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In a New Light: Soviet Cinema of the 1950's followed by a screening of The Cranes are Flying

In a New Light is returning for a third season, starting in September 2019.This course consists of 6 lectures, each lecture being followed by a movie screening. In the lectures,we look at the techniques used by the great film-makers such as Hitchcock and Scorsese, we look at the effect of new technologies on cinematic style in The Art of Widescreen Cinema,we consider how cinema both reflects and influences the cultural and political status quo, with Russian Cinema of the 1950's, and the Cinema of Palestine,and we look at an icon of World Cinema, with a feature on Jeanne Moreau. Each lecture is followed by the screening of a movie which illustrates and enriches the lecture content.

 In his lecture, Roger will trace the development of Soviet cinema in the ideological thaw that followed Nikita Kruschev’s denunciation of Stalin in Feb 1956. That thaw saw a relaxation of repression and censorship enabling filmmakers to reject the state-ordained tropes of ‘socialist realism’ –with its celebration of Soviet ideals above all else - which had dominated and stifled Soviet culture theretofore; this heralded something of a renaissance in the nation’s filmmaking. The lecture will contextualise our screening of The Cranes are Flying in terms of its social, cultural and historical importance and the fact that, stylistically, it forms part of the legacy of German Expressionism.

The Cranes are Flying depicts the experiences of a young woman separated from her lover during the Second World War and in the process explores the difficulties of everyday life in a war-torn city amid the challenges, temptations, and obstacles that confront humanity at such times. The film’s honest attempt to exorcise past trauma was considered to be extremely radical at the time the film was made. In Prof. Josephine Woll’s words, it was “the first indisputable masterpiece of post-Stalin cinema.” Winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes, The Cranes are Flying not only became the first film that brought this new era of Soviet filmmaking to the attention of an international audience but also became the first and only Russian language film to win this prestigious award.

In terms of its style, the film innovatively draws on a number of traditions that pre-dated socialist realism, combining visual elements with dynamic editing to create something that can be termed ‘anti-realist.’ The filmmaker’s motivation here is to express feeling and imagination rather than represent a supposed or notional external reality. In achieving this, the techniques used can be traced back to those first employed by German filmmakers after the First World War.
Donato Totaro (Offscreen, vol. 7 #5, May 2003) says that, 'The Cranes are Flying answered the ludicrously romanticised views of war propagated by socialist realism with a healthy dose of expressive realism.' He says, 'Seen alongside [films made during Stalin's tenure]...The Cranes are Flying literally soars with its lyrical, anti-war statement and no-holds barred formal experimentation...'

Lecture: Soviet Cinema of the 1950's (Roger Mitchell) - 1.30pm
 Film: The Cranes are Flying (Kalatozov) - 2.45pm
Year: 2019
The Maltings is operated by The Maltings (Berwick) Trust Registered Charity No: 701194