Watched Feb 07, 2012
I feel as though this film has so much to offer in terms of cinema history, style, cultural criticism and representational politics, that it is difficult to pinpoint a place to start. The film immediately reminded me of Bunuel’s surrealist ethnographic documentary Land Without Bread (1933). The difference being that Bunuel was creating his text as a cultural insider, and Eisenstein was the opposite. Both films frame their subjects in natural environments, performing what is considered to be, everyday activities. Both films employ long-take close-ups in an attempt to capture a moment of truth. Both films create a portrait of an area from the position of a privileged individual backed by social institutions. They differ in approach (Bunuel’s finished text is satirical, whereas Eisenstein’s artistic) but their aesthetic appearance is undeniably similar.
The soundtrack seems to represent one of the ways the various cultures have influenced the creation of the film. There were a number of different sound tracks accompanying the film. Overall the tracks switched between Mexican folk music and music that could be described as Soviet, futuristic and mechanical.
The opening segment of the film in which the production process, and later retrieval and reedit, are explained states that Eisenstein aimed to make a film that told the story of Mexico without actors or sets. The result is a neorealist, poetic documentary that draws on surrealist cinema techniques and narratives. The overall effect is confusing, and I wonder if there would have been more clarity to the film if Eisenstein had finished, or as Figueroa suggests, if he had a script.