Hasan Arbakesh is a classic Soviet film from Tajikistan. The film follows the hapless Hasan and his pursuit of Saodat over several years. Times were a changing in Tajikistan and the old traditional values of women forced to stay at home and look after their children and husbands was no longer the only option. The film explores these changes and the culture clash between the old Tajik values and new Soviet values where women could become nurses and teachers, helping out for the communist cause. We witness the terror and intimidation that these new Soviet women faced from local townspeople both male and female. But this isn’t just Soviet propaganda. The film follows Hasan an old style Tajik. He is not as backward and ignorant as some others. But he is lost in a new world where everything is changing. He seems curiously out of time riding his beloved horse while tanks and lorries barge around him. He loves Saodat but ultimately he can’t accept her decision to study and work. He feels stupid and inferior and his culture and beliefs finally drag him apart from her. Saodat is not prepared to sacrifice her new found freedom for servitude, but loves Hasan with all her heart. Here lies the conflict that domiantes the film and the country at this film’s time of production. Hasan Arbakesh is surprisngly evenly handled and Boris Kimyagarov takes both cultures into account. This may have led to the film laying dorment for many years and only being rediscovered after the fall of the Soviet Empire. Great Soviet style camerwork, bravado melodramatic score and some great acting make this film a something a little bit special.
Like most young aspiring filmmakers Kimyagarov started his film initiation by making documentaries at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK). One of his first major documentary was not surprisingly about his native land Tajikistan which he directed in 1946. His first breakthrough into feature films with Dokhounda in 1956. In 1965 he directs his subversive A Time For Peace aka Hasan-Arbakesh which will be censored by Soviet Authorities in later years. It which is a uniquely creative attempt to tell about the traditional culture of Tajiks, being destroyed by the new Soviet power. It was shot in during the period of the so-called Thaw a relatively free period during which Soviet Censorship was partially reversed. The main topic of the film is the clash of two cultures, two worlds. The narration in the film is built according to traditional mythological and epic schemes. At first glance, you might think that the film is going to tell a trivial story about an arbakesh named Hasan, who has a cart and a horse and dreams only of earning enough to be able to marry his beloved. As in a traditional fairy tale Hasan is young and handsome, strong and determined and very much in love. The fairy-tale plot, however, is set against the very real historical background, which soon starts to interfere brutally with the romantic thrust of the story. Unlike most of the “revolutionary” films that were shot in the Soviet Asian republics and focused on the bloody fights between the “reactionary” forces of traditional societies and the “righteous” Soviet “liberators,” “Hasan-Arbakesh” shows the process of peaceful Socialization, that nevertheless, ruthlessly reroutes the fates of the characters. Hasan’s cart is replaced by a truck, personal work becomes collectivized, the veil is jettisoned and a liberated woman, like Hasan’s beloved Saodat, joins the Komsomol and is sent to teach in a remote town. By the end of the film, the ever-joyous, singing and dancing Hasan is only a shadow of his former self, lost in a totally new strange world, full of “kolkhoz peasants”, “proletarians” , pioneers with bugles and drums, and endless columns of cars, “busy building Stalin’s communism.” -payvand.com
Born in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) to a Jewish family, Bension (Boris) Arievich Kimyagarov was to move to Tajikistan’s capital Duchanbeh where he grew up and upon adulthood chose to become a teacher. However his love of Poetry and particularly the works of Persia’s Literary Icon Hakīm Abū l-Qāsim Firdawsī Tūsī, better known as Ferdowsi, were to have a great influence on him and drive him towards an entirely different career choice as a filmmaker. He was accepted at the prestigious All Russian Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow where he learned Filmmaking with Russian film maestro Sergei Eisenstein. The strong influence of Eisenstein (who with D.W.Griffith is considered as one of the two founding fathers of Cinema as an Art form in interaction with film editing as a visual tool of expression) on Boris Kimyagarov’s future epic productions would be an understatement. Like Eisenstein, Kimyagarov shares a fascination for historical themes that would include a large cast of extras to recreate battle scenes of epic proportions. Like in most epics however history is just a pretext to create a canvas for a more intimate story that reflects the movie director’s own thematic concerns or visual obsessions. What clearly defines Kimyagarov’s filmography is the awakening of the Tajik’s national self-consciousness and the “Epic genre” was certainly what allowed him best to translate his cinematic vision and sensitivities. This was not an easy task for three major reasons which will be developed in this article. One being state censorship during the Soviet Era, which discouraged any form of historical interpretation or glorification of an ethnical, political, social or cultural identity that differed from the ideological lines of the communist party or that of the Russian dominated politburo established in Moscow. The other being that Epic films have always been costly, so unless it could serve the Soviet propaganda machine, as was the case for most of Sergei Eisenstein’s films like The Battle Ship Potemkin, Ivan The Terrible or Alexander Nevski, it was virtually impossible to finance a film without government subsidies nor was it possible to mobilize military units as extras for sequences like Battle Scenes requiring large masses of people. Lastly by the time Kimyagarov was to shoot his masterpiece, The Timless Legend of Rostam and Sohrab (Also known under the title The Legend of Rostam), in the early 1970’s, the epic genre was considered as an obsolete form of cinema entertainment both in Europe and Hollywood. As Western Cinema dealt with contemporary issues, so did the Soviet Film industry, although with more difficulty due to government censorship and certainly with less controversy than in the West. -payvand.com
oooooh, I hope I have time to watch this….. I’m going to see if I can squeeze it in tonight, but I have a lot of personal thing I have to get done.
Thank you so much for presenting it.