Between Utopia and Event: Beyond the Banality of Local Politics in Eisenstein

Julia Vassilieva


Sergei Eisenstein’s 110th anniversary celebrated in 2008 calls for a re-assessment of his overall heritage, which until now has been customarily perceived in Western film scholarship as - in Annette Michelson’s words - ’indissolubly linked to the project of construction of socialism’ - a view shared from Marie Seton to Jacques Aumont, from Kristin Thompson to Ian Christie and from David Bordwell to Anna Bohn. Not only did Eisenstein’s output magnificently and persuasively outlive this project, but from our vantage point at the beginning of the twenty- first century we can see its position within the complex tapestry of the cultural, philosophical, political and aesthetic developments of the twentieth century from a different angle. Drawing on the recently published in Russia Eisenstein’s magnum opus Method and the author’s research on still unpublished Eisenstein’s writings of the same period, including his diaries, the present paper positions the discussion of Eisenstein’s theory-and-practice between two diametrically opposed philosophical poles - utopia and event. I argue that while Eisenstein’s theoretical writings were encompassed by a number of utopian ideas, which were, nevertheless quite different from the utopian projects of bolshevism, it is his cinematography, which now - in the context of an on-going discussion in continental philosophy - can be defined as ’cinema of event’ that demonstrates the biggest and radical discrepancy between Eisenstein’s work and both ideology and art of socialism - the world of ‘realized utopia.’ 


Eisenstein; Utopia

Full Text: PDF

Go to Edinburgh University Press