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

By Anna Lawton | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 8

The New Wave in Soviet Cinema

HERBERT MARSHALL

In the 1960s and 1970s, an increasing number of Soviet films began treating the problem of artistic creation and depicting the writers, poets, musicians and painters of the past: Chekhov, Tchaikovsky, Vazha-Pshavela, Andrei Rublev, Sayat-Nova, Pirosmani, as well as some contemporary fictional figures such as the artist heroine in V ogne broda net.1

These films deal with the moral or ethical questions related to the duty of an artist to his people and his age. The questions were given expression in the post-Stalin period, but they were the basic ones that Soviet artists had to face all along, as Tvardovsky has written in his epic poems Za dal'iu dal' (Beyond the Beyond) and Po pravu pamiati (The Righ t to Remember).2

This is part of the New Wave in Soviet cinematography which had been missing since the middle of the 1950s, when the theme of the artist and his art disappeared from the screen. Soviet critics point out that for a time there had been a kind of taboo on these themes, because they had been compromised by a series of stereotyped and schematic "socialist realist" productions of the malokartinnyi (limited production) period under Stalin. 3

The theme of truth and deceit by the artists had been dealt with in Soviet cinema first by Mayakovsky in his own early films, 4 then by Lev Kuleshov in his film The Great Counselor based on the creative work of O. Henry. 5 In his last days, Eisenstein, too, was working on a script based on the life and art of Pushkin which was never completed. 6

The Soviet critics of the 1960s admit that the dichotomy between the biography of an artist and his creation that was shown in the Stalinist socialist realist biographical films has in contemporary

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