Friday, June 13, 2014

Sosialismi / Socialism (in the presence of Peter von Bagh)

FI © 2014 Aamunkoi Productions. D+SC: Peter von Bagh. DP: Arto Kaivanto. S: Martti Turunen. ED: Petteri Evilampi. Archival footage editor: Anna Korhonen. Speakers: Peter von Bagh, Erja Manto, Eero Saarinen. Commentary in Finnish, titles and subtitles in English. 2K DCP. 67 min
    2K DCP viewed at the Big Top, Sodankylä (Midnight Sun Film Festival), in the presence of Peter von Bagh, 13 June 2014

Olaf Möller (The Midnight Sun Film Festival Catalogue, 2014): "For the first time in long, Peter von Bagh looks at a subject vaster than Finnish history: Socialism, the 20th century's greatest dream and source of some of its darkest nightmares. As always, the story develops along a roughly chronological arc: Sosialismi begins with one of cinema's first moving images ever, Louis Lumière's La Sortie de l’Usine Lumière à Lyon (1895) and the energies and theories that gave rise to Marxism, and ends in these our days where the icons of a hope for a juster and kinder world got turned into market commodities, merchandise, shows of opinions instead of a conviction's insignia."

"As always, its all about digressions as the only way towards unattainable but most desirable truth; about jumping back and forth in time, about remembering Spain and at the sight of a Chaplin poster and the Legion Condor crossing the skies like an icon instantly associating eg. Vietnam; about following the figures and landscape, faces and places a song might bring up (the cascade of state funerals gliding by on waves of Auf Wiedersehens is hilarious and haunting and brutally to the point and outrageous, to give but one example); about honouring certain trains of thoughts, images: how Lumières employees become a rally, proletarian fists risen to the sky, become a sea of flags which we all know are red even when the film is in b&w."

"Von Bagh, maybe the truest of all Benjamin'ians in modern cinema, shows how socialism and cinema – all of cinema, be it documentary be it fiction – are one, and how life is all about this sense of never being alone but always one; that cinema and socialism will always be there, just like Tom Joad always knew." (OM)

"Those living a hundred, two hundred years from now, despising us for our silly, mundane lives, may perhaps somehow learn the secret of happiness."
    "Те, которые будут жить через сто, двести лет после нас и которые будут презирать нас за то, что мы прожили свои жизни так глупо и так безвкусно,— те, быть может, найдут средство, как быть счастливыми (...)" - Doctor Astrov in Anton Chekhov: Uncle Vanya, Act IV

Peter von Bagh's new film was finished this week for this first screening.

In his introduction von Bagh stated that the theme of his previous film, Remembrance, was small. The theme of Socialism is big - a guide to the 20th century. In his previous collage films von Bagh often used mediocre and even bad films as source materials. "Here we see some of the great images by great film-makers". The motto is by Anton Chekhov about the great vision of the future.

Chapter headings include: I Cherry Blossoms, II Age-Old Dreams, III The Year 1917, IV The American Dream, V Before the Revolution, VI The War to End All Wars, VII Utopias of Fear and Hope, VIII Hard Times, IX The Land of Spain, X The Story of a Fresco, XI Lenin, XII Life As It Could Be, XIII The Year 1937, XIV Small Finnish Stories, XV Landscape after the Battle, XVI The Working Class Ascends to Heaven, XVII The Long Goodbye, XVIII There Are No Guarantees

Von Bagh has visited this territory before in A Day at the Grave of Karl Marx, a cross-section of the truly international attraction of the socialist idea, beyond the dreary "real existing socialism".

The Man in the Shadow, the story of Otto Wille Kuusinen, made together with Elina Katainen and Iikka Vehkalahti, was a three-part documentary account of a bloody tragedy of Shakespearean magnitude from the Finnish-Soviet perspective, taking us to key events from the national-romantical awakening of the early 20th century to the Thaw after the death of Stalin.

This new movie is a thought-provoking survey of a magnificent and mind-boggling theme, unflinching about the terror that has been inflicted in the name of socialism, yet not cynical about the great ideas of social justice.

I was again thinking what was the hideous curse that catapulted some of the most abject tyrants of history to lead countries that attempted to build socialism. And why such countries become responsible for mass murder in an unprecedented scale.

This film is very dense, and eighteen films could be made from its eighteen chapters. Still key topics remain undiscussed. For example the fact that many of the original demands of the socialist movement have been realized and universally accepted. That is no mean feat, and a major reason for the identity crisis of the contemporary socialist movement.

Yet even the most outrageous offense singled out in the list of urgent tasks to be remedied in the Communist Manifesto in 1848 - child labour - is still a topical issue in huge parts of the world.

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