comparison of Sergei Eisenstein’s treatment of the question of Soviet/Russian identity


A close comparison of Sergei Eisenstein’s treatment of the question of Soviet/Russian identity in Battleship Potemkin and Ivan the Terrible
This assignment is the final paper for a Russian Film Class titled “The Age of Brainwashing: A History of Russian and Eastern European Film”. The following excerpt from the course syllabus best describes the overall focus of the course, as well as the relevant time period for this assignment: “This course will approach Russian and Soviet film from three perspectives: the historical, the poetic, and the propagandistic. Silent film developed as a vital artistic medium at the twilight of Imperial Russia and already displayed distinctive poetic features. After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, new directors, aesthetics, and techniques emerged: at the same time, the imperative to use film to transform viewers into a revolutionized humanity was paramount. By the Stalinist 1930s, Soviet cinema’s new mandate was to portray reality as it should be – rather than as it was — and the new aesthetic of Socialist Realism merged (surprisingly!) with the conventions of the Hollywood musical.” As such, this paper is expected to be very well-researched in terms of the relevant historical context of the specific eras in which the respective films were produced, highly analytical of the differing political purposes of these works, and extremely technical in its analysis of the cinematographic techniques used to serve these purposes. The two films in question, Battleship Potemkin and Ivan the Terrible (Parts 1 and 2), are widely considered to be Eisenstein’s greatest works. Both works focus on turning points in Russian History, and attempt to draw symbolic parallels between the depicted era and the present. These parallels, presented through a range of explicit and implicit techniques, are ultimately designed to deliver a message regarding the state of their contemporary Russian society. In this paper, I would like you to focus on Eisenstein’s message regarding the concept of Soviet and Russian identity. I say Soviet and Russian because it seems that in Potemkin, Eisenstein embraces the multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic structure of a nascent Soviet Union, while in Ivan the Terrible, one can sense a distrust of all identities other than Russian. (consider the release year: 1944) Please note that while Parts 1 and 2 of Ivan the Terrible were shot at the same time on direct commission by Joseph Stalin, Part 1 was released in 1944, while Part 2 was only released in 1958 following the death of Stalin, as he had banned the film due to the vastly different and much more negative manner in which he depicted Ivan. It is widely acknowledged that Ivan represented Stalin, and Stalin even intended for it to be so. As such, it may be the case that the second part differs greatly from the first in its message concerning soviet/Russian identity. Please take that into account. The following books are the two required texts for the course, and I believe you will find them extremely useful. Please include them as sources. Michael G. Kort, The Soviet Colossus: A History and its Aftermath 7th Edition (Routledge, 2010) Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage (Gingko Press, 2001) While I requested you include 15 sources, the professor has not specified a required amount, and it is entirely possible that you will need fewer than that to write the paper to the best of your ability. My only specification in terms of the sources used is that they are of the highest standard and credibility. As such, please only reference peer-reviewed journals and articles, published books, state documents, and relevant first-person accounts (i.e. an interview with Eisenstein) among other works of the same standard. Regarding the close analysis of the film’s cinematography, it is important that the majority of this task is completed individually, so as to highlight one’s learned knowledge from the course. Evidently, you may need to consult a plethora of sources dealing with Eisenstein’s cinematography in these two films, but I ask that you present the majority of your treatment of the techniques as your own work. For all other areas of analysis, namely, the historical context of the respective films and of the Russian film industry and Russian society, the intended message of the director, and the propagandic nature and application of the work, please use references.

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