Mother by Visevold Pudovkin

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The film Mother – directed by Visevold Pudovkin- tells the story of russia’s revolution in 1905. Termed as a precursor for the 1917 revolt among the people, the movie is based on the novel by Maxim Gorry. It centers on the lives of three characters who are members of one family. Vera is a mother who seeks to protect her son from all types of dangers. Vlosive, her husband, is depicted as a selfish man who pays no regard to his family’s needs. As a result, he does not interact well with his wife and son. Pavel is the primary point of interest in the film. He is the head of the revolutionists and is betrayed by his mother in the quest of protecting him, and she later rectifies her mistake by planning his escape from the detention center (Baranovskaya and Batalov). By engaging these characters in the film, the viewers get comprehensive details on the important aspects of the situation in russia in 1905. To adequately understand the people’s efforts in realizing their freedom, it is critical to analyze their motivation for the resistance and the challenges that faced.

Firstly, the common citizens lived in abject poverty (Nimtz, 23). Although they worked at the plant in the city, they lived in shabby houses in poor neighborhoods. This shows that they received low wage rates that hindered them from affording better homes. An example is a scene in the movie where the roof at Vera’s residence leaks during the rain. She is forced to keep tins on specific areas to collect the rainwater. At the beginning of the movie, it is evident that she has few possessions of value in her house apart from the wall clock, which her husband is willing to trade for a drink of Vodka. She risks her life by fighting him off so as to salvage it. Additionally, the roads leading to her house are muddy, and they have to wade through these desperate conditions to get to their homes. If Pavel had received better wages from his place of work, there is no doubt that he would have afforded his own residence with better infrastructure. Instead, he is forced to remain in his father’s one-roomed house, where he sleeps on a single bed in one corner. Also, the people could have repaired their infrastructure without waiting for governmental aid. Lastly, their dire financial needs have led some of the men in the community to seek comfort in alcohol as evidenced when they drown their fears in the brews that hinder them from progressing in life. Although there is an assumption that the revolution comes from economic prosperity, it is clear that the peasants did not enjoy the country’s recovery from the war. As a result, they are forced to fight for better living standards, and they could only achieve this through a national strike of all the workers within the plant. This is because it would enable them to halt the economic livelihood of the country, thus forcing the leaders to take notice of their plight.

The establishment of social classes in the society led to the unfair distribution of resources in the country (Ascher, 35). The most profound theme in the film is the presence of a ruling class and commoners in the nation. The former drape themselves with expensive clothes, while the latter’s garments are tattered for some and quite worn out. Moreover, these two societal echelons in russian society are not expected to interact with each other freely. At Peval’s court hearing for his participation in the rebellion, for instance, the rulers occupy the first benches, while commoners were allocated dilapidated seats are at the back (Baranovskaya and Batalov).  Although the trial is about her son, Vera actually sits farthest from other individuals. Thus, Peval is forced to scan the crowd several times before identifying her in the faces of people present at his trial. This shows that she could not sit with anybody from an upper social class in any public forum. If this had been an option, her poverty would not have acted as a barrier to the rest of the society. Rather, she would have sat behind the defense lawyer, providing her with a great opportunity to see Peval’s face after the many nights of sorrow. Additionally, it would help to minimize the inequality that was prominent in the country. For instance, the people would have been handed out uniform sentences for similar crimes. However, this was not the case in the country; the peasants were judged more harshly than the wealthy (Frieden, 44). This is evident from the conversation held among the most prosperous individuals at the court. They predict beforehand that the judges would enact harsh punishment on the prisoner before the delivery of the court’s verdict. Therefore, it is plausible to state that these institutions worked to wedge a bigger divide between the people. In fact, the prisons are filled with peasants, and it does not hold individuals from wealthy backgrounds. Therefore, the need to have equal rights among all russian citizens was a core drive towards the revolution (Rogger, 43).

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However, the revolutionists faced numerous challenges in their fight. Firstly, there was a conflict between those interested in the change and those who wanted the country to remain in the same position. According to the film’s plot, the youths were the key participants in the fight against the government, and Pavel was their leader. However, the older generation opposed them, and they preferred to spend time in the drinking dens and relax with their peers. When the movie begins, Vlosive- Pavel’s father- is thrown out of the bar because he does not have enough money to settle the alcohol bill (Baranovskaya and Batalov). As a result, he goes home intending to sell his household items to afford a drink. Since he is in a comfort zone, he would not like to alter the status quo. As a result, the government recruited the old men to fight against the workers’ strike. Vlosive and Pavel are seen to be on opposing sides of the strike. While the latter leads in the strike by distributing pamphlets and storing firearms, the former is recruited by the government to suppress the strike. As a result, Vera was caught in the conflict, and she sought to protect her son from the law enforcers. She was also in support of her husband’s actions in restraining the workers. There are several scenes in the movie that proves the different interests among these two groups of people. During the first attempt at the strike, Vlosive’s father-alongside several others- is sent to inhibit the actions of the youth. They use weapons in fighting the revolutionists, who were not armed. As a result, they overcome them and beat the liberals mercilessly. Consequently, some people die while others are gravely injured. In retaliation, the fighters turn against the opposition, and they also kill some of them like Vslosive. The old are exasperated by the violence and refer to the liberals as societal troublemakers. After Pavel’s father’s death, for instance, they are seen telling his mother that she need not worry but look at her son- the troublemaker- who had committed the crime. This proves that they were against the ideals of the younger people. Moreover, they were willing to go as far as possible to limit their success, turning against their own blood. This was a big challenge because the workers relied on the secret meetings held in their neighborhoods for them to organize the meetings. Thus, the betrayal by their parents, who lived with them, was a huge setback to the revolution.

