The Celluloid Woman: A Study of Popular Soviet Films and the Portrayal of Soviet Women from WWII to Perestroika
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Throughout its seventy-four year history, cinema held a special place in Soviet society; highly regarded by both ~he population and the regime, it was quickly exploited. Ardent believers in cinema, the Bolsheviks established the world's first film school, the VKIG (All-Union State Institute of Cinematography), in Moscow in 1919. As the Cold War developed, Soviet cinema was often maligned as propaganda. While propaganda films did exist, it is difficult to create sharp distinctions because socialist realism (the style in which most Soviet films were created) is inherently propagandistic in nature. From its birth, until the late 1980s, Soviet cinema was censored. Despite censorship, these films can still provide insight into Soviet zeitgeist. This study will use four main films; Cranes are Flying (1957), Solaris (1972), Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears (1979), and Little Vera (1988). All four films feature female protagonists whose experiences could easily reflect those of many Soviet women. Expanding the interpretation, the female protagonists can even represent the experiences of the Soviet Union itself. Although equal on paper, Soviet society was still patriarchal and continued to dismiss feminism as a bourgeois construct antagonistic to Soviet communism. The creation of Soviet womanhood in the cinema then offers a glimpse at the underpinnings of official values. Not only do these films pass on ideas and values (dominate, and less often, opposing), they provide visuals for real trends that already existed in society-in away, they validated personal experiences that the government would have liked to ignore.
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