Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Khlib / [Bread] (restored in 2012, Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Film Centre)

Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre, Kiev
KHLIB / Hlib / Xліб / - a banned film not released anywhere (Tysiacha devyatsot dvadtsiatyi rik) [Il pane / Bread; Il millenovecentoventi / The Year Nineteen Twenty] (VUFKU, Kyiv, UkrSSR 1930). D, P: Mykola Shpykovskyi; prod. asst: Luka Liashenko, M. Piasetskyi; SC: Viktor Yaroshenko; DP: Oleksii Pankratiev; AD: Solomon Zarytskyi; M: Port Mone (2013); C: Luka Liashenko (soldato congedato dall’Armata Rossa/demobilized Red Army soldier), Fedir Hamalii (kulak), Dmytro Kapka (nonno/Grandfather), Vladimir Uralsky (Zakhar), Sofia Smirnova (contadina/peasant girl), Oleksandr Chystyakov (contadino/peasant); filmed: 1929 (completed: 10.1929); banned by the censor: 7.3.1930 (not released); orig. l: 1014 m.; restored edition 1030.2 m.; 2K [?] DCP (from 35 mm), 45' (16 fps); print source: Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Film Centre, Kyiv. Ukrainian intertitles. Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), with e-titles in English and Italian, live music: The Port Mone Trio, 8 Oct 2013

Ivan Kozlenko: "A demobilized Red Army soldier returns to his village. Inspired by the spirit of collectivism, he ploughs a field so that the kulaks’ portion now belongs to the community, and sows it with grain confiscated from the “philistines”. His father, a man of traditional world outlook, lives in a pantheistic world of the Ukrainian ethos, where sin has a physical dimension. He does not believe that the stolen grain will sprout on the stolen land. When the grain finally sprouts, the old man admits that his son was right: for the sake of building a new world, the old laws of the universe should be broken."

"After The Self-Seeker (Shkurnyk) was banned, Shpykovskyi made Bread (Khlib), in which he developed the very contemporary topic of collectivization, probably wanting to repent the “incompatibility” of his previous film and adapt to the new themes of the Stalinist era. Bread was imaginatively shot by the gifted cameraman Oleksii Pankratiev, whose thoughtful panoramic long shots feature dynamic compositions. The background, barren field and bare sky, raise the agricultural subject matter to the level of an epic poem. Using innovative editing, Shpykovskyi transformed an incredibly simple plot into an avant-garde work. Created the same year as Earth (Zemlya), the film forms a paradoxically conceptual, ideological, and aesthetic pair with Dovzhenko’s movie. Both directors defined their movies as film epics, which portrayed the tragedy of the destruction of a traditionalist universe and the age-old peasant lifestyle, close in its scale to apocalypse. Despite utopian agitation, the collectivist experiment is interpreted in terms of tragedy. In both films the lyrical account of cosmological shifts is perfectly expressed by the camerawork, while the intermittent avant-garde editing ruptures the narrative in the same way the plough ruptures the kulak land. Unlike Dovzhenko, though, Shpykovskyi tried not to use complex multi-symbolic language – his images are clear, ascetic, expressive, and remarkably suggestive."

"Like Dovzhenko, who used the monumental actor Semen Svashenko in all three films of his epic trilogy of Zvenyhora, Arsenal, and Earth, Shpykovskyi also tried to create his own Communist superhero in Bread, using the actor and writer Luka Liashenko."

"After completion in October 1929, Bread was sent to the Senior Repertoire Committee in Moscow for an evaluation screening. It was banned on 7 March 1930, and, after some changes (including a new title, The Year Nineteen Twenty), it was banned for the second time by the censors, with this comment: “The film gives a false idea of the struggle for bread. The middle class of the peasants appears completely out of the picture. The recovery period (restrictions of the kulaks), the relative economic strengthening of the kulaks (NEP), the class struggle, the formation of political preconditions for collectivization and the liquidation of the kulaks (industrialization) are all out of the picture. The problem of bread is interpreted beyond the context of socialist construction.” The film was never released."

"Shpykovskyi next shot a propaganda film called Hegemon (1931), which according to the censors of the Senior Repertoire Committee was made under the obvious influence of Dovzhenko’s Arsenal and Earth, with the same ideological shortcomings: “The film demonstrates a number of raw influences on the director’s work, including, of course, the impact of Dovzhenko’s Arsenal and to a certain degree Earth (however, one should note that the films were shot at the same time, so the question of priority may be a controversial one). The kulak is portrayed almost like in Dovzhenko’s film, with virtually the same errors in interpretation...”"

"After this Shpykovskyi, an outstanding director, whose finest film, Bread, can be compared to the best films by Dovzhenko, disappeared from Ukrainian cinema history. He returned to Moscow in the mid-1930s, quit directing, and worked only as a scriptwriter."

"Restoration: A digital restoration of the film was implemented in 2012 by the Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Film Centre on the orders of the State Film Agency of Ukraine. In June 2013, the Mute Nights festival of silent film and contemporary music in Odessa presented the premiere of Bread with a soundtrack by Port Mone, commissioned by the festival. Music The Belarusian instrumental trio Port Mone – Aleksey Vorsoba (accordion), Siarhei Krauchanka (drums), and Aleksey Vanchuk (bass guitar) – was founded in 2005 in Minsk. Their music is a mix of classical music, noise, and experimental folk. The meditative tunes of the band reach the deepest and most archaic melodic layers. Full of pantheistic and even metaphysical sincerity, they organically fit the epic Bread, for which the band created a score at the request of the Mute Nights festival." – Ivan Kozlenko

AA: An important discovery, banned at the time. A powerful montage film with montages of static images, expressive close-ups, faces against a black background, ultra rapid montages, and rhythmic montage sequences. After a long day I was no longer quite alert and need to see this important film again. The music score is an experimental attack. The digital mastering makes the image seem very clean.

Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre, Kiev

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