Shestaya chast mira [A Sixth of the World] (1926) + Michael Nyman Band

A Sixth of the World is a film by Dziga Vertov. It was shown in the Konzerthaus with live music by Michael Nyman and his band as part of ther Film and Music Cylce. [Here’s my review of one of the shows from the cycle last year.]

A Sixth of the World doesn’t really have a plot. It’s USSR propaganda film and basically just a sequence of more or less random pictures of Russian people, mostly at work, interrupted by title cards announcing the evil of capitalism and the greatness of socialism.

The movie has very entertaining moments and Michael Nyman’s music is always nice. Unfortunately, both got really repetitive.

The best part of the concert was before the film started. Michael Nyman and his band played a short best of Nyman’s scores and it was a wonderful 20 minutes and could have gone on much longer.

Unfortunately that’s when the film started. And the entire time I couldn’t shake the feeling that Nyman a) hadn’t actually seen the film before, or at least he didn’t bother to pace his music according to the film; b) didn’t get paid enough by the Konzerthaus to compose more than four songs for the entire soundtrack, which he then repeated ad infinitum; and c) that everything would have been so much better if it had been 30 minutes shorter.

The songs themselves were really nice. But after the second repetition, it was all a little too much.

The movie was fun, most of the times. There were some interesting scenes and some that made me laugh out loud. But it, too, got really repetitive and in the end, it made no sense at all. [Yes, it was a propaganda movie, so it was to be expected… still.]

But if it had made sense, I probably would have never seen men bathing sheep in the breaking waves of the ocean. Or the river. This movie must be serious gold for historic anthropologists interested in the Soviet Union.

Vertov also crammed every special effect none to man at that time into the film. Which consisted mostly of split screens. But there he excelled, parting the screen not in a measly two parts, but going as high up as five, the middle one shaped like a leave (or so). Wooooah.

Summarising: It was a nice evening that would have profited a lot by being a little shorter and a little less repetitive.

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