Russ/Litr 435: Introduction to Russian Film
T, TH  2:40–4:00 PM
ELIOT 414  
Screenings: M, W 7 PM (locations vary; see the syllabus below).
Instructor: Evgenii (Zhenya) Bershtein.
Office: Vollum 128.
Office Hours M, W 2-3 PM and by appointment.

Full course for one semester. Conference. The course provides an introduction to the history and poetics of Russian film from the double perspective of Russian cultural contexts and the development of cinema as artistic medium. While studying the masterpieces of Russian film, we will pay special attention to silent cinema, from Bauer and Protazanov to Kuleshov, Vertov, and Dovzhenko. Sergei Eisenstein’s films will be considered in detail, as well those by Andrei Tarkovsky. The readings will focus on the works of film theory and film history. Workload: the attendance of all film screenings and discussion sections is required; extensive reading; four short papers (about 3 pages each) and a final paper (10 pages); presentations in class. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. There will be an additional weekly meeting for students who take this class for Russian credit.  Your evaluation will be based on your contribution to the conference and written submissions.

All films are available from the IMC reserve. Books for this class are available in multiple copies from the library reserve.

Books to buy (available from the Reed bookstore):
Bordwell and Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction (8th edition). Recommended. 5 copies of this text are on the library reserve.
Tsivian, Early Cinema in Russia and Its Cultural Reception. Required.
Eisenstein, Film Form. Required.
Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time. Required.
Leyda, Kino: A History of Russian and Soviet Film. Required.
Tsivian, Ivan the Terrible. Required.
Taylor and Christie, eds., The Film Factory: The History of Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents, 1896 – 1939. This book is essential but it is out of print; there are five copies on reserve; try buying your own copy on the internet.

The comprehensive bibliography of scholarly literature on Russian and Soviet film can be found at




Week 1
T, January 23: Introduction.

Topic One: Early Russian Film

TH, January 25: Early Film  (screenings in class)
Reading: Leyda, 17-89.

Week 2
T, January 30: Early Film Reception
Reading: Tsivian, Early Cinema in Russia,  1-121.

W, January 31: Screening: A Life for a Life (1916, dir. Evgenii Bauer) BIO 19
TH, February 1: Early Film Reception.
Reading: Tsivian, Early Cinema in Russia, 127 –217

Week 3
M, February 5: Screening: Silent Witnesses (1914, dir. Evgenii Bauer) ELIOT 314
T: February 6: Film Genres.
Reading: Film Art, 318-337.
Writing assignment #1: The Genre of “Silent Witness” (3 pages)

W, February 7: Screening:  After Death (1915, dir. Evgenii Bauer) PSYCH 105
TH, February 8: Narrative.
Reading: Film Art, 74-107.

Week 4
M, February 12: Screening: The Dying Swan (1917, dir. Evgenii Bauer) ELIOT 314
T, February 13: Mis-en-Scène
Reading: Film Art, 112-161.
Writing assignment #2: Mis-en-Scène in “The Dying Swan” (3 pages).

W, February 14: Screening: Screening: The Queen of Spades (1916, dir. Yakov Protazanov, 1916). PSYCH 105
TH, February 15: The Shot.
Reading: Film Art, 162-217.


Topic 2: Early Soviet Avant-Garde Film

Week 5
T, February 20: Formation of Soviet Film Industry (clips from Eisenstein’s Strike [1924] will be screened in class).
Reading: Leyda,  193-244.

W, February 21: Screening: October (1927, dir. Sergei Eisenstein) PSYCH 105.
TH, February 22: Editing.
Reading: Film Art, 218-263.

Week 6
M, February 26: Screening: Battleship Potemkin (1926, dir. Sergei Eisenstein) ELIOT 314.
T, February 27: Eisenstein’s Intellectual Montage.
Reading: Eisenstein, “Montage of Film Attractions,” The Eisenstein Reader, 35-52 (e-reserve);  also his “Methods of Montage” in The Film Form, 82-83.
Writing assignment #3: Analysis of Eisenstein’s Use of Intellectual Montage (3 pages).

W, February 28: Screening: The Extraordinary Adventures of Mister West in the Land of Bolsheviks (1924, dir. Lev Kuleshov) VOL 120.
TH, March 1: Kuleshov: Amerikanizm and Montage.
Reading: Kuleshov’e essays in The Film Factory, 72-74; 108 .

