“The first Ukrainian film”: Dovzhenko’s ZVENYHORA (1927) at SSEES 100 Film Festival

On 13th of October the SSEES Centenary Film Festival will treat us to a masterpiece of early Soviet Ukrainian cinema,  a 1927 silent revolutionary epic by Oleksandr Dovzhenko, ZVENYHORA.

ZVENYHORA is an initial film in the director’s Ukraine Trilogy (along with ARSENAL and EARTH). The film is almost religious in tone, relating a millennium of Ukrainian history through the story of an old man who tells his grandson about a treasure buried in a mountain.

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Zvenyhora has remained my most interesting picture. I made it in one breath – a hundred days. Unusually complicated in structure, eclectic in form, the film gave me, a self-taught production worker, the fortuitous opportunity of trying myself out in every genre. It was a catalogue of all my creative abilities“, – Dovzhenko wrote in his 1939 “Autobiography”.

ZVENYHORA is a remarkable avant-garde film, which has a unique style in its technical approach and disregards the more traditional storytelling devices. The film wonderfully blends both lyricism and politics and uses its central construct to build a montage praising Ukrainian industrialisation, attacking the European bourgeoisie, celebrating the beauty of the Ukrainian steppe and re-telling ancient folklore.

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The screening will be introduced by Dr Rory Finnin, Senior Lecturer in Ukrainian Studies, University of Cambridge. Finnin comments on the film:

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Oleksandr Dovzhenko’s Zvenyhora (1927) is a film of firsts. It is, in a sense, the ‘first Ukrainian film’; the first exemplar of what would become known as poetic cinema; and one of the first magical realist films in history. Yet for all its significance, Zvenyhora remains one of Dovzhenko’s most understudied and little-known works. The film weaves together myths of 2,000 years of Ukraine’s past with elements of fantasy, and even camp, to produce what Dovzhenko described as a ‘legend of legends’. Upon its release, the film elicited controversy and accusations of ‘bourgeois’ Ukrainian nationalism, which would haunt the director for the rest of his life.”

The screening will take place at Bloomsbury TheatreOctober 13, 18.30.

Book your tickets here.

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