Chapayev Film Essay

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During the 1930s, the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression and Soviet Russia was a burgeoning regime under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. Both the United States and Soviet government use the film medium to deliver political policies and promote social consciousness. Chapayev (1934), a biographical drama directed by the Vasilyev brothers, tells the story of a Soviet leader during the Russian Civil War to inspire the mobilization of a divided Soviet society. Conversely, The City (1939), a documentary directed by Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke, justifies President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, and acknowledges the problems arising from industrialization and the Great Depression. These two forms of national cinema,…show more content…
Films produced in the Soviet Union during the 1930s abandoned the experimental style of the Montage movement, which was discredited as too formalist and radical, putting avant-garde filmmakers like Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov out of work. Instead films followed a Socialist realism model, depicting “reality in its revolutionary development.” Socialist realism films such as Chapayev aestheticized Soviet history in a cinematic style that closely resembled Classical Hollywood, striving for narrative clarity and visual continuity. Stephen Croft’s “Ideology and Form: Soviet Socialist Realism and Chapayev” argues that the classical structure of Chapayev attempts to “naturalize the film’s actions,” which is “crucial…in ensuring textual and interpretive closure, in smoothing areas of social contradictions” (Crofts 52). Chapayev presents history through a narrow lens––only showing events favor of Stalin’s socialist agenda and policies. For example, Chapayev “never once mentions Leon Trotsky” who was a prominent leader in the Russian Civil War, but later exiled from the Soviet Union and essentially erased from Soviet history in the context of the film. The film manifests Soviet reality as it should be, not as it

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