Russian Cinema as Testimony, Propaganda, and Art
HIST 294/HMCS 294/RUSS 294
Professors Julia Chadaga and Peter Weisensel
Throughout history, we have turned to storytelling to make sense of our world. We tell stories about the past to document and explain phenomena, to create connections and continuity, and to give life meaning. In the twentieth century, Russia helped introduce the world to a spectacular new form of storytelling, film, and used it to alter previous narratives in the hope of reshaping the future. In this course, we will look at written and cinematic representations of Russian history, from medieval times to the post-Soviet era. The films that we will study, by directors including Eisenstein, Vertov, and Tarkovsky, are among the essential Russian contributions to world cinema. One task of the course will be to articulate how storytelling in film differs from historiography and fiction. Another will be to show how cinematic depictions of key historical events were shaped by politics, power relations, technology, and aesthetics. We will use readings in cultural history, film theory, and narratology to create a conceptual framework for analyzing the films as documents of real events, as vehicles of propaganda, and as imaginative, entertaining works of art. No prerequisites. Taught in English.
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