FRC Icon World Tour #5 – Ukraine – Oleksandr Dovzhenko
The FRC world tour is now heading away from Scandinavia and heading more into Eastern Europe, this week we are in Ukraine.
What a blast those Skandenavians are? I wish I was a Viking, they rock!! Anyway we are on the move again this week we are staying with a very good friend of mine Lesya from Ukraine. She has a great Ukrainian Icon in Oleksandr Dovzhenko. So without further a do here is the interview…
What is your name and the title of your blog?
My name is Lesya of Eternity of Dream
What Country are you from?
I am from Ukraine.
Who is your Icon?
I apologize for leading you into a very distant past but I also don’t want to be lying, stating that our cinema is flourishing. Quite on the contrary, now we rarely make films on our own, usually engaging into film projects with other countries, mainly Russia. For this reason, I decided the Icon to be the person who worked here many decades ago, but whose name any Ukrainian knows. Oleksandr Dovzhenko (aka Alexander Dovzhenko), a person of many talents who contributed them not only on the altar of cinema but into painting and literature. Before I proceed with his biography, I must clear up another misunderstanding: as I was doing some research for this project, I stumbled upon the statements that claimed him as a Russian director, probably because he worked during the Soviet era, but by any means, it makes him Russian. I could write an entire article to prove that he must be considered the Ukrainian filmmaker but I will keep it simple and concise: he was born here and the majority of his films were shot in Ukraine in our own studios.
In order to see what inspired Dovzhenko’s films, it is enough to scan his biography. First off, he is born at the picturesque countryside in 1884 and spends his childhood there. Later on, he works as a teacher in one of our biggest cities until fate leads him to Kyiv where he studies economy, but with the Academy of Arts foundation, he starts to attend its lectures. The subsequent years of his life are full with events: he serves in the army (another point that massively influences his future career), then works in the consulates of Warsaw and Berlin, returns to the motherland and devotes himself to the work of caricaturist and illustrator. When he turns thirty-three, Oleksandr’s life abruptly changes, as he comes to the south of Ukraine and starts making movies! And continues doing so until the World War II begins, which he takes part in. Afterwards, he directs some documentaries, but mainly, writes screenplays and fiction, as well as lectures at an institute of cinema. He dies of a heart attack in 1956, but his wife Yulia Solntseva produces some of his unfinished works.
What makes your Icon special and standout from the crowd?
Well, that’s a tough question… such questions always are. I don’t feel like using high-flown eloquent words, mimicking articles about this very filmmaker. By the way, it is an awful lot of them in the Internet. It is difficult to judge his work because Dovzhenko was one of our pioneers, as he caught both silent and talkie eras. For me personally, his legacy is special because his films are distinctly Ukrainian, and this effect was achieved by culture, traditions, and folklore, which were used in depiction of then life.
Please give us some examples of the best of their work?
Zvenigora (1928) — I thoroughly enjoyed this film that is great example of what I have said above about Dovzhenko’s legacy. He used fantasy elements to tell the story of our nation from ancient times to those he lived in.
Arsenal (1929) — poetically poignant war film. To be honest, some moments left me speechless, although I watched so many modern war films.
Zemlya (Earth in translation, 1930) — Dovzhenko’s masterpiece that eulogizes eternal subjects, like life and death, and everlasting connection between humankind and Earth.
Any bad apples to avoid?
To start with, beware, that although in the first place, Dovzhenko wanted (and he succeeded) to render his personal attitude to life beyond historical and political events, his films are mostly propagandistic. That’s the price for being the part of that certain union during 20s-30s. So what I mean is that some people may want to reject works from the director just because of the propaganda, which by the way, made me feel uncomfortable as well. However, there is one example of the movie that can be considered not worthy seeing: Shchors (1939), another war film, but now it is devoid of Dovzhenko’s unique individuality that he brought in any of his works because from what I know, he was almost forced to make it and he couldn’t get all control of the filming into his hands.
What is your personal favorite?
Strange as it might seem, but I loved the very first work by the filmmaker. It is a short comedy (the only comedy of his) called Yagodka liubvi (Love’s Berry in translation, 1926). It is just a hilarious and very light-hearted silent.
Thank you so much Lesya for taking part and enlightening me to someone who I have not ever heard of. I really appreciate the help all my blogging friends are showing by helping with this task of moving around the globe.
Have you heard of this Icon? Have you got any questions about him? Comment below….