Additionally, the government was keen on extinguishing the revolution; they used manipulative techniques and force when necessary to retain their power (Wood, 28). During the period, the Tsarist government was in power, and the leaders were unwilling to grant the people their requests (Chamberlin, 32). It was only after a continuous appeal without results that the workers decided to use strikes as one of the ways of attaining their objectives. However, the government acted by raiding people’s homes and imprisoning the workers. Specifically, the movie shows policemen being disbanded to search the homes of the liberals. They move from door to door inspecting the residents for firearms and pamphlets that were used to convince the people to join the movement. When they enter Pavel’s home, they conduct a thorough search looking for the guns, but they do not succeed. Where they failed to gather evidence against the liberals, they employed manipulation by providing false promises to the people (Acton, 48). A scene in the movie shows the colonel promising to spare their life of Pavel if he willingly surrendered the weapons. Although his mother complies with the authorities by outing her son, they do not hold up their end of the bargain. Instead, they arrest Pavel. Another technique employed by the government is delaying the justice for the prisoners. Although the judges in the country do not have a lot of cases to preside over, they take long to listen to the available cases. For instance, the film shows Vera waiting for Pavel’s trial for a long time. Since the authority protects its own interests, it delivers harsh penalties to the liberals through the judges. This is how Pavel is sentenced to life in prison with hard labor. Lastly, they used the army to suppress the actions of the liberals. In the last phase of the liberation, the mother leads a large group of people marching through the street to free the prisoners. In retaliation, the government discharges troops to handle the liberals, and their commander emphasizes that they should not hesitate to use the bullets where necessary. As a result, the army that rides on horses limits the people’s access to the prisons. They shoot at them using live bullets to disband them, making them scramble to safety. Some were courageous enough to release the prisoners from the cells. However, not all the escapees were lucky enough to make it out of the prisons alive. Some of them were shot dead as they climbed the walls of the detainment centers. Furthermore, those who made it out alive like Pavel did not have a chance to continue with their mission. This is because they were attacked on the bridge and executed by the army. Because the troops were determined to pursue the people, they trampled over the mother- who held the revolution flag until the end. This proves the ruthless nature of the government and its determination to hold on to the power on its terms. Although the rebels used every avenue to achieve their objectives, the government was too strong for them (Stone, 32). As a result, the revolution was ended with numerous fatalities on the side of the people.

In conclusion, the film Mother provides vivid details of the first russian revolution that was led by the people to express their dissatisfaction with the government’s policies in their provinces. It focuses on the plight of the peasants, who were the majority in the country. It also helps to compare the difference in lifestyles between the rich and the poor through their daily activities such as court trials. Moreover, it is possible to identify the changing ideals among the people, particularly the mother. She changes from being a naïve traditional woman to a liberated individual who is aware of her rights and a great participant in the revolutionary movement. Furthermore, the challenges experienced by the revolutionists are well enumerated in the film. It is clear that the russians did not achieve their objective in the 1905 revolution. However, it helped the peasants to open their minds to a world of new possibilities based on equality among all the members of the state. Moreover, the people discovered the power of unity in expressing their grievances to the government. This is why the movement is seen as a rehearsal for the 1917 revolution that encompassed the majority of the russians in ousting the government. The movie is truly a classical representation of russia’s struggles.

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  1. Acton, Edward. russia: the Tsarist and Soviet Legacy. London: Routledge, 2014.
  2. Ascher, Abraham. The russian revolution: a beginner’s guide. London: Oneworld Publications, 2014.
  3. Chamberlin, William Henry. The russian Revolution, Volume I 1917-1918: From the Overthrow of the Tsar to the Assumption of Power by the Bolsheviks. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.
  4. Frieden, Nancy Madelke . russian Physicians in an Era of Reform and Revolution, 1856-1905. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.
  5. Mother. Dir. Vsevolod Pudovkin. Perf. Vera Baranovskaya and Nikolai Batalov, 1926.
  6. Nimtz, August H. lenin’s Electoral Strategy from Marx and Engels through the Revolution of 1905: the Ballot, the streets–or both. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
  7. Rogger, Hans. russia in the age of modernization and revolution 1881-1917. London: Routledge, 2014.
  8. Stone, Bailey. The anatomy of revolution revisited: a comparative analysis of England, France, and russia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  9. Wood, Anthony. The russian Revolution. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2014.
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