Qhe Homeland of Electricity, Larisa Shepitko’s adaptation of an Andrei Platonov story, was one of three short films collected in an omnibus work (Beginning of an Unknown Era) commissioned to honor the 50th Anniversary of the October Revolution. Censors eventually shelved the film and it would not see the light of day until well after Shepitko’s death, during Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika. Any number of things could have offended the post-Thaw powers-that-be, though in Shepitko’s case I’d posit that their concern stemmed primarily from Homeland‘s ambivalent tone. In construction the film is clearly pro-Communist: a fresh-faced young engineer comes to a desolate village to introduce the old-world residents to electricity, the film’s not so subtle metaphor (perhaps euphemism) for the ideologies of Lenin, Marx, et al. The engineer builds a pump out of one of the villager’s motorbikes—in theory, it will act as the town’s electrical conduit and irrigation system—and Shepitko lingers over its construction, the sounds of hammer against metal harmonizing into perfect musical tones. Beautiful as the sequence is, its underlying meanings are thuddingly obvious and Shepitko works hard to subvert them. It helps that the director’s striking black-and-white visuals owe a substantial debt to her mentor, Aleksandr Dovzhenko: Despite the film’s Socialist subtexts, the faces of the villagers remain stubbornly specific, every crease and every wrinkle uniquely etched in fleshy stone. Shepitko’s faith in the individual over the collective fosters a burgeoning sense of tension (one extending well beyond the narrative proper) that comes to a head in Homeland‘s climax as the engineer and the villagers greet a last-minute miracle—quite literally an opening of the heavens—with uncertain stoicism. Asks Shepitko: How far ingrained the thoughts of man before they usurp the ways of God?
- 38 min
- Larisa Shepitko
- Larisa Shepitko
- Yevgeni Goryunov, Sergei Gorbatyuk, Alla Popova, Ivan Gurchenkov, Ye. Kondratyuk, Fyodor Gladkov
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: