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Publication Detail
Performing femininity in an age of change: Representations of woman as performer in the cinema of late Imperial Russia
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  • Authors:
    Morley RAL
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In the cinema of late Imperial Russia the female performer is a ubiquitous figure. This is a study of the ways in which Russian directors exploited this archetype during the period 1908-1918, a decade of social, political and artistic upheaval. By subjecting key films featuring this persona to detailed analysis, this thesis demonstrates that early Russian filmmakers used the performer archetype to examine the complex ways in which conceptions of femininity and female gender roles were evolving in the period and to chart the emergence of the so-called New Woman. It also shows how some directors used this figure to explore the broader, more timeless question of what it means to be, or to become, a woman. In exploring these thematic concerns, the thesis considers the narratives in which the female performer is placed, but focuses especially on the ways in which she is represented visually. It therefore also demonstrates that these filmmakers, artists working in a new medium, centred their explorations of the expressive potential of cinematic technology on the female performer and harnessed their search for a specifically cinematic language to their representations of this figure. The study also considers how the filmmakers’ grasp of their new medium and their representations of the female performer developed during the period under consideration. This era of filmmaking has been the subject of renewed critical attention since the late 1980s, but most commentators have approached the films made during this period as socio-cultural documents. Less attention has been paid to the technical and aesthetic elements of the early Russian film style. In developing the new approaches outlined above, this study therefore advances our understanding of both the central thematic concerns and the defining aesthetic values of a crucial period in the cinematic and cultural history of Russia.
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