In this very first Soviet sound-film, the director, Nikolay Ekk, combined unusual sets with sound effects, which were a new feature at the time. In his story, he takes up an ideal fundamental to Soviet state doctrine: that of the “new man”, who is meant to be industrious, athletic and well-disciplined. Anyone deviating from this norm had to be educated to fulfil it: and this meant, above all, through work. This maxim applied to the whole of society and formed the core of the film's narrative. A group of young homeless people in Moscow survive by stealing and swindling. The state intervenes, gets the young people off the streets and sends them to a labour camp, which is officially called a commune. The main actor, an idealised hero and immaculate role model, is Sergeyev, an educator, who is based on the historical figure of Anton Makarenko.
This simply structured and eventful fable benefits from the lively acting of the young laymen, who act out their own fate, and from the straightforward character of the educator, played by Nikolay Batalov: the star of Soviet cinema and prototypical proletarian hero. In this way, the film also departs from doctrine and develops a deeply moving life of its own.
Print courtesy of Gosfilmofond, Moscow