Que Viva Mexico!

     The film seen this week was Que Viva Mexico! by the Russian filmmakers Sergei Eisenstein and Grigory Alexandrov.  Though shot in 1931, it was not until 1979 that Alexandrov would reconstruct and edit the film into the cut we viewed, which was as close as possible to Eisenstein’s original vision for the movie.  The film was broken up into 6 separate sections: The Prologue, Tehuantepec, The Fiesta, The Maguey Cactus, Soldadera, and The Day of the Dead. (Hart 18)
     Eisenstein went to Mexico to make this movie about the lead up to the Mexican Revolution of the early 20th century, which was centered around civil unrest among younger and more liberal-minded Mexicans about the rule of President Diaz, who promoted industry and progress in Mexico, but at the expense of the working class population and their human rights (Meyer 1 and 2).  Eisenstein also wanted to close out his movie with a Communist ideal about the rise of the working class against the land-owning elites in the world.  He also covered other historical points such as Spanish influence on Mexican culture (Catholicism and bullfighting) and pre-historical society that was matriarchal in nature that still appeared in the Mexican Revolution (Hart 22).
       The director Eisenstein starts his movie with a prologue of images of Mayan pyramids and a funeral so as to allow the viewer a glimpse into the far past of Mexican history, before the conquering of the lands by European settlers.  The next part gives a view of prehistoric and matriarchal Mexican culture in which a young woman finally obtains enough gold coins to get married to the man of her choosing, after it has been approved by the elder women of the village of Tehuantepec (Hart 17, 22).  Both of these scenes portray prehistoric Mexican culture and society very well in the way they are shot by being very realistic and authentic to history.
     The third scene gives a view of how Spain influenced Mexican culture through the introduction of ceremonies, pilgrimages, and other activities relating to the Catholic religion.  Also introduced by the Spanish is the practice of bullfighting, which brings much honor to the Mexican bullfighters (Hart 17).  This scene too is shot well and gives an accurate representation of European influence on Mexico.
     The fourth scene, The Maguey Cactus, tells the brief story of a working man who is to be married to a nice girl, but must first brave the brutality of the old regime which is ruled by land owning elites.  In the scene, his fiance is taken and he is thrown out, after which, he and his friends rise up to fight and get her back, only to be brutally executed by the plantation owner’s men (Hart).  This scene is meant to show the brutality of the Diaz regime that Mexicans faced during the decades leading up to the Mexican Revolution, and the scene portrays this well by showing how the innocent Mexican girl is violated and the men are oppressed and executed for standing up for themselves.
     Though the fifth scene was never filmed, the viewer learns that it was to be about the events of the Mexican Revolution and the wives of soldiers who fought in it, called “Soldadera”.  The final scene is an epilogue with an obvious Communist view point of how the working class Mexicans were victorious in overthrowing the government and the land owning elite, and how this has brought happiness to the people of Mexico (Hart 18, Robe).