Latin America, in the early 1900’s, was a land of fighting and revolution. Latin America experienced its revolution as a natural link to progression. Sergei Eisenstein’s unfinished film, Que Viva Mexico!, presents Mexico’s progress. The progression from primitive to revolutionary remained centuries behind the United States, but the cost was more severe.
The plot of Eisenstein’s film traces the progression of Mexico’s liberation as a unified people. Eisenstein filmed snapshots of architecture and a funeral ceremony by indigenous, supposedly, Mexicans to begin the film at the roots of Mexico’s history. The viewer is led to believe this solemn scene represents the exploitation and sorrow of many indigenous Latin Americans. The scene is drawn out for cinematic appeal, perhaps in an effort to emphasize the dying out of indigenous race/culture and the introduction of a mixed mestizo race, the middle class.
Eisenstein’s second novella develops political intentions of Mexico further. The dowry scene alludes to a happier, more optimistic life. Full of love, and European tradition, Concepcion finally obtains her last gold coin and will be able to marry Abundio. This process, essentially a woman buying her in-laws’ permission to wed, signifies a point in Latin American history when women were devalued and devoid of status. Whether Eisenstein intended to portray this scene as true love or something less romantic is unsure, but it stands as a prevalent moment in Latin American history.
The third novella features Catholic-themed or inspired events. Festivals and bullfighting, all in the honor of the Holy Virgin, are a continuance of religious and gender conflict in Que Viva Mexico. Chris Robe’s article points out that religion in this film is portrayed as being used as a fuel for revolution. He makes note of participants in a supposedly Catholic holiday dressed as pagan gods and conquerors and believes this to be subversion of the Catholic tradition, of which Eisenstein sought to mock its function in oppression and subsequent revolution. While it is true that religion plays a small role in the entire film, Eisenstein’s unfinished work fails to connect the symbolism of the novellas.
The fourth novella is the most substantive and analogical of the five that were filmed. It captures the oppression of the lower to middle class and its result. This novella was shot in a straight forward manner. It told a story from a single perspective, and therefore was the easiest to follow and analyze. Stephen M. Hart surmises that “a highly choreographed sequence of shots [compares] the sap from the maguey cactus with the workers’ blood” (21). The sap is seen as the lifeblood of a, as revealed later, revitalized Mexico; it is fermented by the poor and given to the rich. Both rich and poor, Iberian and native, Mexicans died for it to become a reality. In this novella, generalizing the characters and points of significance, the film suggests an oppressed, over-worked middle class seeking basic rights and privileges from the wealthy landowning elite. The elites, in turn, respond with disdain, rape, assault, and harm toward the less fortunate, all the while reaping the fruits of their labor.
Eisenstein’s final novella features a post-revolution look at Mexico. The novella not filmed, Soldadera, in conjunction with the final, The Day of the Dead, feature both women and children, respectively. Both of these novellas show the remains of years of fighting and conflict. Mexico leaves behind a younger mixed, mestizo, population, the kind which is devoid of race and class conflict.