Russian Marxist feminist Alexandra Kollontai’s philosophy glues together the various parallel strands in Dora Garcia’s (“Revolution, Fulfil Your Promise”) “Red Love.” Her fiery ideas are the discursive engine driving debates and discussions decades after her death. The film is a paean to her ideology that dared to step out of the currents of mainstream political thought.

However, the film emphasizes that she wasn’t someone who acquired the reputation she went on to have as early as one might believe. As one of the subjects critically informs, Kollontai wasn’t known at all beyond communist circles. Women or feminists barely had an inkling of her work. It was only after Marcela Lagarde began to teach Kollontai’s texts to her students in university that her ideas gradually caught fire.

However, the film falters on account of its editing that borders on the unsurprising, stitching the strands in a manner that is too wary of risk. Some techniques used also veer to being dull, particularly one with a woman reciting lines from Kollontai’s texts in a studio-like setup. The unadventurous, unappealing form extends to a tendency of zeroing in on newspapers dating from her times. Information dispensed edges to being just that, an overload of her ideas faithfully reiterated. That Kollontai propounded a strict opposition to the nucleus family structure, placing it as antithetical to a desired collective ideal, is insistently stressed.

Dora Garcia takes an approach that indicates the film leaning towards those who don’t have much idea about Kollontai. Serving a basic introductory overlay for the uninitiated is perfectly fine but the film scores low in bridging the gulf between its excess of theory and practical application. Praxis may have been intended through the dialogues among the group of activists, which, despite carrying the film’s poignant, pressing bulk, required clearer insights into how it came together in the spirit of a commune as espoused by Kollontai.

(Revolution, Fulfil Your Promise) Red Love (2024)
A still from (Revolution, Fulfil Your Promise) Red Love (2024)

The only illuminating aspect is that it highlights what Audre Lorde had presaged years ago about the need to recognize that all women don’t face a similar set of oppressions. It is a firm rejection of the limiting reach of white, liberal feminism that doesn’t take into account varied experiences of womanhood. These discussions bristle with trauma, ache, and hurt. They are honest, unrestrained, and utterly scalding, especially when a trans woman shares her deep grief and loneliness. She mourns the lack of a safe space where she can exist as herself freely and without being pricked with fear.

There hasn’t even been anyone she could see and relate with, thus foisting the kind of loneliness that can be wholly debilitating and shatter your entire self. Somehow, she has managed to row along and this group becomes a salve. It is impossible not to be moved to tears as she shares her story. Deservedly, the film gives attention and care. This is where it rings truest and with a resounding sincerity in its lament. As much of a passionate embrace the film is of Kollontai’s philosophy, it inches more to the point of admiration instead of etching out how it can be a rescue even today.

Occasionally, the film cuts to feminist demonstrations held somewhere in Mexico. These sequences don’t do much to advance the film in any fruitful, provocative direction; they are inserted solely to substantiate an argument made by one of the subjects that most present-day slogans hark back to Kollontai’s contributions. That her work anticipated much of today’s heated debates around abortion and women’s sexual freedom is specifically underlined.

Albeit the contextual drift of the protests is ostensibly placed hand-in-glove with the revolutionary, these punctuating sections come off as weightlessly distended and arguably too removed to have any assertion of their own. They resemble personality-free additives that have been bunged in just to spell out a cycle of feminist resistance that hints things have barely changed down the years. Therefore, the linkages among the tracks may have the deliberate form of a loose tape but lack a cohesive vigor. Ultimately, (“Revolution, Fulfil Your Promise) Red Love” is spiked with incendiary, vital ideas but struggles to knit them with persuasion onto its narrative fabric.

(Revolution, Fulfil Your Promise) Red Love premiered at the Visions du Reel Film Festival 2024.

(Revolution, Fulfil Your Promise) Red Love (2024) Movie Link: MUBI

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