Enthusiasm: The Symphony of Donbas (Ukrainian: Ентузіязм: Симфонія Донбасу or Entuziiazm: Symfoniia Donbasu), also referred to as Donbas Symphony or The Symphony of the Donbas Basin, is a 1931 sound film directed by Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov. The film was the director's first sound film and also the first of the Soviet production company Ukrainfilm [uk]. The film's score is considered experimental and avant-garde because of its incorporation of factory, industrial, and other machine sounds; human speech plays only a small role in the film's sounds.
Vertov himself described Enthusiasm as "the lead icebreaker in the column of sound newsreels." He considered the film's "complex interaction of sound with image" to be the work's most significant achievement. The director viewed the film as an extended experiment in which the juxtaposition and misalignment of sound were completely intentional. The film is also notable for the fact that it is a documentary filmed on location. Like many of his other films, Vertov worked on Enthusiasm with his wife Elizaveta Svilova.
The film was created to promote and celebrate Stalin’s Five-Year Plan which took place during the years 1928 to 1932. The setting of the film is an important facet of examining Vertov’s intent as a director, since Ukraine’s Donbas region was a focal point of the Five-Year Plan. The Donbas was regarded as particularly rich in natural resources—namely, coal—with which the Soviet state could achieve its productive and goals. The Donbas area of Ukraine had already been industrialized since the 1800s, but the Soviets wanted to attain its full industrialization after the Bolshevik Revolution.
In his writings, Vertov expounded on the prominent role he envisioned for the natural resources: “Coal comes out of the earth. Coal for factories. Coal for locomotives. Coal for coke furnaces. Coal has arrived. The conveyors and sorting machines have started up. The aerial chains of coal-filled carts have begun to move. The blast furnaces are operating at full speed. Metal has arrived. The rolling and open-hearth, rolled, open-hearth, rolled, open-hearth—in a single creative thrust toward socialism.” The film emphasizes the importance of coal in its setting and image content. As mentioned in the film summary, once the setting of the film changes to that of the Donbas region, there are numerous images of coal workers, furnaces, and carts full of coal.
Vertov and his film crew purposefully juxtaposed image and sound in Enthusiasm. He attempted to do so by refusing to synchronize the film's images with its score to create a greater effect on the viewers. Presumably due to the complex role Vertov wanted his film's score to undertake, one source describes the movie's sounds as a “protagonist” in and of itself. “In 1931, in his Entuziazm (subtitled ‘Symphony of the Donbas’) he turned the microphone into protagonist just as earlier, he had made the camera his hero. Not only did he and his team conduct a successful experiment with a mobile microphone, they did not settle for simply synchronizing sound and image, instead taking the line of ‘greatest resistance’ by creating an eloquent counterpoint between the two.”