Circus portrays Soviet pride

Chris Heinrich

Love for the Soviet way of life is expressed throughout the Russian Film Festival’s Sept. 14 showing of Grigori Alexandrov’s Circus, an ideological Soviet comedy filmed in 1936.

The film begins with Marion “Mary” Dickson being chased by angry Americans due to a scandal she’s involved in while holding a covered child in her arms. In search of acceptance, she goes to the Soviet Union.

In the following scene, Dickson is in the middle of a circus ring and on top of a cannon singing and dancing. She gets inside of it and is shot out. She catches onto a trapeze and circles the audience. While circling, she catches the eye of the director of the circus, Martinov, who she eventually falls in love with.

The circus owner’s daughter, Rajka, and her fiance, Ladechkin, have planned a new act for the circus, Flight into Space. Ladechkin is to build an even larger cannon for Rajka and Ladechkin to fly out of together.

Living a comfortable life thanks to her boss, Pietrovich, Dickson is continuously threatened by him that he will reveal her secret – she gave birth to a black baby.

When letters Dickson wrote are mixed up, Martinov finds out about her baby.

In the last act of the night, Dickson dances and sings while surrounded by more than 100 other women. Interrupted by their out-of-water type ballet, Pietrovich stops the act and reveals Marion’s secret. Holding her child in his arms, Pietrovich is confronted by the circus owner. He tells him it’s not a big deal. The audience members take Marion’s child and pass it amongst themselves while laughing at Pietrovich. He is then escorted out by guards.

Different people sing Soviet songs from their respective republic while holding the child while Marion lies, crying on top of a hay pile in a back room.

Martinov finds her and everyone who works in the circus stops what they are doing to listen to the audience. The owner brings the baby to Marion who’s now in Martinov’s arms and says, that in this country, all children are loved no matter what.

The scene fades and Marion, Martinov and other circus members are marching in Red Square in Moscow. Flags with images of Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin are waved in a parade made up of thousands of Russians.

Marion’s last words are, “I don’t know of a place where one can breathe so freely.”