1937. USSR. Dziga Vertov. 58 min.
Sunday, May 22, 2011, 5:15 p.m.
Theater 2 (The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 2), T2
1937. USSR. Directed by Dziga Vertov. Vertov begrudgingly admitted that D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916) was among two or three fiction films that had influenced him. He was particularly inspired by the film’s recurrent image of a maternal Lillian Gish, and the accompanying intertitle quote from Vertov’s favorite poet, Walt Whitman: “Out of the cradle endlessly rocking….” It was this image that guided Vertov when he was commissioned in 1937 to make a feature-length documentary on the State’s protection of mothers and children, and on the vast network of maternity homes, nurseries, and kindergartens that had been promised in Stalin’s Constitution of 1936. Hence the film Lullaby, with its approximately 600 shots of women of all ages, nationalities, and classes—Spanish, Ukranian, Russian, Uzbek, and so on—all symbolizing Woman and Motherhood. And the man these women are shown to love and worship? None other than Joseph Stalin, their father, leader, and protector. Despite Vertov’s best intentions, the film was shelved as soon as it was finished; rumor has it that Stalin was unhappy with the interminable images of him being smothered by all these women, with their speeches, flowers, and cloying embraces. 58 min.