A SIXTH OF THE WORLD (Dziga Vertov, 1926)

In his essential Dictionary of Films, Georges Sadoul slips in describing Shestaya chast mira as a “lyrical film-poem.” Written, directed and edited by Dziga Vertov, it is, instead, rigorously analytical, breaking down the full, vast range of Soviet regions and populations; but Sadoul may have regarded it through the prism of Vertov’s 1934 Three Songs of Lenin (which also covers a breadth of Soviet peoples), especially since the earlier film’s last few minutes wax lyrical about Lenin, recently deceased and the spirit of the Soviet unity toward which both films aim.
     This non-narrative mosaic focuses primarily on variously laboring Soviet humanity (and their animals!); everyone’s work, implicitly, contributes to the growth of the Soviet economy, Soviet society. However, its first movement portrays western Europe, including Germany, which was defeated in the Great War less than a decade earlier. An industrial factory, while almost bereft of humanity, houses machines that appear almost sinister in their complicatedness; the idle bourgeoisie smoke, play cards and dance the foxtrot; colonized black African “slaves” labor relentlessly. (One woman’s repetitious work is punctuated by the rough bouncing of her infant, which is wrapped around her back.) The connection of each of these crosscut activities to the other two is, then, not the Soviet way, where even those ignorant of one another—Vertov hoped that national distribution of the film would eradicate such ignorance—essentially pull together for the sake of the whole nation. Subsequently, the decadent foxtrot is countered by two kinds of Soviet dance: communal folk-dancing; self-expressive spontaneous dance.
     Everyone’s face matters, and the diverse complexions delight. (The silence of silent film bars the diversity of languages that might imply potential disunity.)
     Employing old newsreels and newly shot material, this could be the best movie ever made.

B(U)Y THE BOOK

MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.

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