Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 7:30pm
Alexander Dovzhenko's Poem of an Inland Sea

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Poem of an Inland Sea
Alexander Dovzhenko, digital projection, 1958, 95 mins

Light Industry presents Alexander Dovzhenko’s Poem of an Inland Sea, a late work by one of the greatest Soviet filmmakers, admired upon its initial release by the likes of Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Rivette, but rarely seen today.

Describing his final projects to the critic and historian Georges Sadoul, Dovzhenko remarked:

“In my new film there will be no mountain-peaks, no cliffs, no crimes, nothing to excite the spectator. All will be simple, without big effects…

I have written a film trilogy that has for its frame and subject a Ukrainian village, my village. The first part—I have written it as a play—is set in 1930, during collectivization. The second part is an account of the fiery years of the patriotic war, of the battles between the collective farmers and Nazis. The third part comes up to our time. A great dam is built that places the village at the bottom of a new sea; the village dies under forty-five feet of waters that vitalize and impregnate the earth.

I begin the production of this trilogy with its last part, Poem about a Sea. The title is perhaps too ambitious; I’d prefer Prose about a Sea. I have enjoyed planning my future work for the panoramic screen...In 1930, I saw such a giant screen in Paris and it made a profound impression on me. The long horizontal shape suits the elements in my next film: broad and monochrome steppes, stretching waters of a sea, airplanes, the idea of great spaces.”

Dovzhenko would never see the realization of this trilogy. Though he’d spent two years carefully planning the design of Poem of an Inland Sea, he died the very day before shooting was to commence. The piece was ultimately completed by Yulia Soltsneva, his wife and longtime collaborator, and the results are appropriately elegiac. It’s a strangely melancholic portrait of communist industrialization, a movie whose subjects are haunted by both the staggering losses of the Second World War as well as the passing of their formerly agrarian existence.

Made during a time of significantly renewed film production following Stalin’s death, Poem of an Inland Sea became a flashpoint in an evolving Soviet film culture. Debates about its merits raged on all sides for months in the pages of Iskusstvo Kino, a prominent film magazine, and the controversy ultimately resolved itself with a call for aesthetic pluralism. The editors declared that “Ideological unity of artists who see the goal and meaning of their lives and creative work in the struggle for communism does not in any way demand uniformity of artistic means. Socialistic art,” they concluded, “is as many-colored as the solar spectrum.”

“It may happen that Poem of an Inland Sea will be the only picture produced by Mosfilm to show the goodness of contemporary people,” Dovzhenko noted in his journal. “Then I’ll be in trouble.”


Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.