The Morphology of the Socialist Film Art

Iván Forgács

The Concept

Could there be a full gap between a state's political function and its ideology and recordable values with a humane trend? If not, in what kind of elements can be revealed the link? Is the opportunity of the violence game for this humanism inside? Could that state oppressor machineries work in the context of the humanism? How much was the film art of the East European state socialism specific? How much can be the intellectual-artistic peculiarities of the region's film production derived from the ideological values represented officially in these countries? May we talk about socialist cinema art in any kind of sense?

1

Since the organized national film productions is shaped with the beginning of a socialist transformation of a Soviet type state in Eastern Europe, the starting points of the our analysis are the followings: the values of the Soviet film, its point of view and its dramaturgy scheme supply. It can be written as a short brief, we are not sinking into the twenties and thirties. It’s so, because these two eras show a full unit in terms of our work. Though the literature generally deals with the schematism of the socialist realism from the thirthies, it’s important to emphasize, the fundamental schemes of the Soviet film, its value moments took shape at the beginning of the nineteen twenties and are characterized by avantgarde creations as well.

While knowing the cinematic art of socialist countries, an unbiased spectator may notice the undermentioned peculiarity: While his social experiences, historical knowledge suggests him, that the performance a dictatorical world exploits it from himself, which limits the human freedom and executes multitudious retributions with a state machinery, a humane world interpretation opens up in front of him, which makes him more sensitive for the social problems, injustices and persuades him, not to let him tolerate any kind of oppression.

The strange recipient experience brings up the question: Could there be a full gap between a state's political function and its ideology and recordable values with a humane trend? If not, in what kind of elements can be revealed the link? Is the opportunity of the violence game for this humanism inside? Could that state oppressor machineries work in the context of the humanism?

How much was the film art of the East European state socialism specific? How much can be the intellectual-artistic peculiarities of the region's film production derived from the ideological values represented officially in these countries? May we talk about socialist cinema art in any kind of sense?

The literature answers these questions with definitly yes. In the case of the state socialist film histories this not surprising. However the Western film history writing does not dispute, that the socialist ideology and cultural policy – which can be called simple as Sovjet because of its origin - created a specific discourse. It wanted to show the reality in that context, how can be developed a Marxist inspiration collectivist society inside, which can help the human achievement with the liquidation of the social inequalities. The civil democratic approach does not attack the values directly. The economic-political practice of the state centralization is unacceptable for it. Because of this it will be the basis of his criticism, that the mentioned discourse may not create real art with centralized political background, therefore everything was conceived inside creation gets stuck on the level of the journalism and propaganda. It denies practically, that specific socialist art creating aesthetic quality may exist. Staying at the area of the film, it accepts though, in the Soviet cinematic art excellent works were born (which ones’ list is equal to the Soviet assessment totally quasi), their significance can be observed in a debate with the basis discourse and the representation of the civil humanistic and national cultural traditions written down universal.

An approach with a left-wing spirit (from the orthodox Marxism through the sympathizer on liberalism, revolutionary radicalism until the liberal reform communism) settles down in the wide scale between the two extremes  A fundamentalist's view of it considers only the great works of the twenties as authentic Soviet cinematic art, that was interrupted by the “betrayal” of the Stalin era, after that it appears only due to shorter liberal eras without the opportunity of the real achievement.

I do not wish to make some kind of truth between the mentioned points of view. I rather try to examine from some aspects the Soviet (socialist) peculiarity of film art. The single elements of the descriptions will hardly tell new one about the topic. I’m convicted, the most important statements about the Soviet cinematic art came into existence. However  hope, it will manage to display these in a clear-more cut system and specific discourse and features of socialist film can be grabbed in a historical development.

Undertaking some pompousness, it’s about a creating a type of typology or morphology with which Vladimir Propp experimented in his Morphology of the Tale. What is the basic discourse of the socialist film, which are the characteristic basic conflicts and heroes of it, how can these and the by them epresented values change in the course of times?

The claim of a similar processing appeared on other artistic areas as well. In 2008 was published Violetta Gudkova’s work, Rozhdeniye sovietskikh syuzhetov. Tipologiya otechesvennoy dramy 1920-kh – nachala 1930-kh. The author analyses the Soviet plays with a classifying intention. This experiment shows also the difficulties. It’s elatively easy to emphasize the new hero types – e.g. the collective farm presidents, the Soviets’ leaders, the party workers, revolutionaries –, the typical conflicts (production, state security topics, reeducation), but the description of their unique combinations, their development causes troubles as well, which seemingly cannot be solved at all. Beyond morphological statements a creation of a syntactic model seems to be  necessary, which would mean the grasp of the socialist world view and primary peculiarities of its art.

 

Basic elements of the discourse, its cultural policy and cinematic art context

It’s worth to emphasize three important moments before the more detailed examination. One, and maybe most important, most constant – is the teleological view. In this, people reflect on their past, their present not directly, but from the perspective of the future. The determining element of life constructing socialist consciousness: the world we are living in is not that, we want to live in: we are building it continuously. The message of the Stalinism is not that we live in the best world, but that we build in the best way the best world. This teleological view is living in the sixties, seventies and eigthies as well: the criticism of the existing system even in its most radical forms is formulated around the values of the more ideal future.

