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Director: Grigori Lomidze
Release Date: 1947
Rating: ★★★
Review:

To You, Moscow © Soyuzmultfilm‘To You, Moscow’ is a long and slow Soviet propaganda film celebrating Moscow’s 800th birthday by depicting its turbulent history.

During the film we watch Moscow’s settlement, the victory of Ivan III over the Tartars (15th century), the revolt against Polish occupation (17th century), the defeat of Napoleon’s army in 1812, the 1905 revolution, the 1917 socialist revolution (‘led by Lenin and Stalin’) and the 1941 defeat of the fascist army to the present day.

The socialist revolution section leads to live-action footage of Moscow, a happy child, flowers, some buildings and street scenes and statues of Lenin and Stalin. The last section, the celebration, shows photographs of heroic inhabitants of the Soviet Union, and not only glorifies Moscow as “our youth, our glory”, “our dear mother” and “our birthday girl”, but also as a “glory to Stalin”.

The different sections are bridged by letters and postcards to comrade Stalin. The sections themselves focus on strives and battles, and are accompanied by alternately realistic and symbolic images. For example, the 1917 revolution is depicted by the czarist double-headed eagle struggling and falling to pieces, while the most impressive part may be that of 1812, with its realistic images of fire.

It may be clear that this film is propaganda at its worst. The film is saved from becoming totally unwatchable by the beautiful animation, the stark images, and the lively patriotic music.

Watch ‘To You, Moscow’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘To You, Moscow’ is available on the DVD box set ‘Animated Soviet Propaganda’

Directors: John Halas & Joy Batchelor
Release Date: January 31, 1954
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Animal Farm © Halas & BatchelorBased on George Orwell’s famous fable (published only nine years before), Animal Farm is the first animated feature made in England, it’s one of Europe’s first feature films, and it’s undoubtedly among the masterpieces of feature animation.

The film falls into the tradition of Disney-style semi-realistic cel animation. However, it sets itself apart from the Disney tradition in its grim and political story, its lack of sentimentality and its open depiction of cruelty and violence. Moreover, the backgrounds are bold oil paintings, with visible brush strokes and darker colors than any Disney film had ever shown.

Nevertheless, the realistic and wonderful animation of the animals pays some depths to the Disney tradition (watch the Silly Symphony ‘Farmyard Symphony‘ for example), greatly helped by the presence of ex-Disney animator John Reed. The film even contains one sweet character for comical relief in a little duckling who tries to keep up with the other animals, echoing the turtle in ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937). However, when the story turns particularly grim, with the killing of the Trotsky-like pig Snowball by Napoleon’s dog henchmen, we do not see this cute character again.

The assassination of Snowball is the first of several alarming events in which the animals’ revolution is betrayed. The most disturbing of these is Boxer’s ride to a certain death. This scene is the emotional highlight of the film, and it creates strong feelings of outrage and alarm, still. The horror on the face of his friend Benjamin is very well captured, and moves to this day.

Using a voice over and evocative music by Hungarian composer Mátyás Seiber, the film retells Orwell’s story effectively, using only Orwell’s own words. Its only strong deviation from the book is its ending. Where Orwell’s novel ends with the Stalin-like pig Napoleon’s regime installed, the film ends with yet another revolution – some wishful thinking that in the real world never quite came true until the late 1980s, when encouraged by Gorbachev’s perestroika, the people all over Eastern Europe revolted against their communist oppressors.

‘Animal Farm’, which was released within a year after Stalin’s death, is still a moving portrait of the corrupting force of power. Even though its subject, the Soviet Union, has long been a state of the past, the forces depicted in this movie are still active. The world is not free of its Napoleons, yet…

Watch ‘Animal Farm’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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