Screening on Film
Directed by Alexander Dovzhenko.
With Semyon Svashenko, Amvrosi Buchma, Georgi Khorkov.
USSR, 1929, 35mm, black & white, silent, 73 min.

Based on historical events, Arsenal depicts a Ukraine in turmoil and at war, from World War I and its aftermath to the 1918 Bolshevik uprising and struggle to defend a Kiev munitions factory against Ukrainian nationalist troops. Dovzhenko’s montage juxtapositions here are among his most potent and violent, in effect raising larger questions of class, morality, politics, and history. Ovchinnikov roots the film in an impassioned string orchestral lamentation, and slowly builds to the large, dissonant, pervasive orchestral tremolos signifying the tension between the Bolshevik workers and Rada partisans. The fervorous political rally in Kiev bears musical and mixing techniques reminiscent of the harvest sequence in Earth, with jubilant waves of sound interspersed with smaller musical gestures; equally inventive are Ovchinnikov’s orchestrations of the World War I battle and train accident sequences.

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