Slot:       29C–5          Dec. 29, 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.                                                

Panel:     Film Directors and Their Creations

Chair:     Anthony Anemone, The New School University


Title:       Dreaming through the Eyes of the Dead: The Epilogue of Ivan’s Childhood

Author:   Robert Efird, Virginia Tech

One of the more prominent alterations made by Andrei Tarkovsky in his screen adaptation of Vladimir Bogomolov’s novella Ivan was the insertion of dream sequences at key points in the siuzhet. The first three dreams, as well as a nightmarish waking vision, are all presented through the consciousness of the title character, a twelve-year-old Red Army scout. The final dream, however, takes place immediately after it is learned by Lt. Galtsev, the first-person narrator of Bogomolov’s novella and the primary mediator of fabula information in Tarkovsky’s cinematic narrative, that Ivan has been executed by the Gestapo.

While critics have generally avoided detailed analyses of the conclusion of Ivan’s Childhood, several possible explanations have been offered for the perceptual source of this final dream and the thematic implications of its placement at the film’s conclusion. In one of the most perceptive, Peter Green hypothesizes that this sequence may be “the product of that merging of identities that was later to become the central feature of Tarkovsky’s work” (35). Unfortunately, Green provides no further support for his interpretation and subsequent critics have not pursued this possibility.

In addition to summarizing the complex narrative process of Ivan’s Childhood, this paper provides a detailed analysis of the different ways in which Tarkovsky encourages the viewer to form an associative link between the characters of Ivan and Galtsev, setting the stage for what occurs in the final moments. Though the findings presented here lend credence to Green’s hypothesis, the conclusion of this paper argues that the final dream represents not merely a merging of consciousness, but - as in many of Tarkovsky’s later films - the opening of an alternative diegetic reality.


Green, Peter. Andrei Tarkovsky: The Winding Quest. London: Macmillan, 1993.


Title:       Brief Encounters: ‘Provincial Melodrama’ by Kira Muratova in the Context of Soviet Cinema of the 1930s – 1960s

Author:   Vadim Besprozvany, University of Michigan

One of the most significant modern Russian Ukrainian film directors Kira Muratova started her mature cinematic career in 1967 with her first feature film titled Brief Encounters. It is now an established tradition in film criticism to call this film “provincial melodrama” (Taubman 11). This genre label is understood in two ways: pejoratively – with an emphasis on both words – and ironically – with implied rejection of both words. At any rate there are certain strings that attach this film to the genre of melodrama. It is clear that the nature of the social function of melodrama is historically determined. Muratova was among those “children of the Thaw” who pressed toward finding their own ways in art, creating their own cinema rather than following mandatory cinematic patterns unavoidable during Stalin’s Winter (Kenez 240). This historical situation assumed not only a search for new directions in cinema, but also disgust with Stalinism and a rejection of Stalinist cultural models. That is why the early stage of Muratova’s cinematic career should be placed in two contexts: the liberalization of 1960s and totalitarianism of 1930s-1940s.  These two chronological and typological periods in the history of Soviet cinema positioned themselves in regard to melodrama quite differently but both have shown a great deal of interest in this genre. An important factor in looking at Muratova’s film from the perspective of Soviet cinema is that Brief Encounters was received and appreciated within the context of the national cinematography. Considering the fact that most Western films were unavailable to Muratova at this time, it is obvious that she, paradoxically, employed stereotypes of Stalinist films on her way to a cinema of the Thaw. Melodrama was a niche that allowed her to comply with values accepted by contemporary Soviet filmmaking.



Kenez, Peter. Cinema and Soviet Society, 1917-1953. Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Taubman, Jane. Kira Muratova. London, New York: I.B.TAURIS, 2005.


Title:       Political Violence in the Films of Karen Shakhnazarov

Author:   Gerald McCausland, University of Pittsburgh

Thirteen years separate two films by Karen Shakhnazarov that treat the problem of political violence. Assassin of the Tsar (1991) considers the murder of Nicholas II and his family in Ekaterinburg on the orders of the Bolshevik regime, while A Rider Named Death (2004) adapts a literary text that deals with political assassinations in the earliest years of the twentieth century. While murder in the earlier film is depicted as an act of both political and psychological madness, violence in the latter film is given the name of terrorism–a designation most appropriate for a film made in the earliest years of the twenty-first century.

While a directly political analysis of these two films may lead to an accurate interpretation, a fuller understanding of their significance requires a consideration of both their place in Shakhnazarov’s larger oeuvre as well as of their psychological structure on both intrinsic and extrinsic levels. Assassin of the Tsar, like its better-known predecessor, City Zero (1988), depicts how history weighs heavily on late- and post-Soviet Russia. While individuals are depicted to a great extent as victims of history, Yurovsky’s drama demonstrates the way in which identity and recognition are bought at the price of personal guilt. The terrorists in A Rider Named Death are no longer victims of history, nor do they attempt to enter into a dialogue with history. The strange figure of George (Andrei Panin), at once both exceptional and central, serves as the focal point for Shakhnazarov’s analysis of modern-day terrorism. With reference to some basic psychoanalytic concepts formulated by Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, this paper will examine the particular ways in which the latter film illuminates the imaginary dialectic of individual and collective, a dynamic which continues to condition a disturbed relationship between politics and society in contemporary Russian culture.


Title:       Fathers and Sons in Some Contemporary Russian Films

Author:   Angelina Ilieva, Independent Scholar

If the image of the superfluous man reflected nineteenth century anxieties about masculinity (the anxiety of the weak man who could become a symbolic father), and if socialist realism attempted to create the image of the strong masculine hero, could we try to write the story of the issue of masculinity and paternity in post-Soviet times?

Foregrounding the discussion in the image of the absent father in the works of writers such as Petrushevskaia and in films, such as Balabanov's Brat, this paper will discuss the treatment of masculinity and fatherhood in some films of the 2000s. Sokurov's 2003 Father and Son can be seen as a response to Rebro Adama — it eliminates the mother and posits a relation with a woman as a sort of betrayal, while at the same time mythologizing the father-son bond and endowing it with mysticism and tenderness bordering on eroticism. The 2003 Koktebel' also explores the father-son relation, though in less poetic ways, yet also sees relations with a woman as a type of foreign intrusion. Vziagintsev's 2003 masterpiece Vozvrashchenie, on the other hand, examines the fear of and longing for a father, and returns to the horror of parricide, while Kirill Serebrenikov's 2005 Izobrazhaia zhertvu reworks the ghost of the father and Hamlet in unexpected ways. The paper will end by considering the issues of masculinity and fatherhood in relation to the issues of post-Soviet (national) identity.