China in Flames

Китай в огне (China in Flames) is a significant effort of an early Soviet animation filmed in 1925. Apart from Olga Hodatayeva (mentioned in the previous post), the team included prominent animators like the Brumberg sisters and Ivan Ivanov-Vano. All of them had long and distinguished careers in the Soviet film-making.

China in Flames was shot using skillfully made paper cut outs. It’s a half hour long tour de force in the era most cartoons lasted 5-10 minutes. Like many pieces of the Soviet propagandist movies of the 1920s, it lacked Hollywood-style gags and looks more like a documentary about the evil Western capitalists and greedy Chinese landlords oppressing the Chinese peasants. However, the Communist Russia is ready to help the workers and peasants.

This piece lacks individual characters and represents the popular ideas of the 1920s when the whole nation, a human mass was considered the main character. Both Eisenstein (Strike, Potemkin) and Vertov (Man with a Movie Camera) despite different approaches promoted this view.  It would be later abandoned in favor of portraying strong leaders (Alexander Nevsky is probably the best example) connecting the image of a single ruler with the figure of Stalin during 1930-1950s.

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