Aerograd (1935)

Aerograd_(1935)‘Long live Aerograd City, which we Bolsheviks should build on the shore of the Great Ocean.’

The Soviet government plans to build a new Aero-City on the coast of the Pacific. It’s a remote, wild region inhabited by locals who aren’t keen on the current regime, or its intentions. The forests also conceal Japanese spies, who smuggle dynamite and spread dissension…

Shameless Russian propaganda exercise that kicks off with some stirring shots of a plane in flight, and a stentorian vocal chorus delivering a subtle tribute to any man that flies ‘with the Soviet star on my wings’. Then there’s some sweeping aerial footage of the forested Russian landscape and, about ten minutes after the film opens, our story begins.

A little history here; Russian Orthodox Christians fled persecution to the remote regions of Eastern Siberia long before the Communist Revolution. They’re portrayed here as rugged, but simple people, easy prey to the machinations of evil Japanese agents, who are preparing the way for a full-scale invasion. Basically, these peasants lack guidance. The guidance of the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, losif Vissarionovich Stalin. Anyways, one of the younger men has gone and got a ‘proper job’ as a flyer with the Soviet Air Defence Force, which had only come into being in 1932, and he returns home to a mixed welcome. Also to a young Asian wife, which is a surprising touch given the general lack of subtlety on display.

And here is where things become a little murky in the plot department. I am no expert in Russian history, or the language, and this proves a handicap in the absence of English subtitles. But, as far as I can tell, the story goes something like this. Some of the locals ally themselves with the despicable Japanese because they cling to the old ways and cannot comprehend the greater glory of the grand Soviet. Others take an opposite view and remain loyal to the motherland. This conflict puts two old friends on opposite sides. There’s a lot of speechifying and a resolution that involves wave after wave of Russian planes crossing the sky to appropriately militaristic music and another inspiring song.

He tried to tell them that 'ideas were more powerful than guns' but it didn't look like they were listening...

He tried to tell them that ‘ideas were more powerful than guns’ but it didn’t look like they were listening…

lt’s not exactly difficult to work out what’s going here; there’s no real fear of mixed messages. It’s simple; everyone has to work together for the good of the party and the good of the party is the good of the people and the good of the nation. From time to time, this may involve making some tough decisions, but these must be carried out. Personal considerations must be ignored for the greater good. Strangers are to be distrusted, and liquidated as and when required. Soviet military force will conquer all.

In terms of drama and emotional engagement, there’s very little. Characters are one dimensional and the action is limited. We never even see the site of the Aero-City, let alone any building works, nor do we see any large-scale conflict between the Russian and Japanese forces. Hell, we never even find out whether the Japanese do try to invade, although obviously it would be foolish in the face of superior Soviet firepower, ideology and heroic vocalising.

Watch if you’re interested in the history of international film. Don’t if you looking to be entertained.

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