Seen today as the final work in a loose trilogy that also comprises Zvenigora (1928) and Arsenal (1929), Earth is Dovzhenko’s ultimate paean to nature, the land and those who toil on it and whose lives are inextricably bound up with it. The film is literally teeming with grandiose images of the natural world: such as the opening shots of a vast sky and rolling fields, of sunflowers and apples.
Lustrous and granular, Dovzhenko’s vision is one of pantheistic juxtapositions and cycles of renewal, where cosmic concerns crack the cement of propaganda: The martyr’s corpse caressed by tree leaves, vengeful praying drowned out by cathartic choruses, the fiancé’s frantic grief yielding to the cry of the newborn. A proto-Tarkovsky downpour answers the sea of upturned faces, the miserable kulak’s (Pyotr Masokha) confession goes unheard.
Full of surprising editing and camera angles, EARTH was a modernist film financed by the state, and it pissed off Soviet officials who thought they were funding propaganda, not poetry. Dovzhenko's father was drubbed out of his collective farm; the attacks, Dovzhenko said, at first made him want to die. Yet this mesmerizing, hopeful vision by one of cinema's original bards still holds out models for the future.