[Marxism] A Journey of Dmitri Shostakovich

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Nov 19 10:45:46 MST 2006

Despite its obvious cold war inspiration, "A Journey of Dmitri 
Shostakovich," directed by Okasana Dvornichenko and Helga Landauer, 
is an excellent introduction to the great composer's life and career. 
Structured around a trip by ocean liner he made to the USA near the 
end of his life in 1973, it blends together performances of his work, 
excerpts from his letters and appalling evidence of how he was 
hounded by Stalin and his cultural commissars.

Oddly enough, despite the obvious intentions of the directors to cast 
the USSR as a kind of unredeemed failure, one of the greatest 
attractions of the film is its liberal use of Soviet era kitsch. 
Footage of men and women performing calisthenics under Stalin's gaze, 
shipboard lectures on the glories of socialism, old agitprop posters, 
etc., are actually the perfect visual complement to Shostakovich's 
music, which was not afraid to indulge in patriotic and socialist 
flag-waving. Indeed, this contradiction, which was at the heart of 
his creativity, is something that defies easy resolution. As much as 
the directors would like to recruit the great composer to a rerun of 
the cold war culture wars, he remains very much as part of the legacy 
of a unique experiment.


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