Stalinist Cinema and the Production of History

Stalinist Cinema and the Production of History: Museum of the Revolution

Evgeny Dobrenko
Translated by Sarah Young
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt1r216s
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  • Book Info
    Stalinist Cinema and the Production of History
    Book Description:

    A unique study of Stalinist cinema and its role in the production of history.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3243-5
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. INTRODUCTION: HISTORY DEGREE ZERO
    (pp. 1-16)

    From Steiner’s maxim, used here as an epigraph, one might conclude that the ‘literal past’, being something definite, stands opposed to ‘images of the past’ as something mysterious and undefined. It is, however, the other way round; ‘images’ turn out to be something that is quite tangible, verbalised and visualised, while the ‘literal past’ is no more than a construct, created with the help of these ‘images’. In essence, history is also ‘images of the past’, which ‘rule us’. Frequently (and under Stalinism, the subject of this book, always), history is the past, constructed and served by the authorities, who...

  4. 1. THE DIALECTICS OF THE POPULAR MONARCHY
    (pp. 17-64)

    In the ‘golden kernel’ of the Short Course, the renowned ‘philosophical chapter’, ‘On dialectic and historical materialism’, Stalin explained how the Marxist dialectic must be applied to history in order to ‘save the science of history from becoming a jumble of accidents and an agglomeration of most absurd mistakes’. Once ‘the world is in a state of constant movement and development’, everything must be looked at ‘historically’; that is, there are no eternal laws or social systems’, and that which is progressive today will be reactionary tomorrow and so on.³

    This ‘historical dialectic’ is based on the principle which Michel...

  5. 2. HISTORY WITH BIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 65-108)

    Biography relates to the individual life in the same way that history relates to the social past; it transforms experience into material for narrative. But if in history such depersonalisation is not only permissible, but also inevitable (in the end history is significant in so far as it is supra-individual), then in biography it apparently contradicts the very nature of individualising discourse. The very notion of ‘biography’ involves a conflict between the life (bio-) and its description (-graphy). This conflict is traditionally removed by means of substituting the former with the latter; biographical discourse works more successfully, the less the...

  6. 3. RUSSIAN CLASSICS AND THE PAST IN ITS REVOLUTIONARY DEVELOPMENT
    (pp. 109-141)

    Work which interprets the past ‘in its revolutionary development’ must, finally, be acknowledged as a legitimate part of socialist realism; Yakov Protazanov’s film Without a Dowry (Bespridannitsa) is as much an ‘exemplar of Stalinist art’ as Ivan Pyrev’s The Swineherdess and the Shepherd (Svinarka i pastukh). The ‘problem of the classics’ is reduced here only to the fact that at every turn it is the ‘primary classic literary text’ itself which impedes the work being attributed to that canon. It is difficult for us today to reconcile ourselves to the fact that we started out with Pushkin’s (Gogol’s, Chekhov’s, Tolstoy’s...

  7. 4. (AUTOBIO/BIO/HAGIO)GRAPHY: PESHKOV – GORKY – DONSKOI
    (pp. 142-166)

    When he was visiting America in 1906, Gorky decided definitively to ‘undertake an autobiography’.¹ The idea had occurred to him earlier, in 1893, but he only began to write it almost two decades later, in 1912, and finished work on it ten years after that. Thus was born the autobiographical trilogy, a central work in Gorky’s creative biography, and one with which every person in Soviet Russia was familiar from childhood (it became part of the school curriculum for nine- and ten-year-olds). In 1938–9, another two decades later, the director Mark Donskoi put Gorky on the screen when he...

  8. 5. THREE MOTHERS: PUDOVKIN – DONSKOI – PANFILOV
    (pp. 167-190)

    Maxim Gorky’s novel Mother (Mat’) must be read exclusively in the academy edition of his collected works. Moreover, one should start at the end – with the extensive commentaries, where, in great detail, in close-set brevier over almost a hundred pages, practically every reference to the novel from letters and memoirs is reprinted. The greater part of these letters are from Gorky himself. They contain assessments of the novel over various years. Almost all of them range from negative to death-dealing. There is practically nothing positive or even semi-positive. Gorky was a writer who knew his own worth; with the...

  9. 6. SHOTS FROM UNDERGROUND: DIALECTICS OF CONSPIRATORIAL IMAGINATION
    (pp. 191-255)

    The first successful Soviet experiment in cinema sound-recording was a chronicle of the Promparty trial.³ Stalinisation of Soviet cinematography coincided with the appearance of talking pictures. As Oksana Bulgakowa notes,

    The model of the ‘Soviet film’ achieves its total expression at the very moment when cinema becomes the medium not of another art (a traditional and therefore an impaired solution), but of another reality, and above all of ‘another’ history. The uniqueness of Soviet monumental films is defined not just by their rejection of tried and tested narrative structures. Cinema inherits the mantle of the chronicler, which is merely a...

  10. INDEX
    (pp. 256-266)