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

By Anna Lawton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10

The Image of Women in Contemporary Soviet Cinema

FRANÇOISE NAVAILH

The Bolshevik revolution of 1917 proclaimed the full liberation of women and granted them equal political and civil rights. For several decades, the Soviet Union claimed that the "woman question" had been finally solved. By the mid-1960s, however, the question of women's rôles emerged once again as a subject of serious public discussion. A growing array of scholarly studies by economists, sociologists and demographers began to document in some detail a long list of problems. The heavy and conflicting demands of women's dual rôles appear as a major locus of female dissatisfaction. The tensions it creates receive direct expression in contemporary Soviet fiction. Natalia Baranskaia's evocation of "A week like any other" 1 in the harried life of a young Soviet wife and mother captures the findings of innumerable surveys in one dramatic image.

What is the rôle of cinema in this debate?

As early as the era of the silent cinema, important filmmakers such as Ermler, Room or Barnet dealt with the status of the new woman liberated by the Revolution. Since then, the country has changed. The extremist avant-garde vanished and woman lost her importance as an innovator on the screen.

Then from the early seventies a new genre made its way on to the Soviet screen: zhenskie fil'my, or films about women, their problems, and their relationships with men. The first example of the "feminine" tendency is The Old Walls (V. Tregubovich, 1973). 2 Those zhenskie fil'my are very popular and seem to reflect both public demands and official policies. Despite the imposition of socialist realism, they show what society admits about itself and what it fails to admit, as well as revealing the moral and ideological

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