Although left unfinished, Russian film maker, Sergei Eisenstein did an excellent job producing ¡Que viva México!, a film intended to represent Mexican culture and history leading up to the Mexican Revolution. With the movie being mostly silent, language barriers between Spanish, English, and Russian did not seem to interfere with the purpose of the movie. After Eisenstein was unable to finish his original project, a man named Grigori Aleksandrov took over the process and completed the film. The film was divided into different segments, each one depicting and comparing modern Mexicans to past and future inhabitants of the area. There is no denying the amazing art that was created when making this film; Mexican culture seems ‘comes to life’ to the audience while viewing ¡Que viva México!.
One of the most obvious goals of the movie concerning history was Eisenstein’s portrayal of the Mexican culture and how it has changed over time. The film’s Prologue began with scenes of ancient Mayan remains compared to those of the modern Mexican people. Eisenstein did an excellent job of leading into the film by deciding to incorporate the past with the present. As the different segments of the film began to progress, Eisenstein set in motion a whole chronological view of Mexican history. According to The Course of Mexican History, the 19th century was not as technological advanced and industrialized as Western Europe and the United States (Meyer, Sherman, Deeds). The film also made this rather apparent. During the six part cultural exposing film, many details were different from the culture of Western Europeans and Americans. More specifically, the segmentsTehuantepec and Fiesta were two of the most culturally differing from Western Europeans and Americans. These two particular segments displayed a mixing in culture between that of the colonizing Spanish and the indigenous people of Mexico. In Tehuantepec, the audience is witnessing a matriarchal society compared to dance and bullfighting ceremonies in the Fiesta. The two segments represent a blending of the two cultures by illuminating characteristics from each.
The film begins to make a slight turn towards showing oppression and the incoherence of Mexican culture inThe Maguey Cactus. This segment was focused more on ‘President’ Porfirio Díaz who took over in 1876 (Meyer, Sherman, Deeds). Díaz’s portrait was shown a countless number of times throughout the remaining segments of the film. His unquestioned rule became undeniable throughout the next decade. At the end of The Maguey Cactus, a man named Sebastian undergoes the wrath of Díaz and his power when his head is trampled along with his other ‘conspirators.’ This scene was also able to represent Eisenstein’s view of Mexican culture. According to his notes, Eisenstein wanted to relate this execution to that of Christ, proving his despise of Díaz’s rule (Hart).
Despite being a very artistic and informative film, the release process was rather difficult (Robe). An ongoing struggle between the film’s financial contributor–Upton Sinclair and the Soviet government. Since Eisenstein was unable to completely finish the film, this mad the dispute even more difficult. Almost half a century later, Aleksandrov was able to complete the film under his own interpretation of Eisenstein’s work. This resulted in a film mixed with two men’s ideas. Although it is not exactly clear how Eisenstein would have finished the film, Aleksandrov ends the film showing both men’s disapproval of the governmental goals of Díaz by showing a scene from a Mexican celebration known as the ‘Day of the Dead.’ Once the celebrators remove their masks, it is clear that both men believed the future of Mexico relied on the youth, not the older Westernized Spanish (Hart).