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Faktura: depth and surface in early Soviet set design

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This essay examines debates around set design in Soviet cinema of the 1920s. Contrary to the common critical assumption that early Soviet film was remarkable for location, rather than studio, work, it argues that set design was a space in which film-makers explored the specificities of the camera's relationship with materiality. The notion of Faktura (texture), particularly potent in avant-garde culture, was equally prevalent in discussion of cinema, and this essay explores its meanings and significance, discovering how early Soviet film-makers and theorists sought to exploit cinema's multi-sensory, and specifically, tactile (or haptic) impact on the spectator. Using case studies of two rare films, Abram Room's The Traitor (1926) and Lev Kuleshov's Your Acquaintance (1927), it examines how the materials of set design were used to create a powerful tension between surface and depth, two- and three-dimensional space.
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Keywords: Abram Room; Faktura; Lev Kuleshov; hapticity; set design

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Cambridge.

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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