Zvenigora is a complex yet compelling fantasy, presenting the story of a group of Russian peasants and their strong ties with the earth through a series of simple yet strikingly beautiful images. Spanning a period of a thousand years, the film relates the eternal struggle between needing to nurture the land and wanting to strip it of its treasures. A wealth of magical images fill and frame the landscape, from the wizard monk whose death-like countenance terrorises the invaders to the man who advertises his own suicide as theatrical entertainment then absconds with the box office takings. This film is as much a parable about human nature as it is a representation of the struggles of the Russian peasantry, using technical experiments similar to those of Georges Melies to embellish the transcendental nature of the subject. Zvenigora is the fourth film by Russian film master Alexander Dovzhenko, who began his career in film in 1926 after working as both a cartoonist and painter. Despite negative critical reaction to Zvenigora, it was the forerunner of his more celebrated films Arsenal (1929), Zemlya (1930), and Ivan (1932), which perpetuated his interest in honouring the lives and struggles of peasants, and served as a tribute to his heritage as a man of the Ukraine.
How to watch
In ACMI's collection
Experimental → Experimental films - Soviet Union
Feature films → Feature films - Soviet Union
Black and White
VHS; Access Print (Section 1)