The other specific moment which can be considered a constant is the declared educational function of socialist art. This is advertised by the Bolshevik cultural policy, like by the film politics, that” why it considers movie as „the most important art for us”. The interpretation models the character of the whole system well: the undeveloped majority is directed and reared by an enlightened minority. This formula is the connecting link between the propagandism and deeply leftist, social criticism. The idealizing Stalinist reeducation film formulae do not differ from the new wave’s of the sixties. Konchalovsky’s film, The First Teacher though on a realistic manner but also portraits the story of an hero in minority, who is ready to retrain people.

Finally, it cannot be left apart from attention, Soviet film is practically of the same age with the cinematic art itself (it had a past of ten years in Russia), therefore its growing is like a model of the revolutionary world building. An oppressed, disdained media recognises his own strength and revolutionizes all of the culture. Differently from another arts, Soviet filmmakers did not have to deal with the traditions. The movie was therefore considered as most important and mostly own art by the cultural policy. 

Moveast

Jurica Pavičić

Stylistic Models

6. The Film of Self-balkanisation 1

The sixth part of our translation project on publishing in English the text of Jurica Pavičić's book "Postjugoslovenski film: Stil i ideologija" (Hrvatski filmski savez, Zagreb, 2011.). The work is supported by the Croatian Audiovisual Centre. The text is translated by Nikolina Jovanović.

Jurica Pavičić

Stylistic Models

5. The Film of Self-victimisation

The fifth part of our translation project on publishing in English the text of Jurica Pavičić's book "Postjugoslovenski film: Stil i ideologija" (Hrvatski filmski savez, Zagreb, 2011.). The work is supported by the Croatian Audiovisual Centre. The text is translated by Nikolina Jovanović.

Imre Szíjártó

Cinemas in Central-Eastern-Europe at the End of the 1980s

The historical framework

In this chapter we attempt to delineate the socio-historical background of the Central-Eastern- European cinemas of the 1990s. We treat the period directly preceding the change of regime, namely the "end of the 1980s" as a relatively neutral period reference and describe events of the  period relevant to film history. Since state socialism collapsed in a different rhythm and logic in each country, we will discuss each country separately. As in previous chapters the descriptive approach will be complemented by a comparative one, since we also try to formulate the regional message of the transformation that took place in each country.


Jurica Pavičić

The Development of Post-Yugoslav Cinemas and the Eastern European Context

4. The Eastern European and the Post-Yugoslav Situation: Similarities and Differences

The fourth part of our translation project on publishing in English the text of Jurica Pavičić's book "Postjugoslovenski film: Stil i ideologija" (Hrvatski filmski savez, Zagreb, 2011.). The work is supported by the Croatian Audiovisual Centre. The text is translated by Nikolina Jovanović.

Iván Forgács

The Concept

Could there be a full gap between a state's political function and its ideology and recordable values with a humane trend? If not, in what kind of elements can be revealed the link? Is the opportunity of the violence game for this humanism inside? Could that state oppressor machineries work in the context of the humanism? How much was the film art of the East European state socialism specific? How much can be the intellectual-artistic peculiarities of the region's film production derived from the ideological values represented officially in these countries? May we talk about socialist cinema art in any kind of sense?

Jurica Pavičić

The Development of Post-Yugoslav Cinemas and the Eastern European Context

3. The Context of Eastern European Cinema after the Fall of the Berlin Wall

The third part of our translation project on publishing in English the text of Jurica Pavičić's book "Postjugoslovenski film: Stil i ideologija" (Hrvatski filmski savez, Zagreb, 2011.). The work is supported by the Croatian Audiovisual Centre. The text is translated by Nikolina Jovanović.

Imre Szíjártó

Theoretical Framework: Canon, Canonisation, School 

The political transformation in the East-Central-European region, which began in the second half of the 1980s and ended in the early 1990s, connected in two countries with the establishment of souvereignty, seems to be a perfect period – or to be more precisely, a perfect milestone in history – to analyse the constructedness of the canon. Although it is clear that changes in values systems do not occur from one day to the next, neither can they be understood as effects of historical milestone events, unless we pause the ever changing reality of culture. 

Jurica Pavičić

The Development of Post-Yugoslav Cinemas and the Eastern European Context

2. The Development of Cinema in the Post-Yugoslav Countries

The second part of our translation project on publishing in English the text of Jurica Pavičić's book "Postjugoslovenski film: Stil i ideologija" (Hrvatski filmski savez, Zagreb, 2011.). The work is supported by the Croatian Audiovisual Centre. The text is translated by Nikolina Jovanović.

Krasimir Kastelov

Postmodernist Film Interpretations of the Communist Past

(The Bulgarian contribution in the context of the Central and East European cinema)

The proposed analysis of key films from the Bulgarian and the East European cinema shows, that their postmodernist specifics is not accidental, but it reflects the overall feeling of crisis, lack of meaning and absurdity which has engaged the minds of many filmmakers from our region – something typical for the transition between two eras, when one cultural paradigm is put aside, but a new one is still not widely adopted. On the other hand, the appearance of those films, in my opinion, refutes the premature conclusions of some Western theorists that the postmodernism is already dead. 
Thirty years after the first swallows of the postmodernist cinema in the West, the film art in the post-totalitarian East European countries takes advantage of its lessons in order to make sense of some of the unpleasant episodes of the communist past, “with irony, not innocently” by Umberto Eco’s definition. The wide international reaction to most of the titles, analyzed in the current overview, suggests perhaps the right path for overcoming the nostalgia of that era.