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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
I'm sure there's plenty of people who would normally pass on this movie, for two reasons:
1) It's silent.
2) It's Soviet propaganda.
See it anyway. Dovzhenko's visual style is bracing, showing an astounding range of black-and-white palettes, from dusty grays to hard-edged chiaroscuro effects. His editing is even more audacious than that of his countryman, Eisenstein; parallel narratives, extended atmospheric montages, long, tense scenes suddenly bursting into flash cuts of near-subliminal effect.
Yes, the narrative line is somewhat confusing, with juxtapositions of abstract battle scenes, flurries of political agitation, allgorical action, and stark, fable-like tableaux. But keeping in mind that Dovzhenko is trying to capture the transition of an entire country from war to chaos to corruption and back to war again actually can help wean the viewer off of the need for a linear story. Unlike a lot of standard movie fare, "Arsenal" actually makes more sense the more you think about it: the dream-like structure gives the movie a marvelous retrospective clarity.
And, yes, the movie is propaganda, but it is far less didactic than most other examples, not to mention leavened with instances of black humor that give the film a curiously independent, humanistic streak. (There was only one scene that made me wince in light of later Soviet history.) In the end, Dovzhenko seems less interested in winning converts to his cause than in simply giving the viewer a chance to experience what it's like to be in the middle of epochal change. It's also a movie that at times is positively giddy at the possibilities of the medium. A real breath of fresh air, even now.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2006
Format: DVD
This film is remarkable and enjoyable. It's silent and from a different era, so some of the story elements are portrayed with a heavy hand, but the visuals remain powerful and unique. The director draws characters just from their faces, and powerful action simply from standing still. The plot is linear enough for this kind of art- if you like powerful artistic expression, you'll like this film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 30, 2011
Format: DVD
Alexander Dovzhenko brings us into a chaotic time in Ukrainian history with Arsenal -- a silent Russian movie made in 1928. The action takes place at the end of World War I and the several subsequent wars that shortly followed it. Albeit a silent movie, it takes on balancing the story of several people and their emotions, as well as expressing these things in an artistic way. Not everything is expressed in the dialogue text, so seeing the meaning of various actions and symbolism helps one appreciate the many memorable scenes of this film.

Knowing about the history of this time is helpful, but not essential (although it will probably take watching it at least twice to take it all in). This period was a confusing time in Ukraine, but the various groups can be distinguished by their clothing. As simple as it may be, their clothing are a giveaway of who they support. There is a group that resurrected 17th century fashions wearing zupons -- but instead of matchlock pistols they have revolvers. And probably as polar opposite to that are the Bolsheviks, who are ultimately portrayed as the "heroes" of the film. The main characters are obviously all workers and revolutionaries as Dovzhenko himself was a Ukrainian but supported the Soviets.

Ukrainian history is a bit confusing and complicated, especially at this time period. It isn't simplified in this movie, but it also isn't made terribly complicated by mentioning too many names, dates and places. The movie mentions there were four wars in four years, but doesn't get into any more details than that. The bottom line is there were a number of groups within the country that supported various political ideas. Although by no means did I think the whole film was propaganda, but a few parts are unmistakable for anything else. All in all, the movie amazingly brings to life this time period, but as it was actually made not too long after the actual events took place, it is more powerful than if something along these lines were made today.
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on June 20, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
This is about one of the greatest events in Soviet history: the defense of the Kiev arsenal against anti-Soviet forces. Great honors were bestowed on the defenders, including the Badge for the Defense of the Kiev Arsenal. A must see for Russian history scholars. However, this version could use a cleaner sound track and more subtitles to explain events for the non specialist. Then they could understand it as one of history's great last stands like Westerplatte or the Alamo. I got the impression somebody deliberately reworked the subtitles to reflect today's Russia-Ukraine conflict so as not to offend anybody. There is too much historical revisionism so as not to offend somebody's precious feelings. Neither the Ukrainians or Russians have a great record when it comes to other people's rights. Let it be. Learn the history. It is what it is.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
If you like those weird German films from between the world wars, weird art films, horror films, like "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" then you might like this. Its silent, from the USSR in the late 20's, B+W, with odd imagery and very surreal. It was supposed to be a soviet propaganda film, but I would say its more a kind of film noire art film. Stark and tragic from a stark and tragic era.
Don't watch it if you are depressed or on drugs ! From the same era as "Nostaferatu". Spooky. Fortunately the film includes a film historian's commentary you can listen to if you like, and I would suggest that one use it, as it is very informative to help put the techniques and intent of the director into perspective, otherwise one might think a chaotic psycho made this film.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
The film itself is only a compilation of scenes which have no inherent meaning to someone living outside of Russia. I won't deny that some of the images and techniques were quite revolutionary at the time (filmed 1928) but the problem with the film is that it has no interest to the intellectual or common man. We are merely watching an arranged form of pictures, ranging from a one arm man beating a horse, to a toothless soldier in the war. Everything in between is awkward, haphazard and quite unnecessary.

It would have been possible to invent a forum which kept the viewer interested but this would not be it although the method of the director is quite brilliant. In all, one should view this if they are an art student or a student of pre-Tarkovskian cinema.
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on March 22, 2015
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
An early classic.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2014
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
One of the classics, a gorgeous film that only in one way is propaganda. The quality of the transfer is good, too.
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3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 28, 2005
Format: DVD
Alexander Dovzhenko's silent war film about the 1918 struggle of Bolshevik workers at a Kiev munitions factory against White Russian troops, which he intermingles with Ukrainian myth. It's an intriguing relic of European filmmaking, clearly influenced by the virtuoso montage editing of Sergei Eisenstein, though it is dated and hampered by the feeling that it was commissioned as propaganda at the time. A multifarious moral examination of war none the less.
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1 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
The film itself is only a compilation of scenes which have no inherent meaning to someone living outside of Russia. I won't deny that some of the images and techniques were quite revolutionary at the time (filmed 1928) but the problem with the film is that it has no interest to the intellectual or common man. We are merely watching an arranged form of pictures, ranging from a one arm man beating a horse, to a toothless soldier in the war. Everything in between is awkward, haphazard and quite unnecessary. It would have been possible to invent a forum which kept the viewer interested but this would not be it although the method of the director is quite brilliant. In all, one should view this if they are an art student or a student of pre-Tarkovskian cinema.
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