Que Viva Mexico!

            The film Que Viva Mexico! by Sergei Eisenstein differs greatly from the movies viewed previously this semester.  The intention of this film was not to tell a narrative story with underlying social commentary as is expected of classical Hollywood cinema.  Instead, by separating the film into seven distinct vignettes, Eisenstein emphasizes different eras through Mexico’s history without the use of a central sympathetic character.  In so doing he removes the focus from any one individual featured and draws attention to recurring themes which were important elements to the country’s evolution.  Though Eisenstein could not finish Que Viva Mexico! due to a variety of monetary and political reasons, in 1979 his co-director and producer Grigory Alexandrov completed the film as accurately to Eisenstein’s vision as possible.

            Though there is no central character that links these sections together, the use of montage and unique camera angles, such as the indigenous man being shown from a low angle and in a larger scale than the ancient temple behind him, emphasize the importance of the lower classes throughout the film.   This shows Eisenstein’s belief that the collective culture that encouraged the Mexican revolution resides within the individual citizens of Mexico.  This is corroborated by Robe who goes on to say that according to Eisenstein “the individual, although an important factor for revolution, must unite himself or herself with collective action for any significant structural change to take place.”  Had a central character been used, the idea of the individual effort benefitting the whole would have been lost to the American ideal of individualism.

            The Europeanization of the continent is in direct competition with the traditions and heritage of the common classes and can be followed through the film by focusing on the religious celebrations that are shown.  During “The Conquest”, the new Christian religion that has been accepted by the indigenous is shown to be a burden as several men carry cacti on their backs to represent the men who died at Golgotha.  Robe states that this scene “emphasizes how such asceticism is not for the cross bearer’s own benefit but to bulwark the strength of a church that remains indifferent to such suffering.”  This episode was meant to show the subjugation of the Mexican people by dominating European institutions such as the church.  In direct contrast is “The Day of the Dead” which was to follow a vignette about the Mexican revolution.  In this last segment, the Catholic holiday of All Souls Day is celebrated with skulls that would have been common imagery in pre-colonized Mexico.  By showing skull masks being removed from skeletons dressed up as the elite classes alternating with masks removed from young children Eisenstein shows that the control by the European influence over the Mexican people has ended.  Hart emphasizes this when saying “the epilogue concludes with the shot of a face of a smiling young boy, a symbol of the future of Mexico in the post-Revolutionary era.”  By presenting this image last, Eisenstein expresses his view that the people of Mexico have retaken culture and their land.