A prolonged revanche: Solzhenitsyn and Eisenstein

Author: Kukulin, Ilya

Source: Studies in Russian & Soviet Cinema, Volume 5, Number 1, April 2011 , pp. 73-101(29)

Publisher: Intellect

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Abstract:

This article explores the relationship between Sergei Eisenstein and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, arguing that Solzhenitsyn’s use of ‘screens of variable form’ in his film script Tanks Know the Truth and of ‘screen’ fragments in his epic novel The Red Wheel was influenced by Eisenstein’s approaches to cinematic art. While Solzhenitsyn engaged with Eisenstein’s methods in his fiction, he polemicized with Eisenstein’s films, especially the later works Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible, both through his fictional characters (notably in A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) and in his public statements. The article then continues to position Solzhenitsyn’s experiments with ‘script-like’ literary form into the wider context of literary and cultural conventions of the 1920s–1960s. The formal and aesthetic experiments in which Solzhenitsyn and Eisenstein engage are read as the continuation of avant-garde experiments and a modernist discourse that continued throughout the years of Stalinist repression and monolithic artistic forms: that of an ‘Epic Polyphonic Agitational Art’, which has no formal status, but brings together elements of the Soviet avant-garde of the 1920s with socialist realist conventions and thus echoed left-wing trends in western art.

Keywords: Eisenstein; Solzhenitsyn; Stalinism; avant-garde; censorship; screen

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/srsc.5.1.73_1

Affiliations: Moscow

Publication date: April 13, 2011

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  • Studies in Russian & Soviet Cinema focuses on pre-revolutionary, Soviet and post- Soviet film, its aesthetic development, and its position between ideology and industry. SRSC invites contributions that constitute original research. The journal seeks to promote research from established scholars as well as to encourage researchers new to the field.
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