SELF/OTHER REPRESENTATIONS IN ALEKSEI BALABANOV'S 'ZEITGEIST MOVIES': FILM GENRE, GENRE FILM AND INTERTEXTUALITY

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Florian Weinhold

Abstract

This thesis uses the prism of genre to explore the character of self/other representations in five 'genre films' made by the Russian filmmaker Aleksei Balabanov and released between 1997 and 2006. It provides the first book-length study of Balabanov and aims to shed new light on the complexity of genre films and their representation techniques in an influential area of post-Soviet Russian cinema. The thesis aims to deconstruct the widespread perception of Balabanov as a populist director of 'mere genre movies', which are replete with xenophobic self/other representations. The films under investigation are linked through their developments of genre, evolving themes, an overarching narrative and multiple dialogicity among themselves, with their audiences and with Hollywood. They are shown to reflect the changing post-Soviet Russian Zeitgeist and its historical context. They do so by self-consciously deploying Hollywood genres and blending them with transgeneric modes/styles under the influence of renowned cinematic and literary inter-/transtextual works. The study examines the relationship between Balabanov's articulation of post-Soviet Russian identity vis-à-vis representations of dominant others, such as America, the Caucasus, Western Europe, Ukraine and, importantly, what the films portray as society's ruling criminal elites (primarily the New Russian 'gangsters').Combining the concepts of film genre with inter-/transtextuality within close film-textual analyses, the thesis focuses on the filmic texts and their visual, sound and narrative elements, which together indicate particular genre blends and their parabolic/allegorical potential. The analytical chapters investigate how these impinge upon the ideological orientation of Balabanov's approach to self/other representations. Film genre thus provides a method for exploring the articulations of an evolving post-Soviet Russian identity in Balabanov's work. The thesis reveals the director's self-consciously ambiguous perspectives on Russia's self, its own otherness in a globalised/ing world and the corrupting influences of the country's state-Socialist militarist past, previous and current military conflicts and the country's capitulation to the capitalist market.The application of a conceptual framework drawn from film genre studies enables the thesis to explore how these popular genre films become a platform for presentations of an internally divided Russian national self in its interactions with its various constitutive others, themselves characterised by diversity and inner heterogeneity. As a result, the thesis provides a long-overdue methodological interpretation of the most controversial segment of Balabanov's oeuvre and challenges received bi-partite views of this hitherto largely misrepresented auteur.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date1 Aug 2012