Totalitarianism in Soviet Film Essay

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The Totalitarian Soviet Ideal and The Circus

In Grigori Aleksandrov’s (1936) Soviet film The Circus, an American white woman named Marion Dixon is chased out of the racist South after giving birth to a black baby. She escapes by train and is protected by a German, who becomes her manager, as she is a dancer. Their act takes them to the Soviet Union, where her act is incorporated into the circus there. She becomes beloved of the people for her performances and in turn falls in love with a Soviet engineer. This raises the ire of her manager, who tries to blackmail her to leave the Soviet Union. However, the Soviets are not put off by her son, who is of mixed ethnicity. The film indicates that Russians themselves are of mixed ethnicity and for that reason they are very accepting of the bi-racial child. The film ends with Marion’s “dark secret” being exposed at the circus by her manager and the Soviets in the audience happing embracing Marion and her black child, with different Soviets of different ethnicities themselves singing a lullaby to the child to show how loving and affectionate they are.

The film begins with a fast-paced tracking shot of Marion as she flees an angry mob of Americans who are chasing after her. She barely managers to board a train before it leaves, the mob hurling stones at her, which break the window of the train. Marion dives for cover into the room of the German man, who recognizes her photograph from the newspaper which has described the “scandal”—but he protects her and does not turn her over to the porter. The camera pans to the bundle in which is wrapped the baby, and though its color is not revealed then the audience is left wondering at this mysterious woman and what her secret is. Marion’s background is in the vaudeville, so with the help of the German, who acts as her manager, she joins the circus in the Soviet Union. There she meets the performance director Ivan and the two fall in love. Her German manager becomes jealous: he tries to convince her to leave Russia and threatens to expose her “dark secret,” but she responds favorably to Ivan’s request that she stay because he tells her he loves her. The show goes on, the secret comes out before the whole of the circus audience, the German holds the black child up before the Soviet crowd with the expectation that they will act the same as the Americans.
When they show no reaction at all except to question why the German is behaving so oddly, who goes on to call it a “racial crime,” the child is taken from him by the crowd and he is dismissed as a bigot. The crowd lovingly sings to the baby to calm him and Marion and Ivan embrace.

The film appeals to logic, emotion and prejudice in order to convince the viewer of the filmmakers’ position, which is that the Soviets are sensitive, kind and inclusive while the Americans are hateful, bigoted and unjust. Emotion is the big trigger in the film, which quickly evokes sympathy in the viewer with the first scene of the poor, frightened, lovely young woman escaping with a baby from the angry, offensive mob. The emotions continue right along with the love story that develops between Marion and Ivan and with the loving relationship that blooms between Marion (thanks to her performances) and the Russian people who adore her songs and acts. The emotional appeals culminate with the German’s outrageous attempt to persecute Marion and have her thrown out of Russia when he exposes the black child to the circus attendees and accuses Marion of committing a racial crime. Underlying the emotional appeals are the appeals to logic (of course, the idea of a racial crime is repugnant to a logical mind, as miscegenation is nothing unnatural), and to prejudice (as the warm-hearted Soviets make the Westerners look like racists and bigots who have no idea that all people are basically of mixed ethnicity). Thus, the filmmakers show that Soviet people are morally and intellectually superior to Germans and to Americans.

Although the film technically predates the Cold War era, there is already a foreshadowing of the tensions between the Soviets and the Americans in the way the film extols the virtues of the Soviets in contrast to the racism and spitefulness of the Americans. The Soviets are depicted as charming, heroic,….....

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Reference

McCrie, Robert. (2016). Security operations management (3rd ed.). Waltham, MA: Butterworth-
Heinemann.

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