Progressists have a clear-cut social mythology: that every child upon seeing a book will passionately want to read one, that any woman on her first encounter with a tractor will want to hold the wheel or die, that each abstemious, hardened-up community will quickly discard inherited ways and embrace the unknown. Whether myths serve to foist a fake non-coercion history or mollify the doubtful, is unimportant, but it's
Konchalovsky was a natural right out of the box: this diploma film shot in Kyrgyzstan is something to see. After the Revolution a young man returns to his village to teach the children reading and communism. The villagers mock and distrust him. Ordinarily they'd come around after a few trials, but Konchalovsky consistently undermines the patriotic surface (the boy's an awful teacher, for one). A stunner.
I only give it a medium rating, and yet I know I want to watch it again. I'm often very slow on the uptake. Perhaps I'm torn by the politics which seem to denigrate indigenous peoples and culture, supporting instead the stalwart, youthful energy to build a Stalinist martyr-land. Georgi Rerberg's camera is magic.
Set in the early 1920s, The First Teacher features an Army vet who's sent by the party to a faraway village as an instructor. The film isn't a polemic, and actually shows, in ethnographic detail, the protagonist coming to terms with life in a place that's long been resistant to change. But its biggest asset is the cinematography by Georgi Rerberg, who went on to shoot The Mirror and Stalker for Tarkovsky. Stunning!