I am surprised that I’ve gotten this far into the series without exploring Soviet film, which I love very much. I love most of your leftist agitprop, even bad versions. But the great versions, well, it’s tough to get better than that. And it does not get better than Vsevolod Pudovkin’s astonishing 1927 film The End of St. Petersburg. The story of a man from a small village who moves to St. Petersburg to work and how he develops a revolutionary consciousness, the basic story is simple. He’s dumb and desperate and poor. He needs to eat. He ends up trying to get work from a village elder who has moved to the city before. But they are now on strike. He scabs and informs the company that said village elder is a communist. The village elder is arrested. The worker feels bad and tries to free him. He is slapped down for his idiocy, imprisoned, and then forced to leave prison for the trenches of World War I. Surviving that hell for three years, he is ready for revolution.
Sure, I guess that’s a spoiler alert for a 93 year old movie, but the plot isn’t really what’s important here. It’s the incredible aesthetics of the movie: the camerawork, the jump cuts that remind one of modern film, the demonstration of suffering on film, the incredible power of the message. Just a great film, whatever you think of the politics.
There will be a lot more Soviet film to come.