Que Viva Mexico was probably the most confusing movie we have seen in Hist475 so far. Due to the movie’s completion being interrupted I believe that what we watched cannot be too harshly judged based on his absence in the production of his film that consisted of tons of footage, and clearly a large portion of production would be in the organization of that footage. “Unfortunately, Eisenstein never completed Qué Viva México! due to multiple factors: his political and aesthetic disagreements with Upton Sinclair (a key financial backer of the film) over the film’s composition; the difficulty of gaining mass distribution for the film; and Stalin’s demand that Eisenstein stop filming and immediately return home before being deemed a deserter to the Soviet Republic” (Robe 20). A few of the most confusing aspects in the production of this film was the lack of dialogue and the collage-type film assortment that didn’t clearly define a plot with characters that an audience could achieve. Perhaps, that was the whole point in Upton Sinclair removing his funds to the movie. He became distrustful of Eisenstein’s intentions when he continually asked for more time and more money: was he simply using the film as an excuse to live in Mexico instead of Russia? (Hart 19).
Onto the actual content of the movie…Instead of dedicating an entire movie to a central, tangible theme Que Vive Mexico weaves historical issues into a daily routine. The relationship between hacienda worker, Sebastian, and Maria represent the incapability of the hacienda’s power hierarchy. “As previously mentioned, Qué Viva México! was supposed to be comprised of six episodes, each dealing with a different historic epoch of Mexican history. In particular, its fourth and fifth episodes, “Maguey” and “Soldadera,” were concerned with the Mexican peasants’ growing revolutionary consciousness and the overthrow of Porfirio Díaz’s capitalist regime. Eisenstein intended “Maguey” to address the exploitation of the peons by the hacendados during the time of the Porfiriato (1876–1909) (Robe 22). By mandating that marriage is only tangible with the approval of the
landowner, Sebastian and Maria lose any civil liberties and the
Catholic sacrament of marriage is unattainable.
Another time that Eisenstein explores the workers entrapment on the hacienda, is in the scene that shows how the sap of the maguey cactus is sucked out and then fermented to a type of low-alcohol-content drink. Hart explores this idea further by describing the process as “a classic case of the workers’ produce being used as an agent of their own oppression” (21). Their sole purpose was to seek the approval and fulfill the desires of the landowner, and the “ladder to success” was essentially nonexistent. The means to enriching one’s life by work or marriage was limited by the hierarchy of Diaz and the rich having absolute control.