Although Marxism in its essence excludes, religious faith in general, and is hostile to the church, it places a surrogate’s functional role of fundamental religiosity, especially in relation to Christianity. Some religious scholars consider Marxism one of the world religions.
The famous French film critic and theoretician, André Bazin, in one of his articles, "The Myth of Stalin in Soviet Film," discusses how Stalin's idealistic image was reflected in the cinema, how Stalin is portrayed as a superman in Soviet films, he who orders the chaos in the world and leads the world in the only right way 1. 1In the short film "Fatherland" (2018) by the Georgian director of the new generation, Giorgi Sikharulidze, Stalin is an acknowledged god. This is no longer a movie where Stalin possesses the qualities of God according to his actions, but he is the God implied by his surroundings, who must follow the path of Jesus. This is where religious feelings towards Stalin begin to show.
The film is saturated with biblical allusions and religious allegories. For example, one of the episodes is the scene of the Lord’s supper, where Stalin is presented at the table, which naturally reminds us of Leonardo da Vinci's famous fresco, “The Last Supper of Christ and His Apostles.” People stand by Stalin’s statue with lighted candles, and they cover the leader's bust with cellophane in the rain so that it does not get wet, but this attitude is contradictory. They care, they worship, they adore, but they don't seem to love.
Stalin is seated in an armchair, against the background of an illuminated inscription: "Language, Fatherland, Faith" that creates a halo around his head. Stalin’s image is exactly what a true communist might imagine - a silent sage with a pipe. Ordinary people stand in a long line, go to him and kiss his hand. Stalin is next to us, everyone sees him, feels him and is filled with awe, they sing to him, and children spread rose petals under his feet.
The heavenly forces seem to be giving Stalin a sign to follow the path of martyrdom. When the leader, left alone in the room, removes the towel from the wall, he sees the crucifixion. Everything in the film is filled with Soviet nostalgia, be it the picture of Stalin in a gilded frame or the desirously performed song “Autumn, a Transparent Morning”.
In the film, members of the Communist Party discuss whether to hide Stalin from everyone (in this case, as they say, he will be taken prisoner and the leader will turn his back), or to let him participate in the elections to save the country. They don't like this option either, because other parties have already nominated their leaders, and they will have to share the leader with others. It seems that Stalin has to appear in the role of Deus Ex Machina 2 in modern society, but in the end, the communists will agree that the main thing is to win the leader’s love, take him to a higher peak, and establish an eternal place for him there. This is how a mythic layer appears in the film - sacrifice to gain immortality. There is a beautiful shot in the film when the procession is going. The leader is taken to a high hill and crucified. The cameraman, Guri Goliadze, shows this episode with a subjective camera. From Stalin's field of vision, we can see a crowd of people throwing flowers at him.
Throughout the film, the old communists are accompanied by a young boy who takes pictures of them. He is a stranger in this environment, he is an observer of all this. It can be said that he is the eye of the beholder, perhaps a symbol of the present and the future, but he also seems to be in great respect and excitement when he sees Stalin. His photographs should show how the world looks without emotions, people as the image of the era. Here something, the most important starts. In the material taken by the photographer, people are visible, but Stalin is not. Everyone can see the leader, including the photographer and the audience, but he is still nowhere in the photos.
Ilia Chavchavadze’s reminiscence in the film is not accidental. At the beginning of the film, the very poem of Stalin that Ilia published is read at the rally. Thus, here biblical and 19th century allusions encounter, embellished with patriotic elements. And here, in the finale, when the photographer goes to the hill, he sees that the cross is empty, although he saw Stalin's crucifixion with his own eyes. The photographer pretends to be a biblical evangelist, but when he turns back, the revelers are sound asleep. Only the blind woman left at the table stretches the accordion. The panoramic view is as follows: a blind person is awake, and sated people – in deep sleep. The merit of the film is that Ilia Chavchavadze’s intertextual reminiscence appears in the visual language of the film with an indirect reference in the final episode. It can be said that it appears not in the film, but in the imagination of the viewer:
“Oh, my God! Eternal sleep,
Why are not we worth of waking up?!”
This elegy of Ilia, written back in 1859, can be remembered while watching the final episode. It turns out that the film shows people, who have made Stalin a god in their imaginations, in leaden slumber but in physical reality they are only in a deep sleep.
Mythological discourse is closely related to ideology, the modeling system of mass consciousness, because it represents the archetype of traditional culture and contains the basic elements of ideology, which ultimately forms the pre-culture doctrine. Culture is, in fact, represented by myths.
Myth as a text of the cultural world works indirectly both in the creation of meta-culture and in the consolidation of the orthodox culture regime. The category of mythic thought is a fairly persistent element. It can adapt to completely new cultural transformations, but it does not allow itself to disappear. Myth is part of human existence.
"When our country was in the most difficult times, it was you who appeared by our side in order to save us from the evil" – during the feast and with a drinking horn in one’s hand this toast is dedicated to Stalin.
Stalin is a real lord, so he is nowhere in physical form, specifically – not even in photographs. It seems that the film should end with this and the audience is approaching the logical end. The photographer looks at his own photograph, "The Lord's Supper," where Stalin is not visible, and then creases the photograph. Such an ending of the film seems to suggest that only those people will see Stalin, who have placed faith in communism in the highest rank. It turns out that at the end of the film, the only two sober people are a blind musician woman and a photographer boy. From these two, the photographer is an outside observer.
A whole is always made up of parts, but we only see one part. “The same reality viewed from different viewpoints can be fragmented into many different realities” 3 Especially with double coding, the film is loaded into our reality, where, although there is no more Soviet experience in the new generation, because the Soviet Union collapsed almost 30 years ago, but sometimes we still feel the Soviet influence.
Especially with double coding, the film is loaded into our reality, where, although there is no more Soviet experience in the new generation, because the Soviet Union collapsed almost 30 years ago, but sometimes we still feel the Soviet influence.
Giorgi Sikharulidze's work is a dramaturgically ordered film, however, using a large dose of well-known allusions in a short film can, in a way, do it a disservice because if the audience's attention is shifted to drawing parallels, the content of the film itself may be overshadowed to a certain extent.
The mythologizing of Stalin's image in film is a vast and large topic. Obviously, a short film would not be able to expand and process all aspects. This movie deals only with a few of them. It would be good if the analysis of this issue was more extensive and large-scale at the expense of increasing the duration, although it should also be noted that this is the film director's decision.
"Fatherland" was awarded "Golden Prometheus" as the best short film at the 2019 Tbilisi International Film Festival. It was screened abroad at several prestigious international film festivals.
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1 Bazin, André. "The Myth of Stalin in Soviet Film". Magazine “Sabchota Khelovneba” (“Soviet Art”), 1989, №10, pp. 21-31.
2 Deus ex Machina (which is a translation of the Greek phrase – "God out of the machine") – a dramaturgical and staging means in the ancient Greek theater: the sudden appearance of a god on the stage, which changed the development of the action. In a figurative sense, the phrase means an unexpected resolution of this or that conflict.
3 Ortega y Gasset, José. The Dehumanization of Art. Tbilisi: “Lomisi,” 1992, p. 27.