessibility was also stressed, for example in this article celebrating the 200th edition of Sovkino newsreel: '[non-fiction film] can and must address the millions. And its language? Through simplicity and accessibility, through clarity and ingenuity, through visual directness [nagliadnost].' The term 'simply and clearly' [prosto i iasno] becomes increasingly prevalent in the cinema press. The political need for simplification was, at least in part, predicated upon the continuingly frustrating and frustrated need to penetrate the countryside. The Party and cinema press continued to point out that it was well known that the rural districts, which constituted most of the Union and were central to the new plans for economic development, were still largely without film. A lesser-known feature of the countryside - the labour camp - was featured in Cherkasov's The SolovkiPrison Camp [Solovetskii lager', 1929].9 The film begins with a sequence labelled 'Our Country'. This is not the usual scenario of triumphs and healthy citizenry but a catalogue of disaster and destruction - all the 'RESULTS OF WRECKING'. A train is derailed, tearful peasants mourn one of their own 'killed by kulaks'. A cursory trial is played out for the camera before the film cuts directly to the camp, intercut with picturesque shots of the countryside. A selection of new inmates parades before the camera. They all seem to be suffering from physical as well as social infirmity. The second reel will remind a present-day viewer of those reports from foreign visitors - or (all too frequently) Maxim Gorky - on the wonders of social engineering and enlightened re-education schemes taking place within the Soviet penal system and beyond. The viewer, like a celebrity visitor, is taken on a tour of a well-run, disciplined camp. The prisoners, who had looked unhealthy upon arrival, are seen engaging in 'physiculture' and hard manual work (chopping trees). Like all Soviet citizens they also spend their spare time


Forward Soviet! improving their cultural level. The prisoners are seen staging a musical entertainment for their comrades and the guards. The camera takes a tour of the island. The film dwells on views of the water. This is both very picturesque and a reminder that anti-social elements are well separated from law-abiding society. After the geography, the film becomes a history lesson as a guard shows visitors around the old Tsarist prison. Obviously the facilities there are less comfortable. The tiny cells are in stark contrast to the large, light dormitories of the new prison. The final reel has to deal with rehabilitation. It features 'International Women's Day' in the camp. There is an amnesty for some female prisoners. They are seen, respectable and sober in demeanour and dress, preparing to leave. As they leave the camera looks out to sea and the sun shines on a bright new day. Rather more well known than the Cherkasov film is Viktor Turin's Turksib, This 'socialist construction' classic was produced by Vostok-Kino, the 'Eastern' section of Soiuzkino. It reached Moscow in October 1929. The film is also known as The Steel Road [Stal'noi put'] a factual statement of content as well as a less than subtle compliment to Stalin which the company insisted on. Turksib has the distinction of a scenario contributed by, among others, Shklovsky. Turin had worked previously in fiction film. Indeed after his family left Russia in 1912 he worked in Hollywood as an actor and scenarist before returning home in 1922. His cameraman, Evgeni Slavinsky, was a genuine cinema veteran (born 1877) who had been filming dramas since 1912. His previous work had included Kuleshov's The Death Ray [Bukhta smerti, 1926]. Whatever their skills, this team were clearly not from a non-fiction tradition. What is interesting is that the film still retained a fresh, even rough, look which might on initial impression gain the approval of any 'documentalist'.10However, the approach to the material is melodramatic and its treatment of 'characters' owes more to played than wwplayed film. Turin admitted himself that the film was 'both artistic and a little unplayed' [chut'-chut' neigrovaia].11 The film, which celebrates the building of the Turkestan-Siberia railway, focuses particularly on the benefits which the railway will bring to Turkestan. In other words, it is a classic imperialist argument. It begins with a simple bald statement: COTTON However, the fields look a sorry sight. The titles are straightforward and informative: DROUGHT IN CENTRAL ASIA Then the film becomes somewhat more impressionistic. Intercut with topographical fields are close-ups of anxious faces. 'THEY WANT' (more anxious

From Realism to Realpolitik faces) 'WATER' - water flows and the fields blossom in time-lapse photography. The cotton is harvested and mounds of the material build up. Chapter 2 - 'THE WAY OF THE ROAD' - is a travelogue with an economic message. It is made up of a wide variety of views, often with no captions at all. Caravans cross a desert before a sandstorm arrives. The sandstorm takes several minutes to develop and rage. This makes rather strange viewing in black and white. The caption reads 'WASTE', and is followed by shots of a moving ice floe. Now the captions read: WITH BREAD WITH BREAD Chapter 3 features the solution to the problems we have been presented with: HERE COME THE ENGINEER-SURVEYORS

A caravan of cars enters a hill village. Shots of Alma Ata feature traditional 'types' going about their business. The engineers meet and greet the villagers. Children are shown, fascinated by the cars. The rest of the reel is a cartoon presentation of plans and maps. Chapter 4 is entitled, 'THE ATTACK'. What is particularly interesting in this final section is that human labour is portrayed as part of a machine-like process. The most impressive, yet chilling, scene is of several hundred men working in unison lifting and physically moving the (already laid) track across the ground. Fritz Lang's Metropolis has become a reality all too soon. The film ends in triumph with maps of the railway's route, shots of and from the trains and the countryside and huge mounds of raw materials. After the release of Turksib, which received genuine popular acclaim, Turin was removed from film production for ten years.12 A review of the 1929 newsreels reveals a much simpler and less problematic approach to propagandising (as well as the use of staging). The message, mixed with the already established themes of construction and power, is one of threat. This threat comes from within and without. The twin threats prefigure and highlight the importance of greater efforts and the change in economic policy. Editions 1 and 2 contain items on the kulak trials. In an effort to show that life goes on whatever the danger, edition 1 begins with an item about Young Pioneers painting election banners. Item 2, labelled as 'The Ukraine', shows us a 'class enemy before the proletarian court'. Three defendants are identified by name - Potrov, Tokaroev, Ermolaev - and as kulaks. The filming of the trial is carefully managed. The camera does not move from its position behind the questioner's table. The only variation of shot is the use of close-ups of the accused. Witnesses are brought on and pledge to tell the truth. Their evidence is seen as a series of printed reports as well as the stick that was used to beat poor peasants. A further kulak is brought forward. 'Kulak

