I cannot talk about Producer Aleksandr Medvedkin without acknowledging the film The Last Bolshevik produced by Chris Marker about Medvedkin. Marker shows various clips from films that Medvedkin had produced, making close ties to the film Happiness, which I also watched. I bring this is up because shortly after Marker introduces us, his viewers, to Aleksandr Medvedkin, he makes a comical reference to the polka-dot horse in the film Happiness, that honest creeped me out.
To summarize, Medvedkin’s film Happiness, is a satirical take on the October Revolution that occurred in the former Soviet Union (now Russia). This gave way to the rise of the Russian Communist Party. The people in which Medvedkin is depicting are known as Bolsheviks, who were at one point, members of the majority faction of the Russian Social Democratic Party, which was renamed the Communist Party after seizing power in the October Revolution of 1917.
Happiness is a silent film, with inserted written slides in Russian – translated into English subtitles. Between the quirky- happy music that plays throughout the film and the written commentary, the film does what it sets out to do – make fun of the Russian Empire and the revolution. I have never seen a film quite like this, and because I know of the Russian Revolution and the major events during, I found the film comical and an interesting take on a significant point in Russian history.
Chris Marker, points out very important events that occurring during Medvedkin’s lifetime. From birth to death, Medvedkin is a witness to the changing of ties in Russia. He was twenty when the Russian Civil War broke out. He was thirty-six during the Moscow trials. At the age of forty-one he was living through World War II. When he was fifty-three, Stalin died. When Medvedkin, himself, died in 1989, Russia is on the crest of perestroika. This gave me a better understanding into Medvedkin. I understand why he created satirical films of such violent history. In order to survive, one may seek comic relief. Satirical films were Medvedkin’s comic relief that he hoped would fill the mind and soul of others who lived through such tragedy and were scarred by the horrors.
Marker’s film does Medvedkin well. He helped me to better understand Medvedkin. From learning of his time growing up and the horrors he was exposed to, to looking closely at his film work, I can appreciate Medvedkin more and understand his films slightly better. Rather than question, I was able to go back and watch the film from a lens of better understanding.