One would think that, simply based on the title ("Earth" or the original "Zemlya" depending on the level of snob you are), that Aleksandr Dovzhenko's silent poetic film would try to encompass life itself. One assumes too much. Instead of a Malickian look at all of humanity and history in a short film, we get rich and poor farmers and a reminder of a line from a Robert Frost poem—"good fences makes good neighbors".
For instead of being about life, death, love, heartache, and marriage; "Earth" is about life, death, industry, and insanity.
The movie opens to a death scene, edited with shots of toddlers playing on blanket...aah, the circle of life—so much better when wildlife sang about it in Disney movies. Anyways, a man is dying, his inevitable passing is making the people around him reflective.
Shifting times—once the man is dead, we go into a industry drama. The poor farmers need some way of competing with the rich farmers so they decide to buy a tractor. When it gets to the village, everyone stands out and welcomes the sight of the machinery. It's like a celebration, until they realize that there's no water in the radiator so it won't run.
This is where it got confusing...or maybe it always way. Aleksandr Dovzhenko uses actors that look alike to convey his story. I couldn't tell who were the "rich" and who were the "poor" farmers. Also, there was the political undertone to the whole movie. The farmers needed permission for the tractor...or something? It was very muddied and that was helped out with the fact that the movie dragged. It's only an hour and change long...but it feels like an eternity.
Much like "Man with a Movie Camera" we see the process of a day in the life of the farmers. Their lives are bustling and they start using the tractor (so I guess they got permission for it.....maybe?). We see how the grain gets turned into bread through a very interesting and completely pointless montage.
The film seems to imply that the new technology has turned all men into criminals. A murder turns the small town into a hive of gossip and worry.
The ending images are quick striking—a woman, crazed with grief throwing herself against a wall, pleading for the return of her lover; a priest trying to make God strike down his enemy; and a mad mad seeking retribution, heckling a funeral.
So in the end, what is "Earth" good for? It's an interesting piece, if only to show a snapshot of how times past were.
If you were trying to glean any entertainment from it...move on.
Score: 2 stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones