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 imagesthere 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 examiningwe're all pretty much safe from its baleful influence these days.
Three Songs About Lenin
Three Songs About Lenin
Three anonymous songs about Lenin provide the basis for this documentary that celebrates the achievements of the Soviet Union and Lenin's role in creating them.
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September 4, 2019