Ukraine: Dovzhenko’s Earth

Alexander Dovzhenko’s last silent film Earth (Zelmya) 1930 (third part of his Ukraine Trilogy which includes  Zvenyhora, 1928, and Arsenal, 1929) is a tragic and violent narrative of the Soviet collectivization is set within a lyrical Ukrainian landscape. The film features images of the cultivated Mammoth Sunflower which produces a single golden flower that grows up to 10″ across and is filled with edible seeds.

I bring up this imagery from nearly a century ago in response to the video making the rounds on social media and raising to the mainstream, that of a Ukranian woman confronting a Russian soldier in the early days of the invasion, symbolically offering him sunflower seeds so that flowers would grow where he died on Ukrainian soil, ‘Take these seeds and put them in your pockets” she seems to say, “so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here.’

This powerful image raises, for me the difference I have with Andrei Tarkovsky’s premise that image can be separated from its symbols – Ukraine > Sunflower> Seeds > Death > Life > Ukraine.