Forward Soviet! Tychkin' is accused of killing three communists in 1921. 'At the bazaar' the crowd waits for the verdict. To end on a high note the item - the lengthiest of the film - takes us on a tour of the village's collectivised land. From edition 51 we see the steady development of the collective farm 'Giant'. The later editions (numbers 72-82) contain items on the search for kulaks juxtaposed with happy peasants joining the collective. The searches are strongly reminiscent of the requisition squad footage featured in early Cine-Weeks. Clearly, the message being transmitted to Soviet citizens was that they were living through dangerous as well as triumphant times. Item one of the 12th and 27th editions contains the journal's first domestic disasters. In 12 we have a plane crash in the Leningrad area and in 27 a 'catastrophe' (a fire in a mine in the Donbas). 13 Reportage from abroad changes in tone and content from previous years.14 No longer is the stress on the international working class looking for inspiration. That message is still contained in a number of items, but the overwhelming weight of evidence is of aggression from other states, often against their own workers (and by extension the Soviet Union, as the workers are invariably portrayed with banners of the 'Red Front' and so on). Many of the early editions of 1929 feature industrial disputes in Western Europe. Both 8 and 9 show the actions of troops in Germany and France breaking up workers' demonstrations. Edition 33, which contains only two items, focuses on May Day in Berlin. The Berlin police 'attack' the crowds. The other item is a workers' demonstration against German police actions. These free, demonstrating workers are from a Moscow factory. Edition 41 takes a similar form. It is split between 'the provocations of the imperialists in the Far East' (much is made of the presence of 'Russian white guards'), and protest demonstrations in Moscow and Leningrad. In 1930 and 1931 this set of messages - threat and the strengthening response - developed in the newsreels. The collectivisation items are placed immediately before or after items on industrial development. By 1931 most editions have an item which focuses on the Union's armed forces and memories of the revolutionary and civil war struggles. In addition, while edition 10 can boast 'Unemployment in the USSR liquidated', edition 49 can look at 'Unemployment in the USA' ('the terror of the capitalist continues ... '). The previous issue features 'the growth of communism' and 'the funeral of communists killed by police in Berlin' and ends with the summer manoeuvres of the Black Sea fleet. By 1930 the capitalist world could be easily portrayed as in crisis - not least because it was. At home no such critical representation could be allowed. By the turn of the decade the Stalinist hegemony was in place (admittedly with a long way to go in development). Stalin's attainment of undisputed leadership of the Soviet system was celebrated in tandem with his fiftieth birthday. As a signal of the prevailing Zeitgeist, the cinema press joined in the hysteria of celebration. Kino i zhizn\ Kino and Kino i kuVtura all carried full-page pictures of the leader on page 2. The Sovkino newsreel was restrained in its celebration

From Realism to Realpolitik of the leader's birthday. The tribute is one, admittedly the first, item of edition 83 (the last of the year).15 As more and more attention was paid to political rectitude (even in hindsight), the failure of newsreel adequately to lionise Stalin at his moment of triumph would be viewed with suspicion. Massive changes were instituted in the cinema industry in the early 1930s - continuing and accelerating the course set out in the decrees and conferences of 1928 and 1929 - beginning with the change (and associated purge) from Sovkino to Soiuzkino. An increased centralisation and increased control of cadres was a direct, long-term result of the Central Committee directive. Boris Shumiatsky was installed as head of the new cinema agency.16 The change in approach in the press had already been signalled by the name change from Sovetskii ekran to Kino i zhizri11 (the 'mass illustrated magazine for cinematography') in November 1929. The new editor, Yakob Rudnoi, addressed his readers thus: Our new magazine appears at a moment of intensified class struggle in the country of the grandiose victory of socialist construction ... [the struggle] has to take place on an ideological front, on the front of art, for honesty in cinematography, where frequently under the flag of all sorts of genres, artistic schools and directions have wriggled through petit-bourgeois tendencies, which it is necessary to decisively rebuff.18 The editor goes on to join battle with 'formalism, aestheticism and the other vices of bourgeois "art for art'" and promises to 'struggle to fulfil the decisions of the party in the area of cinema'. The article ends: '[Kino i zhizn'] will be fighting ... for a form of cinema art accessible to the millions', followed by a quote from Lenin: '[Art] must be understandable to the masses and loved by them.' The film which comes in for most praise in the early months of 1930 is Turin's Turksib}9 Edition 2 contains a key agenda-setting article by the film editor Ippolit Sokolov: 'Cinema is the most mass art, the art of the millions ... cinema is essential for the masses, not the masses for cinema. Cinema works and must work only for the mass spectator. Many "innovatively" attuned directors and critics unconsciously reckon not that the film is essentially for the audience but vice versa.'20 Sokolov goes on to attack Dovzhenko's Arsenal and Kozintsev and Trauberg's New Babylon [Novyi Vavilon]. He ends: 'Many "left" cinematographers created a fake formalist theory: every new form has been an unclear, complicated, intricate form ... a form clear to the millions, this is not cine-reaction but a movement forward.'21 However, for the Party, good intentions would not be enough. The cadres had to be strengthened. The evidence of a determined proletarianisation campaign is contained in fond 2497 {Soiuzkino) at the Archive of Literature and Arts in Moscow. The campaign by Iosilevich (working to Central Committee

