Roundtable Discussion
24 Nov 2019 · 4.30 pm

Matthias Schwartz: Ambiguous Images. New Perspectives on the Cinema of the Soviet Thaw

Venue: San Francisco Marriott Marquis, 780 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (USA), LB2, Salon 11

Roundtable Discussion at the Annual Convention 2019 of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) in San Francisco

For many decades, it has been a commonplace that the cinema of the Soviet Thaw marked a distinctive departure from the Grand Style cinema of the Stalin era. Triggered by the political and cultural changes after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, and as a reaction to rigidity and artificiality of the late-Stalinist canon, Soviet filmmakers of the 1950s and early 1960s allegedly strove to bring »naturalness, candor and sincerity« into their work. It has been assumed that despite restrictions and censorship imposed on film productions during this period Soviet cinema was driven by belief in »personal vision, originality and innovation«. Recently, this uniform picture of Thaw cinema was questioned by new research, which assumed that despite technical inventions and some remarkable changes in film language, the cinema of the Thaw was also a continuation, a re-framing of the previous canon of »high« socialist realism and totalitarian mythology. At the same time, traditional Soviet topics such as Socialist family, positive hero, war, or collective belief in a communist Utopia were contradicted by parables functioning as subversive voices against totalitarianism. On the basis of various cinematic examples (key films of the Thaw, melodrama, political satire, adventure genre) our round table is set to explore and discuss various ambiguities and irregularities in the Soviet cinema of the Thaw.

Chair: Alex Averbuch
Discussants: Sabine Haensgen, Alexander Markin, Matthias Schwartz, Barbara Wurm

Matthias Schwartz is a slavist/historian and research associate for the project Affective Realism. Contemporary Eastern European Literatures.