Film Review: Revolution: New Art for a New World

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 23 Oct 2017

Margy Kinmonth’s documentary Revolution: New Art for a New World aims to elucidate the connection between political events in Russia in the early 20th century and the art that its citizens produced in response, much of which is little known in the wider world.

The documentary focuses primarily on the October Revolution in 1917, during which the Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government of the country, which itself had been installed not long before as the result of another political upheaval. Kinmonth’s film, which she also wrote and narrates, attempts to paint the connections between a tumultuous time period and the art that it spawned.

For art enthusiasts, the greatest draw of the film will be the revealing of many significant works that have, to date, been little seen outside of Russia. Even for an art novice like me, the film did a good job of explaining the significance of these pieces and, crucially, how they relate to the events that, at least in part, inspired their creation. There are also some interesting interviews with contemporaries of the artists discussed, in some cases with their actual descendants, and seeing the physical similarities between them and the old photos is a treat in itself.

The film is ultimately a little televisual and perhaps did not require a cinematic release, but even so there is an interesting discourse in here not just how this art related to its period, but how any art can do so, and the importance of that relationship. The music is a little distracting at times, and some of the dramatic voiceovers – recreating speeches from historical figures such as Lenin (Matthew Macfadyen), for  example – don’t really add much, but for those with an interest in the period, or indeed in the relationship between art and politics more generally, it’s an interesting watch.

3/5

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