Forward Soviet! instructions) to proletarianise the industry, and in particular to build up the percentage of Party members, led to a purge of the studios in Leningrad. A considerable amount of attention was focused on the newsreel and documentary-makers.22 Kino i zhizn' continued actively to court Party attention for the cinema. Edition 6 - sporting a page one picture of a smiling Joseph Stalin (from Soiuzkino newsreel 5) - contains an editorial which ends: We bring warm greetings to our 16th Party Conference. Together with that, we express a hope that our cinematography will make every effort to fulfil the decisions of the Party, to fulfil the tasks of the Five-Year Plan, it will struggle with all the petit-bourgeois tendencies in Soviet cinema, it will develop the growth of a proletarian cinematography which, under the direction of the Party, will turn cinema into a more able means of cultural revolution.23 Most of edition 20 is taken up with a discussion of the future of newsreel. This lengthy article is largely a catalogue of cliches (especially from members of ODSK, the Friends of Soviet Cinematography). However, it does contain a contribution from Shub which defends Vertov and Kaufman who have been 'driven out' and suggests that development would be more certain if matters were left in the hands of cinema professionals: 'Only then will it be moved from a standstill.'24 The very next issue can be seen as a - negative - reply to Snub's call for independence. The editorial - on 'the socialist approach on the cinema front' - begins with a lengthy quote from Comrade Stalin. It is followed by critical articles - by Demin and Sokolov - attacking the educational department of Soiuzkino in particular. Sokolov criticises Vertov, damned in comparison with Shub and Bliokh, and adds: "'Down with cinema art!" This is not Marxism but the province of the last 15-20 years of Futurism.' 25 Sokolov's call was falling on deaf ears. Increased artifice was the requirement even in the 'unplayed'. In the period of the first Five-Year Plan (1928-32) it became increasingly difficult to distinguish fiction from non-fiction film. The very phenomenon that Shub had warned against26 was becoming a reality. 'Staging' became more and more a major element in documentary features. With Kalatozov's Salt for Svanetia [Sol' Svanetii, 1930] 'staging' became the majority of the film. The idea for Salt for Svanetia came from Sergei Tretyakov during his tour of the Caucasus. The project was filmed by Kalatozov (real name Kalatozishvili). Svanetia is a mountain province cut off for most of the year. The film focuses on the Svanetians' needs; their general poverty is summed up by their lack of salt. The harshness of their life is symbolised by the death and burial of a baby. While it is inconceivable that that particularly beautiful and moving scene (when the mother gives her milk to the grave) was faked, some of the other 'folkloric' scenes, of blood sacrifices for example, are clearly staged.

From Realism to Realpolitik Kalatozov's and Gegelashvili's photography is Expressionist:27 dramatic shadows, figures silhouetted against dramatic skylines and canted camera angles. After the introductory titles, the images largely speak for themselves. A more 'documentary' style occurs with, paradoxically, an obvious staging of the arrival of 'Soviet Power'. Also paradoxically, it is this final section which seems most unreal. Indeed it hardly feels like part of the film at all. Clearly the aim of the concluding reel is to make a historical statement about the modernising effects of Soviet power, but by making a 'historical' point the film-makers have lost what historical authenticity they had been able to capture. This rarely-seen film seems to fall, in style and objective, somewhere between Vertov's Kinoglaz and Eisenstein's Old and New. The fact that all three can be seen as related raises more questions about the nature of documentary, and of film reality, than it answers. For the 'third wave' these questions were irrelevant. As Bliokh and Bubrik continued their work in 'expedition film', they felt no embarrassment in admitting their manipulation of filmed material: The time when newsreel was involved in 'the honest' recording of fact, when it was only an organ for information, has gradually withdrawn to the realm of the distant past. Before newsreel stands the complicated task of actively being involved in our socialist construction ... The task of informer is turned to the task of organiser ... 28 In parallel - as Vertov (although he was hardly free of guilt after Enthusiasm) had warned - fiction film 'played' with documentary form. A particularly striking example of this 'convergence' can be furnished by comparing Joris Ivens' documentary feature A Song about Heroes [Pesn' o geroiakh, Moscow opening December 1932) with Doszhenko's fictional epic Ivan (November 1932). It is important to bear in mind how unrealistic had been Doszhenko's early work - see, for example, the 'martyrdom' scene in Arsenal - and to remember Ivens' commitment to the documentary aesthetic while working in Holland. Ivens' Song was filmed in Magnitogorsk and is approximately 50 per cent documentary and 50 per cent studio filmed drama. The crucial point to documentary integrity is that it is rather difficult to tell which is which. Actors playing shock-workers appear on the construction site and are actively involved in the mass meeting at the end of the film. The first 10 minutes of Ivan is documentary footage of the River Don. It is almost identical to parts of Vertov's Eleventh Year. Pyotr Masokha in the title role is first seen labouring on a 'real' construction site. The sound is recorded live and, although clearly remixed to allow clarity of dialogue, there is the feeling of a 'wild track' with lots of background noise which often dominates the soundtrack and occasionally interrupts speech. Dovshenko's film, like Ivens', ends with an apparently authentic mass meeting of the kind seen so often by Soviet audiences in newsreels. Tvan' turns to address the audience. Among the crowd are all the leading actors from the


