Three Songs About Lenin



IMDb Rating 6.5 10 592


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September 4, 2019



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509.57 MB
23.976 fps
61 min
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991.32 MB
23.976 fps
61 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by netwallah 8 / 10 / 10

Ignore the propaganda and appreciate the people

Vertov eulogizes Lenin with an idealized view of Soviet progress. There are, indeed, three songs, or three musical movements. The first presents a woman's view of Lenin's legacy, beginning with the movement away from various forms of repression, the joy of women working, the new equality in field and factory. The second records the Soviet mourning for their leader. The third showcases progress, with the refrain if only Lenin could see his country now. With the exception of three or four spoken passages, this is built like a silent film to which a programmatic soundtrack has been added. There are actual songs, with titles furnishing the words, and sections of great music by Russian classical composers, and some music probably written for the film. The continuity comes through the songs and through several thematic sequences of images—there is no plot. The images are fascinating, showing the best side of Soviet culture, the variety of ethnicities, the joy of having enough to eat, the sense of sharing in a wonderful experiment, the determination to succeed, the unselfishness of many individuals, the idealism of the collective. There are thousands of shots of people, agriculture, industry, public works, parades, happy people, hardworking people, landscapes, and every sort of window into a vanished world. Of course it's propaganda. Of course there are essential elements of Soviet history omitted. Of course the very first sequences present the unveiling of Muslim women as a great stride toward liberty. Let the political scientists and historians investigate the significance of what is left out and what is presented in this partial view of life in the 1930s. But remember it was only sixteen years after the October revolution, and the progress the movie highlights did occur. Still, we don't have to accept the propagandistic aspect of the film. Neither do we have to reject the film out of hand because we think Communism is stupid, nor does it benefit anybody to heap ridicule upon it. Three Songs is a (partly) great movie because it shows irreplaceable real images of real people and of vanished technology and vanished historical places. Some of the photography is amazing, and the editing, timed rhythmically to match the music, is unusually good. Even the way the propagandistic themes are built is worth examining—we're all pretty much safe from its baleful influence these days.

Reviewed by p_radulescu 8 / 10 / 10

The last movie Vertov was allowed to make

Lenin has lived, is living, will live: a film poster summarizing it very well. The atheist society of Stalin needed its own mythology, just as throughout the whole history any other society had to build its own mythology (a fiction is always essential in the struggle for survival; if Darwin hadn't told it from the very beginning, it was said anyway by lots of Darwinians). Ultimately any mythology supposes the existence of an eternal god. Of course, in the Soviet mythology the eternal god was Lenin. As he had died in 1924, the problem of his immortality had to be solved. In this movie the god Lenin lives forever in the Soviet society: in the whole society, and in any particle of it. Any Soviet citizen, and any Soviet accomplishment, carries the personality of Lenin. With this movie Vertov gives up his atheism, to become a pantheist: he deifies the Soviet society because it embodies the eternity of Lenin, and he deifies Lenin because his eternity is embodied in the Soviet society. Is it pantheism or rather panentheism? I'd leave for you to decide. Anyway it is the demonstration of a perfect totalitarian system: one cannot have free will as everyone embodies Lenin, thus carrying the will of Lenin. Well, for the regime officials this movie had two impardonable flaws. Firstly it was an Avangardist movie, it means some kind of bourgeois leisure. In 1934 the Soviet norm was already the Socialist Realism. And more than that it was the second flaw. The Soviet mythology was actually built upon two gods: one dead (Lenin) and one alive and in full control of the power (Stalin). And the dead god should have had only one role: to justify the almighty alive god. This movie said too much about the dead god, and almost nothing about the alive god. No wonder that Vertov would not be let to make another movie any more. He would not understand why, as he was too honest, too sincere, to understand the ways of life. Apart from that, this is a superb movie, just because it is so consistently Avangardist (I would even say so Productionist - the whole Soviet construction living through one hero, Lenin), and so sincere.

