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Communism In Film Essay

Following the release of his immensely popular 1934 film Jolly Fellows, director Grigori Aleksandrov found himself in an unenviable dilemma. While his films were quite successful with the Soviet people, the state itself was less than impressed with the lack of ideological content. And, given how they had full control over the making of future films, Aleksandrov realized that his career was potentially at risk, especially given the strict standards the censorship board followed in the Stalinist era.

Consequently, Aleksandrov attempted to make his next film much more faithful to the party’s ideology. As a result, Aleksandrov’s 1936 film Circus would be his attempt to prove to the state that he was indeed able to make an ideologivally correct. Given the film’s depiction of the sole German character, the Soviet circus production’s superiority over their competitors, its promotion of racial equality, and its depiction of national unity, Aleksandrov is ultimately successful in his attempt.

Franz von Kneishitz: It is important to note the year in which the film was released, 1936, due to the state of the Soviet Union and its foreign policy. Nazism was a growing threat towards the West, especially given he level of hatred between fascists and communists. Many within the party sensed that conflict was quite possible over the ensuing years, and so officials felt that it would be best to indoctrinate the Soviet people against their potential enemies. Aleksandrov’s solution was to cast the role of the antagonist with a German character.

Throughout the movie, Kneishitz is routinely portrayed as an incredibly cruel man, especially towards Marion Dixon, portrayed by Aleksandrov’s own wife Lyubov Orlova. He continuously exploits her for his own personal gain, most notably through how he blackmails her over her child. On top of this, he is even portrayed to have a certain level of barbarism in him, as he physically abuses her too. Lastly, he blackmails Dixon over her child due to how he is of mixed race.

Dixon believes that her child could end her career, especially due to the racism that she has experienced firsthand back in America, and so Kneishitz exploits this, showing just how evil and manipulative he really is. The ideological element from this character is that Knieshitz is supposed to portray to the Soviet people what the average German is like. By having the general public only have negative iews regarding the Germans, it would make any war effort much more enthusiastic.

The film concludes with Dixon finally ridding herself of her oppressor and embracing Soviet society. In turn, this finale can be viewed as a sort of ideological metaphor, promoting the notion that the Soviet Union is superior to their German counterparts. Soviet Exceptionalism: One of the defining elements of Soviet ideology is the promotion of hard work, a trend quite common within the field of Soviet cinema. As a result, Soviets often take pride in the work that they are able to accomplish.

In Circus, this mentality is subtly on display. When the Kneishitz circus comes to town starring Marion Dixon, people are amazed at what the show is able to perform. But, after seeing how popular the show is, a local businessman wants to create his own, but with a Soviet influence. Over the course of the film we see the development of this production, starring both Marion Dixon as well as her eventual husband Ivan, who is not only portrayed as a Soviet hero but also rescues her from Kneishitz.

The final production that they are able to perform is not only mesmerizing, but far superior to their German competitor’s. The ideological content within this plot is that it promotes the dea of Soviet exceptionalism, where the Soviet Union and its culture is projected to be superior over other nations. This idea is furthered by how Marion Dixon is rescued from Knieshitz, who is representing the monstrous Nazi Germany, by Ivan, the stereotypical Soviet hero who is intended to represent all of the Soviet Union.

By having these ideological elements within the film it is intended to indoctrinate the Soviet people with the notion that not only is the Soviet Union superior to all other nations, but that it is the direct result of the hard work of its people. Racial Equality: While the previous two elements of ideology were based on comparing the Soviet Union to the rest of the world stage, Aleksandrov also includes a number of references to domestic policy as well. One of these is on racial equality, a serious issue within the Soviet Union at the time.

In the film, the final scene revolves around the audience singing a lullaby to Marion Dixon’s interracial child, with each of the singers coming from a different part of the Soviet Union. Then, the film cuts to its finale where all of the characters and audience are marching in a Soviet parade in Red Square, complete with excessive levels of Soviet ropaganda, banners, and posters everywhere on screen. The ideology within this film derives from one of the basic principles of communism, where everyone is supposed to be equal. Yet, historically, there was a great deal of racism within Russia, and later the Soviet Union.

While it may not have been as publicly acceptable as in the United States, many Soviet citizens viewed people of different ethnicities as “different” from them, and therefore lesser. This raised a major problem for the Bolshevik party, due to how a state based on the idea of the equality of the masses, and yet millions of people were treated oorly simply due to their race. Thus, the intention of the film is to show the people of the Soviet Union that even though they may live all over the country, and have various skin tones and cultures, they were all Soviets.

In turn, this promotion of racial equality also paints the Soviet Union as superior to their American counterparts, as the American Marion Dixon is able to find acceptance for her and her child not in America, but in her new adopted nation. National Unity: Much like the issue that the party was having regarding racism, national unity was also a major problem for the government of the Soviet Union. The USSR was an incredibly vast country, spanning numerous time zones, cultures, amongst other elements.

But, most importantly, it was made up of a number of regions that historically had been separate nations, the majority of which had been conquered against their will by leaders such as Ivan the Terrible. Thus, a great deal of citizens did not feel as if they belonged within the Soviet Union, due to how they felt it was more of a Moscow government, rather than a government of the Soviet Union. This problem was furthered as a result of the level of racism that many people around the country felt towards their countrymen. Aleksandrov attempts to combat this issue in the same manner that he attempted to combat the issue of racial equality.

During the lullaby scene, he intentionally ensures that those who sing the lullaby not only constitute a wide variety of races, but also of ethnicities and cultures found throughout the Soviet Union. As a result, this scene is able to humanize each separate region of the USSR to one another, and illustrates to the Soviet people how they can achieve great things when they all work together. This ideology is furthered by the final parade scene, much like the racial issue, as every part of the Soviet Union is shown to be partaking in the parade in Red Square.

By filming this, it sends the message to the nation that everyone is contributing to the greatness of the Soviet Union, and that any feeling of distrust or hostility should be disposed of and replaced with camaraderie. Conclusion: Prior to the release of Circus, Grigori Aleksandrov was under a great deal of pressure to release a film that followed party standards to a much greater degree than his previous film, Jolly Fellows. The result was a great deal of ideological content spanning both domestic and international issues that the party eemed critical at the time.

Looking back at history, we now know that conflict between the USSR and Nazi Germany was inevitable, but it appears that many within the party viewed it this way too. As a result, they realized that they needed to prepare for the possibility of conflict, but they could not do that if the citizens of the USSR did not fear their enemy, or if they were distracted by petty rivalries between regions. As a result, Circus was used to promote the idea of that the Germans were cruel monsters, and that if they were to go to war with them, a unified Soviet people would easily be able to overcome their foe.

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