"Arsenal" by Olexander Dovzhenko. Screening and talk at ICA. 19 November 2017, 2:15pm

Ukrainian Institute London, National Olexander Dovzhenko Centre, Kyiv, Ukraine and Institute of Contemporary Arts, London will be screening this film as part of a "Olexander Dovzhenko's Silent Trilogy: Life and Death at the Times of the Revolution." The trilogy is part of the Ukrainian Institute's series, "The Century of Ukrainian Revolutions: 1917-2017."

DATE: 19 November 2017
TIME: 2.15pm 
VENUE:  Institute of Contemporary Art, The Mall, St. James's, London SW1Y 5AH
ADMISSION: tickets need to be purchsaed at ICA website

Intro to the screening and Q&A period by a Stanislav Menzelevskyi, a Programme Director from Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre, Ukraine's national cinemateque.

All-Ukrainian Photo-Cinema Directorate (VUFKU), 1928

Duration: 01:33:00


Directed by Oleksandr Dovzhenko

Written by Oleksandr Dovzhenko

Cinematography by Danylo Demutskyi

Design by Volodymyr Muller, Yosyp Shpinel

Music by Guy Bartell

Starring Semen Svashenko, Amvrosii Buchma, Dmytro Erdman, Sergii Petrov, Mykola Kuchynskii, Mykola Nademskii


SYNOPSIS: As revolutionary in its politics as in its style, “Arsenal” is the most complex of the three films in Dovzhenko’s silent trilogy in terms of form. This avant garde film was compared to Picasso’s “Guernica” because of director’s depiction of war.  “Arsenal” made Dovzhenko famous not only in the Soviet Union, but also in Western Europe and North America. Ultimately, the National Society of American Film Critics named Arsenal one of the five best films of 1929, along with Karl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc.

Thematically, the film is close to “The Enchanted Place”: Dovzhenko’s focus is once again on the revolution and the civil war in Ukraine, particularly the events that took place at the end of World War I, resulting in an unsuccessful Bolshevik uprising in January 1918 in Kyiv. In Soviet mythology, the uprising at the Arsenal factory is one of the key episodes in the tale of Bolshevik martyrdom in Ukraine. Dovzhenko, enthusiastic about the ideas of national liberation and social revolution, took the events of the uprising to the narrative’s margins, creating in the end a program political film for Ukrainian intelligentsia on both sides of the barricades of the civil war.

Vague portrayal of the opposing forces of the uprising and parallel editing of different events leave the viewer alone with a sense of the chaos of war, rather than with a clear political message or a forced interpretation. At the same time, idiosyncratic acting, expressive  lighting, camerawork and editing enable the director to bring to life the stories of individual characters and cast them into a broader historical canvas and a clear pacifist message.

MUSIC:  British multi-instrumentalist Guy Bartell, founder and the mastermind of the Bronnt Industries Kapital band, wrote a soundtrack for Arsenal. The reputable film magazine Sight & Sound called Oleksandr Dovzhenko’s silent film Arsenal (1929) one of the most thrilling films showed the Cambridge Film Festival and described Bartell’s soundtrack as “terrifically intense”.