Stanislav Rostockij

Scen.: Gavriil Troepol’skij. F.: Georgij (Grajr) Garibjan. Scgf.: Boris Dulenkov, Sergej Gerasimov. Mus.: Kirill Molčanov. Int.: Aleksej Egorov (Pëtr Šurov), Elena Krivcova (Tosja El’nikova), Pëtr Černov (Popov), Vladimir Ivanov (Alëša), Rimma Šorochova (Nastja), Vladimir Ratomskij (Terentij Petrovič), Pëtr Alejnikov (Ignat Uškin), Grigorij Belov (Evseič), Ivan Kuznecov (Belov), Boris Sitko (Samovarov). Prod.: Moskovskaja kinostudija im. Gor’kovo · 35mm. Bn.


T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

To describe the conflicts of the day, 1950s cinema turned to contemporary literature, in particular the prose published in the magazine “Novyj mir” and works on rural issues: an essay by agronomist Gavriil Troepol’skij inspired director Stanislav Rostockij, veteran of the Second World War, graduate of VGIK, student of Ėjzenštejn and Kozincev, recipient of honorific titles and twice an Oscar candidate for A zori sdes’ tichie (The Dawns Here Are Quiet) and Belyj Bim Čërnoe Ucho (White Bim Black Ear). Zemlja i ljudi, Rostockij’s first film, was an answer to the ‘aesthetics of reality’and was defined ‘counterrevolutionary’ by the minister of culture. “We are trying to get closer to life without embellishment. We filmed farmers’ houses just as they are, inside and out”, explained the filmmakers.
Another striking theme in the film is the inefficiency that stifles the workers’ spirit of initiative and how they are corrupted by collective irresponsibility. “Command making sure that no one is responsible for anything” is the motto of the head of the kolkhoz Samovarov.
The grotesque essay Prochor semnadcatyj, korol’ žestjanščikov (Prochor XVII, King of the Tinsmiths) (the director had read the manuscript, which he had gotten from the editors of the magazine because its publication had been delayed by censors) is tempered in the film for aesthetic and genre reasons. The genre is that of “daily life at production locations” where technological issues are incorporated into a lyrical plot with moralizing heroes: the student Tosja, the antithesis of the agronomist Šurov, and the new director who appears in the ending of Zemlja i ljudi.
These somewhat flat characters, however, are enlivened by secondary characters, who provide the framework of the real story here. On the one hand, there are authority figures who demand total obedience of directives (especially the bureaucrat Dubin expressively played by Pëtr Konstantinov) surrounded by characters corrupted by their proximity to power, like Samovarov and his circle: thieves and con artists portrayed grotesquely by popular actors experienced in comedy and fantasy genres.
On the other side are the farmers who question a system based on collective irresponsibility. Theater actor Vladimir Ratomskij’s brilliant performance lends depth to the old sage Terentij, who is profoundly attached to the land. The development of Pëtr Alejnikov’s character is even more compelling; Alejnikov was loved by audiences of the 1930s and 40s in the part of a reckless but charming hero. His Uškin, the lazy farmer, is no less unconventional. His laziness, however, also changes into a passive protest against the system.
The two characters’ storylines culminate in opposition to an official document. Terentij, setting aside the speech written for him, addresses the assembly speaking in his own name, while Uškin refuses to sign the report against the honest main character.
Censors blocked the film. Its fate changed with Chruščëv, who had seen it at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union: Zemlja i ljudi corresponded with his program. The film was then widely distributed and approved of by the press.

Evgenij Margolit


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