Happy new year… “Soviet muppets”: animation from 1924

It is incredible how much an octagenarian piece of animation can tell you. I’ll only give away a snippet of its background:

This is the first Soviet animation film ever made. It was produced in February 1924, by director Dziga Vertov and animators A. Bushkin and A. Ivanov. For its production the authors used a revolutionary (silly pun intended) animation technique involving flat paper muppets. The title, «Советские игрушки», means «Soviet toys/muppets»; the plot is based on the political caricatures which Victor Deni (Виктор Дени) published in the daily «Pravda».

The movie shows a pig-like “bourgeois” whose gluttony knows no end and whose morality is “rotting” (to give you an idea of the popular symbols and phraseology of those days). The “morally rotten” man’s fat belly is cut up by a centaurian figure composed of a worker and a peasant, to release an endless flow of money. The money is used to build useful things for the common people and the bourgeois is eventually defeated.

The movie has a peculiarly theatrical, rather bitter “happy ending”. Out of the blue, a Red Army guy (красноармеец) appears, multiplies, and takes charge of the situation. The all proletarians join together to compose a New Year’s tree (новогодняя ёлка – the Communists’ secularised equivalent of a Christmas tree) on which, tree decorations, the enemies of the soviet society are hanged: the bourgeois, the prostitute, and the “servants of the cult” (служители культа – i.e. priests). Of course, the tree is crowned by a five-corner star.

P.S. Those patient enough to watch this surreal, yet painfully real  movie until the very end may spot a prophetic visual reference to the EU… Just joking. I hope you all have a better New Year than the one in the movie “Sovetskie igrushki”.

Categories: The Idle Ethnographer

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