The Red Screen: Politics, Society, Art in Soviet Cinema

By Anna Lawton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7

Films of the Second World War

PETER KENEZ


THE COMPARATIVE CONTEXT

All belligerent countries during the Second World War used cinema as a means of indoctrination. 1 Films depicted the heroism of soldiers and civilians, attempted to increase vigilance by presenting insidious foreign spies, and they deepened hatred for the enemy by showing his atrocities. Inevitably, Soviet works of the period shared a great deal in common with propaganda efforts made in other countries. Yet, when one attempts to compare Soviet films to foreign propaganda films of the same period, one is struck by the contrasts more than by the similarities.

Soviet film was unique because only the communists succeeded in completely mobilizing their industry. Judging by their movies, it would seem that Russians and Americans were engaged in different wars. For the American people, protected by two oceans and a fabulous industrial might, the war never grew into a life-and-death struggle. Washington was content to use its limited powers to influence the products of Hollywood. Its intervention was largely limited to withholding export licenses in a few instances. Studios made propaganda films-some of them vicious in their anti-Japanese racism-because audiences were willing to pay to see them.

American directors made as many war movies as the market demanded. The huge United States cinema industry produced 1,313 feature films between 1942 and 1944, and of these only 374 dealt with at least some aspect of the war. 2 The great majority of films which the Americans saw in those years could have been made just about any time. Patriotic as the Americans may have

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