Soviet Toys

This is a film by the avant-garde Russian film-maker Dziga Vertov, the pseudonym of David Kaufman (1896-1954). Titled Советские игрушки, it was the first Soviet animation. It came out in 1924, the year of Lenin’s death.

Dziga Vertov was among the first cartoonists in film history. Among the animations that came out in the 1920s, the majority were severe, grey, political works – almost entirely of propaganda. This is not the sort of thing you would show your children. The protagonist – a middle-man grown rich on the New Economic Policy and therefore reviled by the proletariat – eats an enormous feast, then consumes a barrel wine. The motion of the wine into his mouth is indistinguishable from vomit. He then collapses onto the floor, unable to get up. A woman appears, dances and jumps into his stomach. There is a mockery of religion, the dead church represented by an orthodox prelate and a live church represented by a provincial parson. The churches fight each other for the attention of the bourgeoisie. A worker appears,  attempts to cut up with scissors the bloated class enemy, merges with a peasant into a Janus-like figure that takes his ill-gotten money to found a national bank. At the end, the Red Army executes all the priests and bourgeoisie, hanging a noblewoman by her skirt and the rest by their necks. The workers and peasants climb upwards. Everything then turns into a Christmas tree.

Bizarre stuff.


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