Forward Soviet! drama. Is this direct worker-to-worker communication or a fictionalised stereotype playing to the crowd? It is difficult to tell. It is unlikely that the audience - who would have been caught up in a genuinely well made and compelling drama - would remember or even care. The blurring of played and unplayed also occurred in documentary shorts, for example the Mikhail Kaufman film of 1932 They Will Not Give Up [Eti ne sdadut] about workers in a tractor factory, or the Yakob Posel'skii film production The People [Liudi], the story (as the TsGAKFD catalogue puts it) 'of how kolkhozniks with the help of their works leader built a bath house with shower and hairdressers in the countryside'. Drobashenko states that this film is an early example of 'staging' [instsenirovka].29 The film's director used the term 'the organisation of fact', which is clearly an attempt to put himself in the tradition of Vertov. It is absolutely necessary to point out the possibility, even likelihood, of an element of staging to enter any documentary project. It is also necessary to point out that Vertov pioneered such staging in early CineWeeks. Attempts to discuss this awkward fact with Drobashenko proved difficult and ultimately inconclusive. My own position was, and is, that the documentary film-maker (knowing the audience's ease in entering the film world) should stress reflexivity in the project and eschew transparency as much as possible. Soviet film-makers had clearly abandoned that position, if they had ever held it, by the entry of sound. Whether staged or not, whole productions give off an air of unreality. The world portrayed is like a dream. The convergence phenomenon can also be identified in the newsreel of the period. Items are often titled 'Life is getting better, life is getting happier'. The newsreel was central to the dissemination of this world-view. As Nadezhda Krupskaia put it to the third All Union Conference of Newsreel Workers: T think that the newsreel can take various forms, but must be illuminated with the theory of Marx-Engels-Lenin. This can deliver the most enormous power to newsreel work. Work in newsreel is a part of the building of socialism - a very serious part.'30 The question has to be asked, but not on the screen, about what the Soviet state is building: Utopia or a fantasy world. One film from 1933 can be used to answer that question. It is Lemberg's production for VostokfiTm The White Sea-Baltic Canal [Belomorsko-Baltiiskii vodnyi put']. The film begins with the title: THROUGH THE INITIATIVE OF STALIN

This caption is repeated several times to link stills of Kirov, Ordzhonikidze, Kalinin and finally the Leader himself. The next title proclaims: THE PARTY DECIDED

The music - stirring and military with a wave-like rhythm - begins.31

From Realism to Realpolitik TO DISCUSS THE LINKING OF SEAS In a matter-of-fact way the titles announce that the task of building the canal 'was entrusted to the OGPU'. 32 The action begins, as in the Solovki film, with topographical shots. The Baltic looks stormy, so does the White Sea. 'Soviet Karelia' is wild and desolate. IN NOVEMBER 1931 THE CRIMINALS CAME They are both men and women, looking as rough and unpleasant as their comrades on Solovki. Several have tattoos. Once again the educational power of labour will save them from themselves: FROM THE WEAPONS OF CRIME - illustrated by shots of iron bars, knuckledusters and so on. TO THE WEAPONS OF PRODUCTION - which are a shovel and a two-handed saw. The rest of the first reel is taken up with shots of the labourers. The only machinery shown is a printing press. The reel ends with the first edition of the camp's newspaper. It features a front-page greeting 'to Comrade Stalin'. The second reel concentrates on raising cultural levels. As a parallel, the film dwells on the water being raised in a series of locks. Reel 3 concentrates on winter activity. What could be viewed as scenes of brutality - including rock-breaking in icy temperatures - have been contextualised by the previous reels. The workers are described, with no sense of irony, as 'shock-workers' [udarniki] engaged in an 'assault' [shturm] to victory. Spring comes, with the usual icebreaking and icicle-melting shots, and the band plays on. Reel 4 celebrates the 'victory'. The viewer is presented with a host of impressive figures to explain why the canal took three years to complete. The screen fills with a huge explosion and the water flows. This flow is periodically interrupted by shots of Stalin, Kaganovich, Molotov and, naturally, Stalin again. The reel ends with a series of powerfully straightforward messages: THE PERSON IS FREE TO WORK ... A NEW VICTORY FOR THE PARTY ... LED BY THE PARTY ... THE LEADER OF THE WORKING CLASS IS JOSEPH STALIN. The last title is followed by footage of Stalin in discussion with Voroshilov and the front cover of Izvestia. In a cartoon Stalin is shown as the captain at the wheel of the good ship USSR. This would have been an apposite moment to end the film. The archive copy of the film, however, contains a sixth reel largely made up of topographical shots and bereft of titles apart from two uses of: ALL POWER TO OGPU - ORGANISER AND DIRECTOR OF CONSTRUCTION The reality that this film purports to present is a travesty. While claiming for


Forward Soviet! itself the label 'documentary sound film' [dokumentaPnyi zvukovoi fil'm], The White Sea-Baltic Canal is, in fact, a work of fiction. While Vertov and Shub continued in their struggles to make films in the mid-1930s, others were seizing the opportunity to launch careers. Roman Karmen is an example of the new cadres entering the cinema industry in the 1930s and thus untouched by links with the avant-garde of the 1920s. Karmen went on to make several films in the mid-1930s whil Shub and Vertov were denied access to facilities. Roman Karmen went on to dominate Soviet nonfiction cinema up to his death in 1978 and beyond. His films, reminiscences and technical writings still dominated the historical and documentary teaching at VGIK into the 1990s. Before graduating from GIK in 1932, Karmen, with Slutsky, had already made a short film entitled Factory Kitchen [Fabrika-kukhnia,1930) and had shared cameraman duties, with Blum, on Erofeev's Heart of Asia [Serdtse Azii, 1929) before making his own full-length documentary Deep in Asia [Daleko v Azii, 1932].33 As other, greater but less politically astute, film-makers struggled to work at all, Karmen was given the facilities to make fifteen films in eight years. Karmen and others brought with them a more direct approach to cinema in a Soviet-wide context. They were given opportunities by a resurgence of interest from the very centre of government. The Central Committee itself had renewed its interest in the 'greatest of all the arts' as a propaganda weapon. As the Stalinist cultural/economic revolution of the first Five-Year Plan echoed the needs and drives of the earlier Marxist-Leninist revolution, so the agit-prop campaigns were revived. For many of the new cadres their first stride came with the opportunities which followed a government order at the end of 1931: Order of the People's Commissariat of Transportation December 29, 1931. In order to implement the decisions at the October meeting of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party on the improvement of rail transport and the development of technical propaganda through visual acquaintance with the basic activities of rail transport, it is necessary to employ new methods and forms of mass work in technical propaganda, using the cinema to mobilise the working masses around the renovation of rail transport. The all-union trust, 'Soiuzkino-newsreel', has introduced for use the first Soviet film-train,34 which is a film-studio on wheels, completely equipped for the production of films under conditions of rail transport. Working on the assignment of the Central Committee, the film-train of 'Soiuzkino-newsreel' gives, in its production plan, primary attention to rail transport, and the first three-month route for its operation specifically attends to the question of improving rail transport.35 The Commissariat ordered all station-masters to give the train top priority. Three rail wagons - one for living and eating (crew of thirty-two), one as a projection room and cartoon production unit, and one for the lab and printing equipment - were hitched to an engine. The train was named 'K. E. Voroshilov'

