Sergei Eisenstein obviously went through time-consuming and frustrating struggles during his time of making Que Viva Mexico! over conversing back and forth with his financial supplier, Upton Sinclair, and trying to be alloted the right amount of time by the Russian leader, Stalin, who was threatening him with being against the Soviet Union if he was not to return. Given the fact of his trials and tribulations during the making of his movie, as said by Stephen M. Hart’s critique of the film, “The most important point to mention about Que Viva Mexico! is that it was not completed by Eisenstein, and therefore we can only speculate about what form it might finally have taken had Eisenstein been given the opportunity to edit the film.” With this statement we can assume that the movie could have taken on a different form with Eisenstein’s own editing of his film. Contrarily, since Sinclair withheld any further budgeting for continuation of the film and then giving some of the raw footage to another editor, the true meaning Eisenstein had in mind for the film, can only be speculated. Besides this quarrel within the meaning of what should have been, the historical relevance of the movie shows to be pretty accurate.
The plot of one of the six sections of the movie called, ‘The Maguey Cactus’ takes place on a hacienda complex with peones working it. According to Meyer, Sherman, and Deeds in their articles, The Course of Mexican History, this set up was historically precise with the description of how the common laborers were mistreated and lived in intolerable conditions. Meyer, et al. states that “stories of corporal punishment of the peon and sexual violation of the young women on the haciendas are commonplace, but they are virtually impossible to prove or disprove.” Unfortunately, we see the exemplified with Sebastian’s character and his soon-to-be bride, Maria. Sebastian is put to through an unimaginaeble death trying to seek revenge and justice on those who allowed Maria’s raping.
Also, to note is the incredible attempt from Eisenstein to incorporate this political regimen along with trying to explain personal, and religious views of the natives in Mexico. As Chris Robe puts it in his article Debates and the Emergent Popular Front in U.S. Film Theory and Criticism, “Eisenstein’s developing ability to address in his own works the individuals relation to social forces.” Robe makes a point to note the importance of the religious themes in the movie “as a life-denying force that subjugated the lower class to the oppression of the priests.” This notion was exhibited in the movie by the scene called ‘Fiesta’ with the pilgrimage of the men carrying the cactus trunk on their backs and making the hard journey as in the walk of Christ. Repeatedly throughout the film religion is revisited as an important aspect of Mexican lifestyle. This traces back further into aboriginal time periods with worshipping numerous deities along with staying in contact with loved ones that had passed away. This belief is also accurately portrayed in the movie with one of the last scenes showing Dia de los Muertos, ‘Day of the Dead.’ This day is for remembrance of passed on loved ones and their mourning but also a celebration of life and death along with the idea that life continues on through death. Skulls and skeletons were truthfully portrayed as a very important theme through this day as well. The last scene with the unveiling of the young boy who is to foreshadow the inevitable revolutionary revolt of the oppressive lower class, is returning back to the idea that Eisenstein had on the making of his movie, the progressiveness of Mexico.