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

By Anna Lawton | Go to book overview

Introduction: An Interpretive Survey

ANNA LAWTON

Most of the essays included in the present volume were generated from papers presented at the Conference on Soviet Cinema, held at the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies of The Woodrow Wilson Center in September 1986. This was the first gathering of international Soviet cinema scholars to take place in the United States. The conference participants came from France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union to meet with American colleagues. At the dawning of change in the Soviet Union the film industry was in the vanguard of reforms, and the conference was intended to provide a historical perspective to the new developments. Later, two more essays were added to the collection to bring it up to date. The resulting volume is unique in its scope, encompassing seventy years of cinema history from the point of view of twenty scholars of different backgrounds and nationalities. While not pretending to be an exhaustive history of Soviet cinema, this collection highlights significant moments in chronological order, offering a challenging montage of detailed close-ups rather than a fully developed "panoramic". The reader who is able to follow the jump-cuts in between the essays will acquire a broader knowledge of Soviet cinema and a deeper understanding of its aesthetic developments and sociopolitical function. The following introduction is intended to facilitate this process, as well as to place each essay in its proper context. 1

Everyone knows that a picture is worth a thousand words. If this is true, motion pictures are worth many thousands of words, perhaps millions. It is therefore not surprising that the characteristic features of film language have been the subject of discussion for almost a century. In particular, attempts have been made to identify the what and the how involved in making a picture as well

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