In 2005, Sophie Nys travelled to Ulan-Ude, the capital of the mountainous Buryat Republic in eastern Siberia, to film the largest existing statue of Lenin, the founding father and first General Secretary and Premier of the Soviet Union. Only the statue’s monumental head was completed, and we see it from all angles, close up and further away, in Nys’ grainy super 8-film. Beyond the subject’s surly, infinite gaze, life in the town’s main square takes its daily course — one that no longer corresponds with the utopian vision of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov.

The film’s text appears in subtitles and is drawn from conversations between Lenin and the German communist Clara Zetkin at the beginning of 1920s. These dialogues return time and again to the subject of woman’s place within the broader framework of proletarian revolution and the worker state. The questions and answers seem to originate from within Lenin’s head. The silence of the conversation is disrupted only at the film’s end, when a revolutionary march is heard.

Today Zetkin is largely forgotten, but in the 1920s she was one of the main figures of the far-left revolutionary wing of the German Social Democratic Party and a close friend and confidante of Rosa Luxembourg. A fighter for women’s rights, she spearheaded the first International Women’s Day, which took place on 8 March 1911. All of these historic connections are evoked in Nys’ elegiac Lénine en pensant, a monument that memorialses the future of the past and the past of the future.

(Steve Tallon)

  • Format miniDV(miniDV)
  • Color system PAL
  • Color b&w
  • Year 2005
  • Duration 00:06:36
  • Languageinfo
    Running text/titles: English UK
  • Artists