September 3, 2020, by ahzsa
Dr. Anna Toropova’s new book on Stalin-era cinema and emotion
Feeling Revolution: Cinema, Genre, and the Politics of Affect under Stalin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020) explores cinema’s vital role in cultivating the distinctive emotional values and norms of the Stalin era, ranging from happiness and victorious laughter to hatred for enemies. Reading Stalin-era cinema as a ‘laboratory’ of emotional revolution, the book explores how the filmmakers of the period were called upon to help forge emotions and affects befitting the New Soviet Person. Feeling Revolution shows how the Soviet film industry’s efforts to find an emotionally resonant language that could speak to a mass audience came to centre on the development of a distinctively ‘Soviet’ system of film genres. Case studies of specific film genres, including production films, comedies, thrillers, and melodramas, explore how the genre rules established by Western and prerevolutionary Russian cinema were rewritten in the context of new emotional settings.
‘Sovietising’ audience emotions did not prove to be an easy task. The book outlines the tensions, frustrations and missteps produced in the process, with reference to a wide variety of primary sources, including the artistic council discussions at the Mosfil’m and Lenfil’m studios and the Ministry of Cinematography. Bringing the limitations of the Stalinist ideological project to light, Feeling Revolution reveals cinema’s capacity to contest the very emotional norms that it was entrusted with crafting.