Reviewed by eabakkum 8 / 10 / 10

Illusions about Leninist politics

Let us start with a review about the film itself. The first time I saw "Three songs about Lenin", it was in a small picture-theater, together with perhaps ten other paying visitors. I was emotionally moved by the images, which is alway a rare experience for me. Later I bought the DVD, and I still consider it as an asset. The primary cause is probably the enormous feeling of optimism, that is beamed forth by the scenes. On the one hand the optimism is substantiated by the shots of emerging industries and education and development. On the other hand, the optimism is impersonated by close-ups of the common people, by their hopeful gazes, pondering over a better near future. The film invites the viewer to empathize and identify: what are their hopes and prospects? We want to be a part of this achievement and mix with the crowd. This technique is an excellent find of Vertov. Joris Ivens may have had this example in mind, when he made the film "Power and the land" (1940) for the US Ministry of Agriculture, advocating the New Deal of president Roosevelt. The thread in Vertovs film is the development policy for Russia, which was started by V.I. Lenin. Its symbol is the garden seat, where Lenin used to rest during his final days, suffering from a fatal illness. A striking detail is the missing lath in the seat, reminding us of earthly perishableness. Vertovs first song, titled "My face was in a dark prison", pictures the backward Islamic states in Russia, probably in Middle-Asia. We see women veiled in burkas and crippled men. But there is hope, some young women throw off their veils and start to study (the works of Lenin). The first tractors appear on the fields, the first automated looms are installed. At times our joy is somewhat tempered, for instance when a text exclaims "We would gladly die if only Lenin could have lived on". The second song, "We loved him", is essentially about Lenins burial and the feelings of mourning, that were engulfing the people. It also contains flashbacks of Lenins public appearances. We get a taste of his enthusiasm and passion. The third song, "In a big city of stone", shows the economic accomplishments from Lenins death (1924) until the making of the film (1934). They are indeed impressive: the steel mills, the electrification, the oil fields, the education, the airplanes, the new blocks of flats, etc. All realized without foreign capital, even while starting in 1917 with an extremely primitive society. "If Lenin could just have seen this progress", the film ponders. So my cinematic part of the review can only praise the quality of the film. Nevertheless, we are also interested in the credibility of the suggested state of affairs. The production took place in 1934, when the Stalinist oppression had already unfolded. Was Lenin really a kind of Ghandi, a father to the people? Let me first comment on the glorification, which seems contradictory to the nature of a popular movement (in the eastern part of Berlin there used to be a statue of Lenin with a height of 17 meters!). This is because the people were supposed to elevate and to exceed their production plans, and therefore an example of the utmost dedication was needed. Undoubtedly Lenin was excessively devoted to the wellbeing of the people, and he has probably worked himself to death. But how sound were his ideas? Just some background information for your convenience: Lenin was formed as a social-democrat politician during the cruel and primitive reign of the last Russian Tsar (forgetting Stalin). The Russian society was still largely agrarian and religious and uneducated, except for a small bourgeois elite. In this Russian elite Lenin became one of the outstanding social-democrat leaders, while the vehement tsarist oppression forced him to advocate a radical oppositional resistance. He also became a journalist and writer. He published many ground-breaking books (in my opinion), like the philosophical "Materialism and empiriocriticism", the practical "What to do?", the economic study "Imperialism as the final stage of capitalism", and the political study "State and revolution". However, the First World War in Russia was especially gruesome, which accelerated the radicalization of Lenin. When in 1917 the Tsar was overthrown by a civil revolution, Lenin decided contrary to his former beliefs to follow up with a communist revolution, which unfortunately succeeded. It started a civil war, which caused the utmost misery and famine, and ruined the already collapsing economy. Of course the new regime could only survive as a dictatorship, and it soon developed the most brutal and abject traits. During this episode Lenin officially declared the communist terror as the instrument to combat any opposition. For example, in his final years he declared that "the revolutionary courts must execute the Mensheviks (EB: they were left-wing reformers and former party comrades of Lenin!), when they continue to voice their opinions". Of course his orders were duly executed by his primitive followers. It is sad to see a brilliant mind lose contact with reality. So Lenin was actually the INVENTOR of the Stalinist terror (and all those clones like Mao and the Red Khmer). So, NO! the film is a fake, but nevertheless the young Lenin deserves our appreciation.

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