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ABSTRACT Camerawork: Soviet Film Experience and Visual Poetics after Stalin Zdenko Mandušić When Nikita Khrushchev, on the last day of the Twentieth Communist Party Congress in February of 1956, specifically invoked the use of films in creating a varnished image of Soviet reality and fashioning Stalin’s “cult of personality,” he articulated a fundamental crisis in Soviet cinema. Khrushchev’s ‘Secret Speech’ suddenly forced filmmakers and the entire film industry to reexamine their treatment of official ideology and the means by which Soviet films sought to convey meaning to viewers. In response to this challenge, new Soviet films introduced stylistic changes, which were conceptualized in similar and sometimes even identical terms by competing rhetorical frameworks, promoting a range of specific aesthetic and political expectations concerning film production and reception. Confronting the competing production practices and discursive frameworks of Soviet cinema during the Thaw, this dissertation studies how film style of this period was successively redefined to advance distinct modes of film experience in relation to the new ideological demands. Based on extensive archival research, I bring a detailed account of film technique into relation with film discourse of the Thaw, correlating the visual strategies of post-Stalinist Soviet cinema with the different ways filmmakers, critics, and even administrators imagined audiences and their engagement with films. The chapters are organized chronologically to cast into relief the development of film style and of the terms in which it was described in public discourse. Chapter 1 analyzes the early co-directed films of Aleksandr Alov and Vladimir Naumov, Pavel Korchagin (1956) and Wind (Veter, 1958), as models of the search for new, visually expressive strategies. Focusing on the handheld camerawork of Sergei Urusevskii in The Cranes Are Flying (Letiat zhuravli, Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957) and The Unsent Letter (Neotpravlennoe pis’mo, Kalatozov, 1959), chapter 2 considers how new film technologies were exploited in innovative stylistic techniques and conceptualized within a semantic field of immersive film experience. Chapter 3 examines how camera movement was used in Ilich’s Gate (Zastava Il’icha, Khutsiev 1964/1988) to present a new, more sincere vision of the Moscow urban landscape. Chapter 4 studies Andrei Konchalovskii’s The Story of Asia Kliachina, Who Loved but Did Not Marry (Istoriia Asi Kliachinoi, kotoraia liubila da ne vyshla zamuzh, Konchalovskii, 1967/1988) as a model of the documentary style in Soviet cinema of the 1960s. As case studies, these four chapters provide a basis for interrogating the changing valences of “realism,” from socialist realism through a Soviet version of neo-realism. In the dissertation’s conclusion, I return to the broader historical context and review how visual strategies of Thaw cinema presented the new cultural values as sensual film experiences.


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