ZVENYHORA — MASTERING THE TIME OF HISTORY
The article starts with the statement of the paramount importance of Oleksandr Dovzhenko’s film Zvenyhora as the foundational work of Ukrainian cinema. The author points out the importance of the Soviet New Economic Policy of the mid–late 1920s for the Ukrainisation and flourishing of the Ukrainian arts, even though the Ukrainisation ultimately brought bad results due to its orchestration by the Bolshevik regime. The arts in Ukraine at this time are seen by intellectuals as supporting the vision of a distinct artistic legacy and future, based more on the stages and influences of the Western European art as opposed to the Russian art. How to Ukrainise the cinema became a primary concern in the 1920s, given the lack of home-trained specialists. Dovzhenko, then a newspaper cartoonist with fine arts education, became one of the new Ukrainian cinema recruits. Zvenyhora brings avant-garde aesthetics to Ukrainian cinema, accomplishing two missions: appropriation of history through cinematic methods and conveying an image of modernity in a complex and nuanced way. Then, the author proceeds to describe the emergence of Ukrainian national cinema in the 1920s, and specifically the biography of Dovzhenko in this period. The author narrates about the creation of Zvenyhora and the substantial reworkings of the script undertaken by Dovzhenko. Zvenyhora is presented by the author as the film that conceptualizes the Ukrainian past and national heritage as a mythical treasure (supported by the folk tale of Zvenyhora) that needs to be re-claimed and that has been taken away by others. In the end of the article the author talks about reactions and critical interpretations of the film in 1927 and today, as well as its innovative cinematography, complex language, humour in the film, and comparative connections with Western European cinema movements.
Translated by Agnieszka Matusiak