During the post-war years in Soviet Russia the works of the cinema was a distraction to the deep wounds left from the war. Seldom were their films about war and the ones that were, focused on leaders and little on soldiers. What was portrayed on screen was vastly different than what was seen on the front line, leaving viewers with no reflection of real life experience. Often films pretended that the war never occurred, showing a world of tranquility, where men and women created strong, healthy families. A common character trend was that of the Russian men and women behaving honorably, fighting courageously and obeying silently.¹ Even documentaries, although responding to the most outstanding events, gave a pale reflection of the variety of facts and events in Soviet life.³ The death of Stalin and the public disparage of his image by Nikita Khrushchev gave filmmakers the margin of comfort they needed to move away from the narrow stories of socialist realism and begin to expand it’s boundaries to a winder range of artistic Soviet films.²
Ivan Pyriev’s notorious Cossacks of the Kuban, fell under the notions of film constraints. The rare war film displayed a false sense of war and home. The colorful film glorified the life of farmers of the Soviet Union’s Kuban region, disregarding the full impact of the war.¹ Both, The Battle of Stalingrad directed by Vladimir Petrov and The Fall of Berlin directed by Georgian Mikhail Chuareli, culminated the same theme. All three films were released from 1948-1950, before the shift in views and regulations on Soviet films.¹
In 1953, Soviet writers and artist recognized a ‘thaw’ in the culture of political party’s. Khrushchev gave the people a sense of new found freedom, especially in the creative realm.² The film industry increased productivity in the more tolerant climate and ultimately thrived.² Eventually, Soviet film artist were pushed to reenter the international film industry and even began to import foreign films for domestic release. This resulted in a gradual production of new films throughout the upcoming decade.
The Soldier Ivan Brovkin was directed by Ivan Lukinskii and released in 1955, being the first film to breakthrough postwar taboos. It conveyed the story of a young Russian boy drafted into the war through lyrical performance.¹ The film evaluated the war but on a level that let common viewers understand the true pain it presented. In 1959, the film Ballad of a Solider followed a similar story line, displaying a young boy on leave from war to convey the true tragedy of it.¹ This was the start of the introduction to the new Soviet film era. Without the restraints from existing power, the true ‘war story’ was on big screens.
Eventually censorship was renewed, nonetheless the breakthrough in the Soviet film industry not only entertained but also informed, showing people the true meaning and impact of war.
- “War Films.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 21 May 2017, soviethistory.msu.edu/1956-2/war-films/.
- Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a History. Oxford University Press, 2009.
- Pudovkin, Vsevolod. “CONCERNING DOCUMENTARY FILMS.-NOTES OF A FILM PRODUCE.” EVXpress – CONCERNING DOCUMENTARY FILMS.-Notes of a Film Produce – Current Digest of the Russian Press, The , 1953 , No. 20, Vol. 5, SovietCurrent Digest of the Russian Press, dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/13833553.
Featured Picture: An illustration of Kinopanorama from a Soviet magazine published in 1959.
5 thoughts on “Lights, Camera, Re(action)”
Gabrielle – film exemplifies the effects of the Thaw in so many ways, blogging on it was a great idea! You’ve done a great job examining how the lessening of restraints allowed directors to grapple with the legacy of WWII in a real way. Definitely check out the films “Cranes are Flying” and “Ivan’s Childhood” if you’re interested in this topic!
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It was interesting reading about all the restraints directors had forced upon them! Thanks for your recommendations!
I really enjoyed this post, Gabrielle! I think that it is so interesting to look at the shift in the freedom of expression with Russian culture that takes place following the death of Stalin. I really enjoyed how you compared films from the late 40s/early 50s to the films that were made after the constraints in the cinema industry were loosened.
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Thanks for your comment Dylan!
Excellent topic to discuss, I find that movies are often underrated subject that can express the interests and issues of a society. The Thaw of the 1950’s really opened up artists’ eyes to express their visions better to audiences across the Soviet Union. I like the specific movies you use as examples to display this contrast, if you watch segments from these films you can really see the difference in what the directors were willing to show.