Thaw and the Physicality of Memory: Agency of the Historical Dress in the Film Andrei Rublev (1969).
In my presentation, I will address a particular aspect of my doctoral research, a work in progress titled, Dressing Poetics: Costume in the Cinema of the Soviet Poetic School (1960-1980) which explores the functions of costume in the films of four Soviet film directors: Sergei Parajanov, Andrei Tarkovsky, Yuri Ilyenko and Tengiz Abuladze. The term ‘poetic cinema’ resurfaced in the Soviet film discourse with the arrival of the Thaw. The Thaw period is known for its processes of political, social and cultural liberalization following Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953. The Thaw witnessed a dramatic renewal in cinematic production, the aesthetic and political principles of which departed significantly from the cinema of the Stalinist years. Marked by their urge to interrogate and reanimate personal experiences, the films of the Thaw sought to raise questions of ideology, social progress, and subjectivity that were particularly pressing for post-Stalinist Soviet culture.
In my presentation, I will explore the shift in the agency of historical dress in the Soviet cinema during the period of Thaw, by examining the collaboration between the costume designer Lidia Novi and the film director Andrei Tarkovsky on the film Andrei Rublev (1969). I will contrast their work to the prevailing iconography of historical dress within the framework of the Social Realism that dominated Soviet cinema between 1930s and 1950s. Motivated by Tarkovsky’s interest in the depiction of the ever-fleeting moments of personal experiences, Novi’s work for this film illustrates the shift in Soviet costume design practice towards the new historicism anchored in the immersive, rather than illustrative possibilities of the cinematic image. Novi’s designs encouraged a visceral response to the film by grounding her work in the tangibility and physicality of the costumes. In Andrei Rublev, Novi and Tarkovsky constructed an image of Medieval Russia that was grounded not only in an ethnographic reality but in a physical one as well, one that is an integral part of the natural world and its elements.
Alexandra Ovtchinnikova (MA) is currently a doctoral candidate at Aalto University, Department of Film, Television and Scenography and a member of the Costume in Focus research group. She has diverse experience in design, production, and styling for performance (dance, theatre, film etc.). Her doctoral research reflects her interests in the nature of poetic cinema and costume as one of its elements.
Still from the film Andrei Rublev (1966), director Andrei Tarkovsky, costume designer Lidia Novi. In the still Anatoliy Solonitsyn (Andrei Rublev) and Nikolay Sergeev (Feofan Grek).