|Turksib poster by the Stenberg brothers.|
Peter von Bagh: "Turksib is the most well-known Soviet documentary film along with Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera. Its topic is the building of a railway between Turkestan and Siberia, which was a crucial project for Central Asia and the Far East and a massive mobilization of muscles and machines."
"For Turkestan it marked new means for commerce and communication. The wind of change was blowing everywhere as the country and its citizens eagerly awaited wealth and for the utopia to become reality: this is how things stand, not that well perhaps, but a grand dream is about to come true."
"The style of the film corresponds to the greatness of its theme while still retaining its realistic scope. The portrayal of the building project escalates into an accurate, funny and poetic study of a peasant culture facing a still shapeless tomorrow saturated with technology."
"The intertitles read ”nature is tough, but men and the machines are even tougher.” There is no specific conflict, because things always happen in relation to others. The difference of speed between a camel and a locomotive remains unsolved, and a horse is a permanent reminder of the nobleness and sensitiveness of movement in relation to traditions, nature and the working culture."
"The cinematography embodies the bliss of the archaic material: people untouched by the modern problems, or problems at all. For a fleeting moment, this state of parallel blissful consciousnesses was possible in real socialism. Thanks to Viktor Turin’s film, we get a glimpse of socialism’s finest vision in its original level of experience." (Peter von Bagh | translation by Juha Nurminen)
Finnish beatboxer Felix Zenger takes the stage at VOXPoint, creating a soundtrack for the silent film Turksib. Zenger forms his own, unique style using only his mouth and the microphone. His music video Beatbox has over 30 million views on YouTube.
67 min, Soviet Union, 1929
Format: 35 mm
Script: Viktor Turin, Aleksandr Macheret, Viktor Shklovski, Jefim Aron
Photography: Jevgeni Slavinski, Boris Frantzisson
A Svenska Filminstitutet / Filmarkivet print of 1527 m /20 fps/ 67 min * original Russian intertitles * svenska texter by Mouissia Modnar * e-subtitles in Finnish by Onni Nääppä.
Revisited a classic documentary... after 39 years. It still is fresh and biting. The political bias in this Soviet film is minimal, and it is still easy to understand why Turksib became a model for both the British documentary school - and the Finnish documentary tradition, although Finland was fiercely anti-Soviet. Heikki Aho and Björn Soldan bought a print of Turksib and studied it devotedly. The influence is obvious in some of their films from the 1930s, including their films for the Finnish wood industry.
The main asset of the film is the power of observation - of the varying locations from the harbours at the Caspian Sea to the snowy mountains of Siberia - of the many occupations and industries including sheep farming, cultivating cotton, and forest industry - and of the epic processes of the construction of the railway with the giant bridges of Chuisky and Irtysh.
The sense of humour is unobtrusive and the account of the conflict between modernity and tradition is without condescension. There is nobility in the ways of the camel drivers, but the railway can make life much easier.
The feeling for nature is impressive - the power of the Samum wind - the importance of the water - the devastating qualities of the desert.
The DocPoint Festival had engaged the hugely popular beat box artist Felix Zenger to create the music. His strong and inventive rhythms fitted the theme of modernity and the machine world very effectively, and the emphasis on the human sound resonated with the feeling for nature and tradition in the movie.
The print from Svenska Filminstitutet is fine, and the translations seemed good, too, to the film famous for the quality of its intertitles.
The way of the cotton - the industrial process - cotton mills - clothes, fabrics, threads.
Drought - the earth peeling off - the dusty soil - resignation.
The water is not flowing - the vessels are empty - the machines have stopped - the Turkmen are waiting.
The snowy mountain tops - the rays of the sun - the streams of water - crescendo.
The dog is drinking - the fields are irrigated - the currents of the stream.
Bread. The silhouettes of camels. Distant harbours. Bales of cotton. To Egypt, to the US...
II PUTI - DOROGI
The camels - the donkeys - the saxaul
Cotton is collected into sacks - the wool of the sheep is shorn - the product is put on camels
The terrain is cruelly difficult to navigate - the horses - epic long shots
The treasures of the district - the feet of the camels sink into the sand - powerful silhouettes
The caravan goes - the wind is getting stronger - the Samum wind
The wind is unnerving - it is blinding - it covers everything - it stops everything
A graveyard of goods and travellers - Kazakstan of impassable distances
Siberia: the winter - the grain - the sledges
Trains - bread - wood - freight trains
The forest - trees are felled - wood processing mills - Middle Asia - semaphors - dorogu!
III THE MOUNTAINS AND THE STEPPES
The camel - the airplane - the first review - the first surveyors - the leveling - high noon
The old graveyards are asleep - the villages of Kazakhstan - the sleepiness - the old and the young are asleep
The sheep are startled - the dog is barking - the car approaches - the motorists are like creatures from outer space - with their shades - aman-ba = good afternoon
The surveyors at work - the image upside down - water is served
The children run after the car - the devil's carriage
Alma-Ata, the city of apples
The southern Turksib (the name of the railway) - the maps - the dividers
Animation: - maps - letters - numbers - the Caspian Sea - the Aral Sea - Kyrgyzstan - Uzbekistan - China
Cargoes of lumber - camels moving lumber - endless cart paths - hundreds of kilometers - the lumber to the railroad - the caravan in heat and dust
Earth is being tilled - the soil is dry in the wheelbarrows
Rock drills - how much can a camel carry - bucket loaders
A superimposition on the encounter with the train
The engine and the camel riders - the race - the montage bordering on the edge of perception
The train is faster - the riders cannot keep pace - the horses, the camels, the bulls, the running men
The camera behind the chimney of the engine
V FROM THE SOUTH TO THE NORTH
The Chuisky Bridge
The thaw - the ice is melting - the snowy mountains
The Irtysh Bridge - the towering scaffolds
Turkestan - Siberia
The heavy wind - destined to be ready by 1931
The frozen trains - explosions - a montage on the railroad construction site
Varying angles of cinematography
Epic images of the construction site
Pile drivers - towards the south - explosions in the north
Learning to read - machines - the tractor
In the rhythm of Turksib - tilling the earth
New irrigation methods
A war against backwardsness
The water is flushing the dry earth
The conquered earth gives up its treasures
Sheep are bred with American, English, and Swiss stock
Horses at grass
The new crop - picking up cotton
Wool - a cotton mill
A brakeman - a train dispatcher - Turk - Sib - a chimney
This movie is a poem, a piece of propaganda, a commercial.