Born to illiterate, impoverished peasants who were descendants of Cossacks, Alexander Dovzhenko completed his education and left the Desna River Valley to become a school teacher. His aspirations in t...
Co-directing (with F. Lopatinsky) and screenwriting debut, "Vasya the Reformer"
Born to illiterate, impoverished peasants who were descendants of Cossacks, Alexander Dovzhenko completed his education and left the Desna River Valley to become a school teacher. His aspirations in the arts led to involvement in literary circles after the Communist Revolution of 1917, a revolution he embraced as the first step toward Ukrainian national independence. He joined the army and later studied art in Berlin. In 1923, he returned to his beloved Ukraine to launch a career as an illustrator. His painter's eye was expressed in detailed political cartoons and book illustrations which supported the "People's Republic." His films would express his strong ties to Ukrainian culture, particularly in the romantically nationalistic "Zvenyhora" (1928) and "Arsenal" (1929), considered his most complete and masterful works.
With no formal training and little knowledge of how a film is made, Dovzhenko, having explored the potential of writing, painting and architecture, turned suddenly to what he considered a perfectly political medium by assuming an apprenticeship at the film studios at Odessa. His first film, "Vasya the Reformer" (1926), was a laughable attempt at comedy.
Dovzhenko's enduring contribution to world cinema is found in the poetic vision of "Arsenal" (1929) and "Earth" (1930), contemplative, rhythmically edited works that one critic called "biological, pantheistic conception(s)."
Stylistically, Dovzhenko's work, as exemplified by "Earth," is a montage of associations and impressions. The film has very little camera movement or movement within the frame. Narrative flow is the product of editing and composition, with each shot composed and framed according to the director's painterly vision.
After serving as a war correspondent for "Red Army" and "Izvestia" during WWII, Dovzhenko assumed writing and producing chores at Mosfilm studios. But for years he complained of creative suffocation in Stalin's political bureaucracy, which caused several Dovzhenko projects to be shelved.
Although his final output was relatively modest, it was the young Dovzhenko, along with his contemporaries V.I. Pudovkin and Sergei Eisenstein, who best combined the principle of montage with a realistic appreciation for the natural landscape.