Group B week 3

Our source is a set of photographs which were produced in 1989 during an exhibition about Sergei Eisenstein. The source includes photographs such as early animation sketches and images of Eisenstein alongside Mickey Mouse. This object shows us how prevalent Eisenstein is in film culture, he’s paired with one of the most famous and recognisable animated characters in the world. This is important because it demonstrates how relevant and present Eisenstein was in shaping the way films are made, he’s a staple in film history and the combination of him and a famous pop culture icon accentuates that.

If I were to go into the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum and look at the chosen source (Set of photographs from a 1989 Sergei Eisenstein exhibition) I would look for who is in the photographs to start off with. Notable names and faces that could tell me something about his thinking during this time or where he was looking to expand his career. For example, some of the photographs show Eisenstein with Mickey Mouse. Why? Was Eisenstein trying to escape communist Russia? Was he looking to make animated films? Or was he simply a fan of Disney’s work and wanted to show it. Or is he comparing himself to the character and saying he is as iconic and influential as him? Furthermore, I would look at it in especially close detail, as a photographer myself, how the shots were taken. Were they merely tourist photos? Or where they something deeper. How where they been constructed? And was it for a reason?

One of the problems of this source is that it does not give us contextual information about the exhibition itself. It does not tell us for example why this exhibition was staged, who organised it and where or for how long. This is detrimental because we won’t ever get the original context behind the photos, we won’t know what purpose they meant to serve because they only exist without the context of their creation. But most importantly it does not tell us about the public, how many people saw it, what kind of people and what was their reaction. This is also important because it’s hard to gage how influential and relevant to film history a source is if we don’t know who it was seen buy in the time it was created, and what types of people saw it and how they reacted. All this information could be valuable in studying the source as it might alter its meaning, being therefore a problem not to have it when analysing its contents.

Overall, I think this object contributes to an idea of how Eisenstein was or should have been seen in his influence in film history. He was such an influential filmmaker and shaped the way montage and film is constructed today, because of his revolutionary techniques. But ultimately without the context of the object no concrete conclusions can be drawn from the source and we can only speculate as to why it was created in the first place.

One thought on “Group B week 3

  1. This is an interesting and original response to the blog task. Given that you focus on photographs it seems a missed opportunity that you didn’t include an image in the post, but perhaps this wasn’t possible? Judicious use of photos can help complement your analysis as we will see in the this week’s blog task.

    You clearly and skilfully highlight the difficulty with the source: namely its lack of contextualisation. Even though the task didn’t ask you to do so, I wonder if you later did a little more digging online out of curiosity? Here’s an interesting, if non-academic link I found on the topic:

    A further issue with this post, however, is that it doesn’t fully engage with the criteria set out in the blog task, namely to engage with David Bordwell’s “Doing Film History” and the 5 basic approaches he outlines therein. Specifically he writes:

    “There are distinct types of explanation in film history. A standard list would include:

    Biographical history: focusing on an individual’s life history

    Industrial or economic history: focusing on business practices

    Aesthetic history: focusing on film art (form, style, genre)

    Technological history: focusing on the materials and machines of film

    Social/cultural/political history: focusing on the role of cinema in the larger society”

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