In Friedrich Ermler’s drama a husband and wife are tragically driven apart when he decides not to give up everything for the collective farm.

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  • PEASANTS Alternative


A regular theme in Soviet cinema from 1930s to the 1950s was that even family members have to be sacrificed if they are working against the aims of the state. A favourite target was the kulak – or rich peasant – particularly when the policy of the collectivisation of the land began to prove so divisive.

Ermler’s contribution to this genre is slightly different – he was more interested in acting than in the montage techniques that fascinated most of his contemporaries. The conflicts within the characters are as important and those between them, making the film more involving than mere propaganda. An animated sequence was cut before the film was released as it showed Stalin, which was deemed inappropriate, though he appears as a sort of idealised replacement father-figure to the family. Nevertheless, the Leader enjoyed the film very much and it was one of the first eight works of cinema to be preserved by the Soviet Union.

Alexander Medvedkin’s Happiness (1934) views the problems of collectivisation alternately as farcical and frightening.

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