The General Line

I saw The General Line at the National Film Theatre a couple of months back. Started in 1926 and released in 1929 it was directed by Sergei Eisenstein (Battleship Potempkin, October) and beautifully photographed by the great Eduard Tisse.

It tells the story of the conversion of a peasant village from the inefficient medieval strip-farming method, a hangover from Tsarist days, to a mechanised collective farm. Obviously it's intended as propaganda, but I imagine it gives a reasonably accurate impression: it doesn't gloss over the terrible hardship, the ignorance and resistance to change of the peasants, the opposition from the landowning class and the obstruction from the middle-class bureaucracy. (However this last is easily overcome by the peasants banging the counter and invoking the Party Line.)

As you might expect, the Communist Party comes out of it well - after all they were paying for the film - but a story which could easily have been stodgy makes a genuinely involving drama out of the difficult transition.

The couple sitting next to me had brought their young son - I would guess about age ten - and I thought, Oh dear, are we going to have an irritating case of the fidgets? Not a sound! (And I don't think he went to sleep, either.) Rather impressive - I mean, would you take a ten-year-old to a 2-hour 77-year-old silent Russian propaganda film about a collective farm, no matter how well made?

Posted: Tue - July 4, 2006 at 12:43 PM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM