As part of the Documenting Ukraine event hold by Open City Docs at UCL over the weekend of 16th and 17th May at the Frontline Club, Londoners and cinephiles will have the chance to attend the International Premiere screening of the remastered 1928 silent propaganda film The Eleventh Year by Dziga Vertov, with a new score by Anton Baibatov which will be played live by Baibatov himself and Ukrainian pianist Sofia Turk.
The first film Vertov shot in Ukraine, The Eleventh Year celebrates the 11 years of the Communist Revolution, by putting its protagonists – the Soviet Workers – on the spot. We’re introduced to a country who, after years of rural agriculture, is now seeing the first signs of industrialization; under, on and above the (mother) land, signs of progress are there to be seen and glorified by Vertov’s camera. Rhythms are created by machines, while man finally conquers nature through the Machine. Communism brought strength and power to the common man, by way of the steam train and Lenin’s lamps (one in every house). Comrades from China, Africa and India marvel at the sight of the Soviet Technology. This is, after all, a propaganda film.
Coming out just a year before Man with a Movie Camera, The Eleventh Year already announces most of Vertov’s stylistic devices: split screens, superimposition and associative editing. As there was no script, Vertov declared that the film was written by the camera, creating, therefore, a pure cinematic language, where nothing is between the camera and the raw facts.
Anton Baibakov’s new soundtrack is not what you would usually associate with silent cinema, but proves to be the perfect match – his mix of modern jazz tonalities with minimalist classical patterns suits the Soviet director’s experimental techniques and avant-garde editing perfectly. There are no cheap onomatopoeic tricks, or sentimentalizations – the music enhances the images, comments on them, but never forces itself on the spectator, something the previous release’s soundtrack by Michael Nyman was very much guilty of. Plus, Baibakov’s understanding and masterfully use of silence as part of the soundscape could not find a more unexpected complement on Vertov’s double exposures and loaded images.
A great opportunity not only to see Vertov on the big screen, but to enjoy Baibakov’s musical genius, this is the kind of event that no cinephile should miss on.
The Eleventh Year, introduced by Dr Phil Cavendish of UCL – Senior Lecturer in Russian Cinema – will screen at the Frontline Club on Sunday 17th MAY, 18:30hrs as part of ‘Documenting Ukraine’ hosted by Open City Docs at UCL, together with its recent discovered animated trailer. More information at http://www.opencitylondon.com/events