From Realism to Realpolitik (after the Minister of Defence). The use of Voroshilov's name would also bring to mind his role as a Red Army commander in the civil war, just as the new train's activities would revive the agit-train projects of those years. The unit's strength was its ability to reach the newly industrialised provinces via the reconstructed railway network with the slogan: 'We shoot today - We show tomorrow.' Alexander Medvedkin was born with the new century. He joined the Party in 1920. During the civil war he served in the first Red Cavalry and later, with a rank equivalent to general, in charge of propaganda to the Red Army. During this period he experimented with short agitki (particularly dealing with health, e.g. 'follow the example of the cat' about the need to wash). As he said of himself (in an interview with Chris Marker):36 'My father: a peasant ... My grandfather: a peasant ... My great grandfather: a peasant.' And to clarify his point: T am a peasant by blood.' Medvedkin went on to suggest, with a grim chuckle, that this may be why he survived. This anecdote is typical of Medvedkin; precise, always striving to make himself absolutely clear and with an enjoyment of a humour which is grim to say the least. Medvedkin and company37 were on a mission less experimental than Vertov's and certainly less archival than Shub's. They were to make instructional films on how to deal with local problems. The films were made to criticise local conditions such as bureaucracy or failure to deliver quotas. As Medvedkin remembered it: We would use film of a good factory to educate the bad ones. One of our typical titles was 'What are you doing, Comrade?' When the film was over and the usual silence reigned someone shouted, 'Show it again' ... With pleasure ... We showed it once, twice, because people were seeing themselves on the screen ... Our role was to check that the people were doing their jobs properly. If you had been told to produce certain instruments and you had not done so we would film you. After this people were seized with terror.38 Cinema as instrument of terror! This is truly a fascinating and significant concept. It is also a chilling one. As Medvedkin put it (with the pride that never left him): 'People worked in front of our camera as if it were a machine-gun.'39 Medvedkin described himself and his team as 'enthusiasts'. Included in his team were Vertov's veterans Karmazinsky and Tolchan.40 In his 1971 interview he noted: 'it was not easy.' The project was to 'film our people ... show them the film straight away and so help them build a new world ... That was our main aim. [Cinema] was also a powerful weapon ... capable of building factories ... and indeed of rebuilding the whole world ... Cinema like that in the people's hands is a fantastic weapon.'41 Nikolai Izvolov has tracked down a handful of Medvedkin's short agitational films. Sadly, none of the ones he has found includes Medvedkin's icon for shame: the sad, world-weary camel turning its rheumy eye on the troubles of


Forward Soviet! the Soviet state. What is revealed is a very gritty and grim view of the (as yet) faltering industrialisation process. The films carry repetitive messages: 'COMRADES, THIS CANNOT GO ON' and 'HOW DO YOU LIVE?' The first half of 1932 was spent touring Dnepropetrovsk and Krivoi Rog areas. August was spent on the collective farm system of the Ukraine. Six journeys were made in 1932. After a break for reconditioning, the train toured the Caucasus and the Don basin in 1933. 'The train rolled on', teaching correct working patterns by observation and projection.42 Medvedkin was not alone in the production of short films. The years 1931— 32 saw the resurgence of the 'civil war' of cultural forms, including the filmed agitka. Drobashenko in discussing this period actually refers back to Kuleshov's On the Red Fronts Gurova produced four short newsreels in the Don basin. Bliokh and Bubrik headed for the Kuzbass coalfields. From January to October 1931 they produced Assault on the Central Electricity Station [Shturm na TsES], For the Eradication of Breakdowns [Za likvididatsiiu promyva] and For Rationalisation [Za zatsionalizatsiiu]. Drobashenko praises these shorts as 'the drama of reality'.44 This is a hint that the film-makers are moving into the realms of Wrawa-documentary'. The other significance of these films is that they clearly highlight both the audience that had been identified for non-fiction shorts and the functional reason for this activity. The production of full-length documentary as well as fiction films carried on and, naturally, their makers - including Tisse who had returned to documentary with Moscow - Kara-Kumi - Moskcow (1930) - were expected to make their contribution to the building of the Soviet Union. This was to be done in an atmosphere cooling to any deviation from the conservative (communist) party line. The spring of 1932 had already brought a further clamp-down on the left. In April VOAPP and RAPP were liquidated by decree of the Central Committee.45 This fact was announced in Proletarskoe kino. In the previous edition, a letter from Pudovkin, Shub and the other members of the Secretariat of ARRK ended: We shall respond to the preparation of new wars by the imperialists by rallying under the banner of our glorious Leninist Communist Party and its Central Committee headed by Comrade Stalin. Through highly artistic films we shall actively participate in the work of completing the Five-Year Plan in four years, of constructing a classless socialist society, of strengthening the defence capability of the Soviet state against any encroachment by imperialism.46 Beyond the expected litany of Stalinist cant, the crucial point of this statement is the acceptance that films must be 'highly artistic'. Shub had taken her part in this ritual genuflection and accepted the 'artistic' position. Yet her attempts to make a film about women were none the less constantly foiled, while Roman Karmen was allowed to make a documentary about the new

From Realism to Realpolitik Soviet woman: The Report of Anna Mason [Uchet Anny Masona, 1934]. Karmen directed, wrote and was cameraman on this one-reel Stalinist classic. The opening scene shows a crowd waiting expectantly for a train. A middle-aged woman emerges in classic 'respectable peasant' garb. The opening titles inform us that Anna is returning from the 'Second Conference of Collective Farm Shock-workers' (presumably the one that Shub had referred to in her pitch for a film about women). In an inventive piece of montage, Anna is shown walking and talking with her fellow peasants - the soundtrack is music - intercut with generic shots of the capital (metro, Kremlin, conference). Among the conference shots are two very long takes - three times as long as any other shot - of Stalin. As Stalin speaks we hear Anna's voice reporting his statement. In a magnificent example of the 'Cult of Personality', Anna speaks of Stalin with a huge bust of Lenin behind her. Stalin's report stresses the key role of women in work. Karmen, for all his political orthodoxy, is capable of coups de cinema. For example, in the next scene, we see a still photograph taken at the conference. Anna is part of the group portrait. The conference delegates are grouped around Stalin and Kalinin. The photograph is edited into film of the same shot so that the picture comes to life.47 Vertov and Svilova had done much the same thing in Man with the Movie Camera, but as part of an extended philosophical exercise. In the hands of Karmen it is simply a trick. The film ends with Anna seated back in her kitchen reminiscing about Stalin. An old man sits nodding in the corner as the film ends. At the end of 1934, Roman Karmen, whose steel had been tempered in the post-revolutionary period (he was only ten when the Tsar abdicated), was a rising star while Vertov's career appeared to be in free-fall after Three Songs of Lenin and Shub had ceased to be a player even in the marginalised world of the unplayed.48 The tenets of 'Socialist Realism' were well known and the new cadres were better equipped to produce work inculcated with 'Realism, ideological awareness and party-mindedness' [real'nost', ideal'nost' and partiinost']. 49 Workman-like presentation of uniformity was the rule of the day. There was no debate about the relative merits of played and unplayed in the cinema press or over form and content of either because there was no debate at all. The January 1935 Ail-Union Creative Conference on Cinematographic Affairs merely confirmed the already clearly signalled end to the creativity and debates which had been such a feature of the previous decade.50 All of the 'old' masters were required to criticise themselves and condemn others. Only Eisenstein and, to some extent, Kuleshov emerged with any honour. Vertov emerged unscathed from the conference largely because he was ignored. His failure to produce a 'Stalinist' classic even when given a direct commission to produce one51 had led to a marginalisation even more total than he had feared for himself in the previous years. The most controversial figure and so regular a receiver of his industry's resentment, vexation and wrath no longer merited even an attack.

7. The Not So Strange Death of Soviet Documentary

As Vertov and Shub's careers floundered, the 'third wave' flourished. It is educative to compare the developing political careers of the new and old waves. Karmen was given full Party membership in 1939 as was Kalatozov. Bliokh became a Party member as early as 1918. Medvedkin joined the Party in 1920 (at the tender age of nineteen), yet neither Vertov who, like Medvedkin, was a civil war veteran1 nor Shub was ever a Party member.2 In the light of the successes of others, it is interesting to look at the struggles of Shub and Vertov for the rest of the 1930s. These two protagonists from within the documentary tradition, whatever their artistic (or anti-artistic) differences, experienced very similar fates. Vertov's film-making problems are easily explained by his alleged formalism made worse by his aggressive purist stance. Shub's problems must stem from other causes. Her failure to attract commissions was, at least in part, a direct result of her ability to manipulate images ironically. Shub builds arguments over whole films. In the 'simply and clearly' atmosphere of the 1930s it was more attractive to relate Soviet reality to the simplistic directness of Karmen or to mythologise the past with the Vasiliev brothers (makers of Chapayev). Shub's ideologically sound but experimental KShE did not guarantee further work. She spent the next years practically begging for work. Her greatest wish was to make a film specifically about women. She never did. As inspiration for this project Shub even cited 'the speech of Comrade Stalin to the Collective Farm conference' in an article entitled 'I want to make a film about women': 3 T want to make a film about women because the theme is able with maximum persuasiveness to demonstrate that only the proletarian revolution, the new conditions of labour, the new social practice completely closes the account of the history of the women's question.' The scenario for the film is based on this provocative statement about the end of 'the women's question'. Chapter 1 sets out to remind the viewer, in classic Shub style, how women were portrayed

The Not So Strange Death of Soviet Documentary before the Revolution, i.e. as an ornament in a bourgeois household or as a working-class prostitute. Shub suggests a compilation of both fiction and nonfiction film as 'evidence'. The scene shifts to the Soviet Union in 1934 where women are teachers, engineers, involved in decisions in the Party and courts or building the metro. An ex-prostitute is rehabilitated and becomes a 'shockworker'. The question of loss of femininity - placed in the mouth of the US ambassador's wife - is implicitly dismissed as frivolous. The question of the 'double burden' of work inside and outside the home is side-stepped. Possible social tensions are underplayed by stressing social services and state child-care. Shub does make clear her particular perspective as a woman documentary filmmaker in her deliberate attempts to distance Soviet women from motherhood as number one role - something Vertov failed to do with Lullaby [Kolybel'naia, 1937]. Nevertheless, this is a surprisingly complacent view for a woman to take of a woman's place in Soviet society. Analysis of this project naturally raises the issue of gender perspective in Shub's work. It is a question that can be referred to the completed films too. Is there any identifiable difference between Shub's view of women in the historical/social process and that of other, male, non-fiction film-makers or other women in the industry - the obvious example is Svilova - and if not, why not? This is not a question I feel able to answer. However, it is a valid project and another example of the fresh approaches which are suggested by the study of non-fiction film. All that remains of Shub's apparently ideologically sound, and clearly labelled 'Stalinist', project is the shooting script.4 Why was it not filmed? Few of the non-fiction film-makers were finding it easy to make films in the Soviet Union in the mid-1930s, but this was such a 'correct' project. While Shub waited for work, Vertov struggled with the project which would become Three Songs of Lenin and became increasingly depressed about delays. He wrote 'How We Made Our Film About Lenin' in Izvestia on 24 May 1934, yet the film was not publicly screened until November. Jay Leyda was studying at the Institute of Cinematography from 1933 until 1937. He met Vertov shortly after the release of Three Songs of Lenin and of all the frustrated artists he met, 'Vertov was the saddest'.5 Leyda was of the opinion that Vertov had blotted his record because 'Stalin was missing'. Vertov delayed the film in an effort to correct his mistake. Leyda's view was that the mistake could never be forgiven, however much he tried (as he did with Lullaby in 1937). Three Songs of Lenin was at least not suppressed like its predecessor Enthusiasm. The film played in the capital's cinemas, unlike Man with the Movie Camera, but neither was it a masterpiece. In fact it was a rather less inspired piece of work than many of the films that had preceded it in Vertov's canon. 6 It has to be seriously questioned whether Vertov's heart was in this piece at all.7 With Three Songs Vertov is clearly struggling with the lack of extensive

