Cold War Fantasies: Film, Fiction, and Foreign Policy

By Burg, Ron Von | Film & History, July 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Cold War Fantasies: Film, Fiction, and Foreign Policy


Burg, Ron Von, Film & History


Ronnie D. Lipschutz. Cold War Fantasies: Film, Fiction, and Foreign Policy. Rowman & Littlefield, 2O01. 256 pages; $23.95.

Historical Record

Andre Bazin argues that cinema, unlike other plastic arts, enables us to preserve evidence of a particular existence, forever mummifying a specific moment in space and time. As the Cold War continues to recede from cultural memory, Ronnie Lipschutz revisits these mummies by highlighting cinema's ability to enliven our recollection ofthat history. In Cold War Fantasies: Film, Fiction, and Foreign Policy, Lipschutz explores how cinema and literature serve as a historical record, not of specific facts and events, but as accounts of public anxieties and fatalistic fears associated with the Cold War. Lipschutz chronicles the Cold War by paralleling specific historical events with contemporaneous cinema and literature that reflect larger social concerns. By selecting both popular and obscure texts, he emphasizes that "the world is never a single narrative ... torn from the headlines, [but are often] based on fillers tucked away on the back pages of newspapers" (4). For Lipschutz, these diverse texts are individual snapshots that elucidate a larger picture of the times. These fictional texts provide a linkage "between the time in which the film is seen or the book is read, and that earlier time" (5).

It is fitting that Lipschutz, a prolific international studies scholar, selects fictional texts as a source for understanding public anxieties. His analytical approach steers attention to the politically and culturally constructed nature of Cold War threats and how film and literature reflect the rhetorical qualities of threat perception. This critical strategy positions film and literature as texts that both illuminate certain historical realities and complicate settled Cold War orthodoxies.

Lipschutz alternates between recounting historical events and analyzing corresponding fictional texts, using different fonts to illustrate the switch. His interpretations explicate narrative elements that reflect contemporaneous events as well as pertinent background information on the actual production of films. Each chapter thematically engages distinct elements of the Cold War, organized topically around one overarching anxiety. Lipschutz chronicles the Cold War through films and novels that address the Red Scare, intelligence gathering, nuclear proliferation, the Vietnam War, and post-Cold War anxieties.

Although all fictional texts are produced in the West, Lipschutz offers balanced, even sympathetic, readings of Soviet apprehension of American policy. …

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