Week 7:
M, March 5: Screening: Man with a Movie Camera (1929, dir. Dziga Vertov) VOL 120.
T,  March 6: Vertov’s Cinematic Techniques.
Reading: Film Art, 410-413.

TH, March 8: Vertov and the Avant-Garde (clips screened in class).
Additional study material: Yuri Tsivian’s commentary on the extra soundtrack on the DVD of Man with the Movie Camera.
Reading: Vertov’s essays in The Film Factory,  69-72, 89-94, 112-114, 129-131, 150-151, 200-203, 299-305, 335-337.


Week 8
M, March 19: Screening: Aelita, Queen of Mars (1924, dir. Yakov Protazanov) ELIOT  314.
T, March 20: Constructivist Sci-Fi.
Reading: Ian Christie, “Down to Earth: Aelita Relocated,” Inside the Film Factory,  80-102 (e-reserve).
Writing Assignment #4: Utopian Design in Aelita (3 pages).

W, March 21: Screening: Earth (1930, dir. Aleksandr Dovzhenko) ELIOT 314.
TH: March 22: The Notion of Lyrical Cinema.
Reading: Elizabeth Papazian, “Offscreen Dreams and Collective Synthesis in Dovzhenko's Earth ,”Russian Review 2003: 62 (3), 411–428 (e-reserve).


Topic 3: Cinema under Stalin

Week 9
M, March 26: Screening: Alexander Nevsky (1938, dir. Sergei Eisenstein) ELIOT 314.
T, March 27: Sound in Film.
Reading: Film Art, 264-303; Eisenstein et al., “A Statement,” in Eisenstein, The Film Form, 257-260.

W, March 28: Screening: Volga-Volga (1938, dir. Grigorii Aleksandrov) PSYCH 105.
TH, March 39, March : Musical Comedy the Soviet Way.
Reading: Maya Turovskaya, "The Strange Case of the Making of Volga, Volga," Inside Soviet Film Satire: Laughter with a Lash. Ed. Andrew Horton. NY: Cambridge UP, 1993 (e-reserve).

Saturday, March 31 - Sunday, April 1, Reed College, Psychology 105.
The Mellon Workshop: Understanding Russian Culture through Film
including the keynote lectures by Yuri Tsivian and Anne Nesbet, full schedule TBA.

Week 10
M, April 2: Screening: Ivan the Terrible, Part One (1944, dir. Sergei Eisenstein), ELIOT 314.
T, April 3: Eisenstein.
Reading: Tsivian, Ivan the Terrible (begin reading).

W, April 4: Screening: Ivan the Terrible, Part Two (1946, released in 1958, dir. Sergei Eisenstein), ELIOT 314.
TH, April 5: Eisenstein.
Reading: Tsivian, Ivan the Terrible (finish reading); “Stalin, Molotov and Zhdanov on Ivan the Terrible, Part Two,” in The Eisenstein Reader, 160-166 (e-reserve).


Topic 4: Soviet Film after Stalin

Week 11
M, April 9: Screening Andrei Rublev (1969, dir. Andrei Tarkovsky),  VOL 120.
T, April 10: Tarkovsky’s Lyrical Cinema.
Reading: Tarkovsky,  Sculpting in Time, 7-80.

W, April 11: Screening Ivan Vasilievich Changes Career (1973, dir. Leonid Gaigai) PSYCH 105.
TH, April 12: Satire in Film.
Reading: Aleksandr Prokhorov, “Cinema of Attractions versus Narrative Cinema: Leonid Gaidai's Comedies and El'dar Riazanov's Satires of the 1960s,” Slavic Review, Vol. 62,  No. 3 (Autumn, 2003), 455-472 (e-reserve).

Week 12
M, April 16: Screening: Solaris (1972, dir. Andrei Tarkovsky),  VOL 120.
T, April 17: Tarkovsky’s Sci-Fi.
Reading: Tarkovsky,  Sculpting in Time, 82-163.

W, April 18: Screening Mimino (1977, dir. Georgii Danelia), ELIOT 314.
TH, April 19: The Comedy of Empire.

Week 13
M, April 23: Screening: Sacrifice (1986, dir. Andrei Tarkovsky), ELIOT 314.
T, April 24: Metaphysical Cinema.
Reading: Tarkovsky,  
Sculpting in Time, 164-230.

W, April 25: Screening: Film TBA, BIO 19.
TH, April 27: Summing-Up.

Final papers, containing a comprehensive analysis of a single film, are due in Prof. Bershtein’s office (Vol 128) by noon on Monday, May 7. Electronic submissions are not accepted.