A Brief Sketch of Russian and Soviet Film History

Article excerpt

Filmmaking in Russia and the Soviet Union has a long, dramatic history.

While most films seen in Russia between the 1890s and World War I were imported from European countries, a distinctive Soviet style emerged soon after the establishment of Communist rule.

Developed by such brilliant avant-gardists as Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov, this style was based on the notion that cinema's power lies not in its ability to create convincing images of the real world, but rather in the way it reorders that world through film editing, or montage.

Director and theorist Lev Kuleshov is said to have confirmed this idea by intercutting shots of an actor's face with separately filmed scenes of highly emotional events; audience members read their own emotions into the actor's blank expression and praised the brilliance of his performance.

Such fervent experimentation came to an end in the late 1920s. Impressed by cinema's power to influence public thought, newly installed dictator Joseph Stalin insisted that ideologically driven "socialist realism" was the only acceptable style for the state-run film industry. …