¡Qué viva México!

¡Qué viva México! by Sergei Eisenstein attempts to incapsulate the history and culture of Mexico through a series of episodic installments, each with its own theme. The original footage was shot in 1931, but the film was never finished. It was not until 1979 that the footage was reconstructed by Grigory Alexandrov. The purpose of the film is to chronicle Mexico’s exploited and oppressed population leading up to and during the revolution. While Eisenstein’s exact vision of the film will never be realized, the footage that is there does a good job of portraying the Mexican people’s cultural history and political struggles. As historian Sherman Meyers points out, it was not uncommon by the mid 1880’s for military officers to dominate the state governorships and be local political bosses. This is shown in Qué viva México when one such political bosses rapes a woman about to be married, sparking an armed. While this is not based on a particular incident, reports of such instances are quite common according to Meyers. For purpose of the film, the rape and ensuing violence represents the Mexican peoples finally tiring of the injustices committed against them by their own government.

The lack of a central character or single story-line in Qué viva México allows for the film to feel more like a documentary about Mexico than movie with a more conventional structure. One thing absent in the film, however, is the inclusions about the politics of the time. This is either due to the missing chapter, or because Eisenstein wanted to comment solely on the typical peon worker, who was largely excluded from politics until the beginning of the revolution. Eisenstein did an excellent job of capturing the essence of the new rebel fighters. As Meyers describes them, they were largely irregulars who fought guerilla style against government forces in smaller local outposts. This is almost the exact scene shown in the film in a battle between rebels and those representing the government. While this scene matches up to the history Meyers writes about, the general feel of the film is to provide a symbolic interpretation of Mexican life leading up to the revolution.

Early in the film, the tradition of Mexican women building their gold necklace for their future dowries provides a cultural background of Mexico, but it does not seem to fit in with the rest of the story until the missing chapter Soldader is considered. The overall point Eisenstein was attempting to make was that while it would be typical to focus on the hardships of the men that fought the revolution, the women too played a pivotal role that was necessary to achieving victory. Following the revolution, Meyers writes that a new generation of artists and intellectuals came out of Mexico. While the Mexican Revolution was not the long term success Eisenstein and other hoped and anticipated in 1931, it did hold real promise compared to Mexico’s past of more European Mexicans exploiting native born citizens. This is why the chapter on the Day of the Dead is so powerful, as it is a metaphor of Mexico’s future. Unfortunately for both Eisentein and Mexico, this would not be the case. Mexico continued to struggle with a legitimate and democratic government, and Eisenstein would never complete what would be his last film project.