Entuziazm (Simfonija Donbassa)

In preparation for teaching the old one-two punch of Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov in History and Theory of Cinema this fall, I’ve been watching some of their films I hadn’t yet seen.

Last night: Entuziazm (Simfonija Donbassa), made in 1930 by Dziga Vertov, restored by Peter Kubelka in 1972 and released on DVD in 2010 by Edition Filmmuseum.

According to the DVD liner notes,

enormous problems involving massive loss of recorded material led Vertov to call Enthusiasm “a film…covered with wounds.”

As a whole the film is undoubtedly flawed (leaving aside completely the collossal flaws of the First Five Year Plan it sought to celebrate), but passages in it are absolutely wonderful.

Here below, one that thrilled me for its ingenious canted framing. The halting steps of a drunkard and the droning hymn of a church choir are transformed through industry (and the magic of the editing table) into a winding band of socialist marchers. As in the better known Man With a Movie Camera, Vertov employs a diegetic figure to help orchestrate his “film facts” — in this case, a female auditor instead of a female editor.

Included as an extra on the DVD was a welcome glimpse of Vertov in movement. From the liner notes:

A latter day compilation by Elisaveta Svilova, Vertov’s creative partner and widow, it features (as Yuri Tsivian has noted) material from 1922-1923, as well as from the 1930s. Kinopravda  No. 8 and No. 17 are two of the sources.