SKU 2215

SALT FOR SVANETIA (1930) + CHILDREN OF THE AGE (1915) * with switchable English subtitles *

Mikhail Kalatozov Writer: Sergei Tretyakov, Yevgeni Bauer Writer: Yevgeni Bauer Stars: Yelena Smirnova, Nina Kosljaninowa and Michael Salarow

Salt for Svanetia is a 1930 Georgian silent documentary film directed by Mikhail Kalatozov. Most of Salt for Svanetia describes and explores the daily life of the Svan people, who are living isolated from civilisation in a harsh, natural environment in the mountainous region of Svanetia. The film starts with the Lenin quotation "Even now there are far reaches of the Soviet Union where the patriarchal way of life persists along with remnants of the clan system." Svanetia and the mountain village of Ushguli are then located on two slowly dissolving maps of the region and are described as "cut off from civilization by mountains and glaciers". The location of the village is further introduced by several expository shots showing the Svanetian landscape. The film then concentrates on the daily routine of the villagers. One sequence shows how sheep are raised, and how wool and yarn are produced. Another scene shows a suspension bridge and a man trying to cross it. A harvest during an early snowstorm is shown. Other scenes show how the Svan people tailor their clothes, make hats, cut their hair and bury their dead.  The film then concentrates on the lack of salt supplies. Cut off from the outside world for most of the year, the village suffers from a shortage of salt. It is shown how this forces the animals to lick human sweat and urine. The solution to the salt shortage is presented in the climax of the film, where the young Soviet power builds a road that connects the isolated region to the outside world.

Svanetia was seen as an underdeveloped region, and thus Soviet planners tried to make it a showcase of Soviet modernization during the First Five-Year Plan between 1928 and 1932. During this time roads were built, an air service was established and industries such as mining and lumbering were developed. At the same time Soviet authorities tried to change and sovietize the traditional life of the Svan people. It was against this background of Svanetia as a showcase of Soviet modernization that Salt for Svanetia was produced. 

Inspired by a tour of the Caucasus, the writer and journalist Sergei Tretyakov wrote a newspaper article that gave Kalatozov the idea for the film. Tretyakov then wrote a script for Kalatozov, and shooting began in the mountain village Ushguli in Upper Svanetia. Originally the film was planned to be a fictional feature film, but ultimately Viktor Shklovsky edited the footage Kalatozov had shot in Svanetia into a documentary film.  Most, but not all, parts of the documentary were staged, similar to other Soviet documentaries of the early 1930s.  The authencity of some scenes has been disputed by the Svan people who deny that some of the customs shown have ever existed. The cinematography of Mikhail Kalatozov and the cinematographer Shalva Gegelashvili has been described as expressionistic due to its use of dramatic shadows, silhouettes against a dramatic skyline and Dutch angles. 

After the film was finished it was criticized by Stalinist authorities as being unbalanced and unfair towards Svanetia. It was claimed that the director was too fascinated by the backwardness and superstition of Svanetia, and only superficially interested in socialist modernization. Kalatozov fell out of favor, culminating in a ban of his next film Nail in the Boot and a denunciation of his script on Imam Shamil.

In Children of the Age, Maria is the devoted wife of a bank director. The couple has a cozy life. Their baby is cared for by the maid. On one of Maria's lazy afternoon she runs into an old friend Lidia. Maria is introduced by Lidia to the société and a Mr. Lebedev.