Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Arsenal (1929)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Arsenal (1929, Soviet Union) (aka Арсенал)

In writer-director Aleksandr Dovzhenko's avante-garde, visually expressionistic, beautifully-edited anti-war drama set during the aftermath of the Great War and the Russian Civil War, aka January Uprising in Kiev in 1918:

  • the opening sequence illustrating the bleak and stark aspects of war - the sight of a tree stump and barbed wire under a gray and cloudy sky - then instantly exploded
  • the mini-montages and simple inter-titles amidst stillness - a grief-stricken mother in a deserted village whose three sons had perished in battle: "A mother had three sons," "There was a war," and "The mother doesn't have three sons (any more)"
  • the lengthy, single-shot scene of a smug police officer, non-chalantly strolling down a dirt lane, and fondling the covered breasts of a peasant woman (with a bowed head) who stood motionless without response
  • the analogous connection sequence of an old woman (dying of exhaustion) sowing seeds in a dirt field and collapsing - juxtaposed with the image of oblivious Tsar Nicholas penning a letter in St. Petersburg: ("Today I shot a crow. Splendid weather. Nikky") - the symbolic implication was that the war had forced the woman into poverty and she was the crow that was shot
  • also, the view of a man brutally beating and kicking his emaciated and stubborn horse (the horse berated its owner: "You're hitting the wrong one, Ivan"), and juxtaposed at the same time, a frustrated mother was violently beating her starving, crying children
  • the Great War montage scene of an officer shooting (in the back) a soldier that refused to fight anymore; the two were seen as silhouettes (with extreme backlighting)
  • the images of the ironic, grim and torturous death of a soldier going insane as he succumbed to the crazed effects of laughing-gas
Starving Horse
Officer Shooting Soldier: Silhouettes
Insane Soldier
  • the film's centerpiece in its second part: the January uprising or rebellion of Kiev workers in an arsenal factory and their political unrest against the central ruling Ukranian Parliament, seen through the eyes of returning Ukranian soldier and bearded munitions worker Tymish Stoyan (Semyon Svashenko)
  • the scene of a dead comrade soldier's end of life horse ride (after nine years away at war fighting for the revolution) - his corpse was strapped onto a horse-drawn cart, and there was a frantic attempt to return the soldier home for burial, while his mother stood by his open grave (in the snow) awaiting his arrival; the horses even spoke about their important mission to return him as quickly as possible: "We know it. We're flying like the wind!"; when they arrived at the open grave site, one of the soldiers told the mother: "Here he is mother, and there's no time for explanations. We live and we die for the revolution"
  • and the climactic firing squad sequence and "Superman image" - the execution of the Bolshevik hero Tymish at point-blank range (with his taunting of the Ukrainian nationalist shooters by baring his chest and his miraculous survival and refusal to die)
"Superman" Execution of Tymish

Bleak Warfare

Molestation of Peasant Woman

Dying Old Woman

Frantic Effort to Return Soldier's Corpse


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