Forward Soviet! coverage of Lenin. His solution, to focus on ordinary people, is also a basic problem with the film. The film is based upon the texts of three folk songs which Vertov had heard while filming in Central Asia. Thus, the image of the dead leader comes from the people's folk art rather from official Party history. Due to his choice of material, Vertov was in ideological trouble before he even started editing the film. The film starts with long printed titles, e.g.: IN E U R O P E , I N A M E R I C A , I N A F R I C A AND BEYOND THE ARCTIC CIRCLE PEOPLE SING SONGS ABOUT LENIN F R I E N D A N D LIBERATOR OF THE


These texts are accompanied by Shaporin's strident military music.8 The film then experiences an extreme change of pace with a 3-minute sequence focusing on the country retreat of the dead leader. The first 'song' ('largo') is entitled 'My Face was a Dark Prison'. It focuses on the lives of women liberated by education and work. The view that this liberation takes place away from the home and family (and seemingly without men or male leadership) is a central issue of Three Songs of Lenin. The film is loaded with close-ups of women's faces out from behind the veil. This is a simple pictogram for modernisation, as are the shots of women reading, learning and going about their business unaccompanied by men. Brief snatches of the song, which expresses the women's gratitude to Lenin ('We never heard his voice but he was a father to us'), are interrupted by military music and shots of Young Leninists striding through the countryside. The titles proclaim: MY STATE F A R M ... MY C O U N T R Y


and: MY L A N D

A young girl tunes in a radio to hear the 'Internationale' and the audience is transported to Red Square. The marching crowds in the capital are visually matched with columns of tractors arriving on a farm. Shots of a female tractor driver are accompanied by the titles: H A N D S OF STEEL


This is the first mention of the Party, and the sequence lasts less than a minute

The Not So Strange Death of Soviet Documentary before another sudden change in mood. The funereal music returns and Lenin's estate is shown again. This interlude serves to lead the audience into the second 'song' ('adagio') entitled 'We Loved Him'. The titles teeter on the edge of hysteria: WE LOVED HIM AS WE LOVE OUR STEPPES NO, EVEN MORE! WE WOULD GLADLY GIVE UP OUR TENTS AND STEPPES AND SACRIFICE OUR LIVES IF WE COULD ONLY BRING HIM BACK

The mourning/memorial for Lenin is an exercise in the juxtaposition of unrelated shots (in geographic, temporal or filming sense) into an ideological whole. As such it falls into confusion. Shots of crying women are juxtaposed with Lenin's lying in state. The images are joined by an eyeline match but the women are clearly not at the funeral (there is a completely different filming style). The one section of the film that might have benefited from titles does not have any. The second 'song' is constructed from (Vertov's own) coverage of the Leader's funeral intercut with the few moving images of Lenin taken while he was alive. Brief scenes from the civil war are also utilised. Periodically, shots of women, particularly of their eyes, interrupt the confusing narrative. There is no attempt to keep a temporal flow One interesting element of the coverage is the stress on crowds of ordinary people. A recurring title in the funeral sequence is: 'THE MASSES'. The central section of the film, which contained no 'song', ends in lugubrious pathos. Flags are whipped by a strong wind. This wind appears to create a storm. Lenin's bench is covered in snow. The tear-filled eyes of a single woman look on. The third song - Tn a Big City of Stone' - does begin with women's voices and is illustrated with scenes from the capital. Whilst the song concentrates on Lenin's Mausoleum ('a big stone tent'), the film soon moves on to the triumphs since his death. The viewer is presented with parades of physical health and national culture, agricultural production (linked to flowing water) and, chiefly, the growth of Soviet industrial might.9 The final section links Lenin's life, electrification and a brave new future: IF ONLY LENIN COULD SEE OUR COUNTRY NOW!

