Igor and Gleb Aleinikov (1980s)
Traktora (1987)
The Ubuweb Experimental Video Project: 22. Traktora (1987)
Colin Marshall

Here's another Aleinikov piece with a throughline of speech but no English subtitling. The sort of propaganda they appropriate for source material, though, is less about content than tone. It probably was even to audiences for whom it was intended. In the visual department, almost every shot contains a tractor, that stolid standby of Socialist Realism, real or artistically rendered. And though I technically have no idea what all the talk is about, words that sound a lot like cognates for "tractor" surface over and over and over again.

I'm not sure how different this is from the Aleinikov brothers' other experiments with found agitprop, though confinement to the domain of the tractor its gives it a more focused feel. It's trippier, too, and not just because of that odd choice of subject matter. 4:21 in, a hard-to-figure-out strobe light effect overtakes the previously normal-looking, even bland, footage, creating the rare, much sought-after grainy, pixelated, black-and-white communist disco aesthetic.

Combine that with a significant slowdown in and distortion of the flat, declarative, once-authoritative Voice Heard Off and the experience turns downright hypnotic. This being an Aleinikov film, we're only halfway through a descent from composure into chaos. The final third begins with an increasingly panicked female announcer shouting, presumably still about tractors, while the camera shakes and weaves wildly. By the end, we're back to the showpiece Soviet children showing off the honest, hardy machinery of dialectical materialism. It's an interesting form, but I've now probably seen enough of it.