Vlada Petric has identified Vertov's problems accurately: Three Songs of Lenin is ideologically the most problematic of his films, and is the most complex in that it involves the expressive means inherent in both silent and

Forward Soviet! sound cinema, whilst dealing with a highly political subject. The personal tone and unconventional structure of Vertov's films was incompatible with the Communist Party's prescription for the treatment of Lenin in art.10 The other problematic factor for the film is that its overriding political messages, both domestic and international, would be unwelcome in the period following the film's release. To underline the central image of the empowerment of women, the film features interviews with a female 'shock-worker' who explains her role in 'overfulfilling the factory plan' and the (female) chairman of the 'Lenin Collective Farm' ('women are the real force on the Collective Farms ... you cannot hold us back'). However, the Party was moving towards a rather more conservative social model, as seen by the new Family Law of June 1936, in which family and motherhood were central to the agenda. In the final section of the film, captions become slogans: STAND F I R M ! STAND T O G E T H E R ! ADVANCE BOLDLY TO MEET THE F O E ! WE SHALL T R I U M P H ! THE L A N D L O R D S AND C A P I T A L I S T S , DESTROYED IN RUSSIA, WILL BE D E F E A T E D T H R O U G H O U T THE WORLD

These sentiments are firmly in line with the Communist International. Unfortunately for Vertov, Soviet: foreign policy was in the process of change. In September 1934 the Soviet Union joined the League of Nations. The 1935 Franco-Soviet alliance signalled the Comintern's adoption of a 'Popular Front' policy. The time taken to make any film was always going to lead to difficulties for film-makers when Party policy (based on Stalin's reactive response to internal or external circumstance) could change so drastically and so quickly. In any event, Vertov being out of step with policy was hardly new. However, unlike with A Sixth Part of the World, Vertov was now overtly failing to live up to the 'party-mindeness' [partiinost] constituent of Socialist Realism. Vertov discussed his film at the Association of Revolutionary Cinematography in November 1934 (shortly before public release). He seemed a sadder, if wiser, man: T am very touched by your reception of the film, more so than by the results of other screenings. The estrangement that was felt between workers in unplayed and those in played film has always prevented our understanding one another.'11 Vertov, showing further selective amnesia, goes on to suggest 'Kino-eye ... was not a programme, it was a means'. He even derides his own methodology of the 1920s: 'In previous work I frequently showed off my shooting methods. I left the construction of those methods open and visible, Meyerhold style. And this was wrong.'12 Vertov had publicly surrendered. Reflexivity - and by extension modernism

The Not So Strange Death of Soviet Documentary - was abandoned. In his notebooks he became fixated on 'my illness'.13 The formerly exuberant self-publicist sounds resigned, bemoaning his desperate struggle for (and with) material. The rigours of travel and bureaucratic problems led to exhaustion. Before and during the making of Three Songs, Vertov had been openly attacked by the film department of RAPP (the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers). Proletarskoe kino could announce: 'Either transfer to the acted film, or your mum and dad will be crying.'14 After RAPP's liquidation and the release of Three Songs, Vertov believed that, rather than his situation improving, the frustrations would continue: 'after the triumphal progress of Three Songs of Lenin, after I have been awarded the Order of the Red Star, the blows are dealt more subtly.'15 Vertov sank into nervous sickness after his film was withdrawn from screens within weeks.16 Other directors were better paid and worked in better conditions. Vertov paints a vivid picture of his living and working conditions: 'a damp hole under the water tank and above the sobering up station.' More insidiously, he feels his collaborators, especially Svilova, are being mistreated. Vertov catalogues his illnesses and ends on a pathetic note: T am living man. It is quite essential that people like me.'17 The mood of the Party - and its attitude to cinema18 - was unlikely to be conducive to friendliness, no matter how hard Vertov tried. The ritualised 'Greeting' to the fifteenth anniversary of Soviet cinema which took place at the start of 1935 was another opportunity to praise the simple pleasures and power of film while demanding greater achievements. Pravda could reiterate the catechism of cinema's 'huge invaluable force ... possessing exceptional abilities of spiritual education to the masses'.19 The model now was Chapayev, din example of the type of film which would 'mobilise for the fulfilment of new tasks and explain about the achievements, as about the difficulties of socialist construction'.20 In other words, it was publicly stated official policy to continue the historical project that Vertov and Shub had, in their own way, been trying to pursue. Unfortunately for them, the Party and the apparatus were not sure if their attempts were sufficiently sound. As Central Committee secretary Andreev put it to the Seventh Conference on Cine-production (as reported in Kino) - after praising Chapayev: Tn our own pictures we must show genuine life, the genuine lives of people.'21 At the same time he made it clear that this 'genuine life' must be dramatised and carefully scripted. In Sovetskoe kino in December 1934, the film-makers (including Vertov, Kaufman, Medvedkin and Bliokh but not Shub) had already expressed their total surrender of independence in an open letter to 'Dear Joseph Stalin': We work in different ways, we work with different methods and in different genres, but we are all inspired with a general desire to express better the ideas that inspire the best part of mankind, the ideas of Marx and Lenin, the ideas of the brilliant Leader of the most outstanding revolutionary Party: Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin. On this anniversary we express our admiration and love.22


Forward Soviet! In January 1935 Stalin sent his congratulations to the Soviet Cinema on its fifteenth anniversary in FravdaP The 'most important' cliche was trotted out once again after singular praise for Chapayev. The leader's personal interference in cinema came during the All-Union Creative Conference of Workers in Soviet Cinema (the cinema's equivalent of the writers' conference of the previous year) during which the masters of a former period took turns to condemn their own and each other's work. Vertov was among the pantheon which Trauberg described as 'a museum of wax figures'.24 The industry's direct political master, Boris Shumiatsky, published his considered thoughts in 1935. His book is entitled: Cinema for the Millions [Kinematografiia millionov]. As expected, he sings a hymn of praise to Chapayev for its 'simplicity' and moves on to Vertov: Dziga Vertov's film Three Songs of Lenin is good and significant precisely because he has renounced documentarism [Richard Taylor's translation]. In 1931 Vertov made a documentary film The Donbas Symphony which contained a good deal of Lef abstruseness, especially in the montage ... There was nothing in the film of our Bolshevik everyday life ... In Three Songs of Lenin, on the other hand, we find organised, connected and ideologically moulded fictional [how Vertov would have disliked that comment - GR] material. The famous bench, 'well-known from photographs' ... 25 Shub's autobiography contributes a small, but significant, insight into how directly Shumiatsky could involve himself in the film-making process itself: In 1935 I put forward a claim for the film The Land of the Soviets and there followed an order with the following content: