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Book Review
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Dimitri Kirsanoff: The Elusive Estonian

Abstract

This article investigates the contradictory information about the Estonian identity of the filmmaker Dimitri Kirsanoff (1899–1957) and examines the archival material that provides final confirmation of his birth and childhood in Tartu. In addition, Kirsanoff’s substantial contribution to silent cinema and his significance in the context of French avant-garde impressionism are discussed. Kirsanoff’s most acclaimed film Ménilmontant (France, 1926) was released 90 years ago. It is still frequently screened all over the world, due to its experimental montage techniques, the early use of handheld cameras, its innovative use of actual locations and the actors’ performances that still resonate with contemporary audiences. Ménilmontant is also influential because of its elliptical narrative style. However, with the advent of sound film, Kirsanoff’s career declined because the reorganisation of the film industry limited the creative freedom he enjoyed in the 1920s. This article attempts to contribute to a wider acknowledgement of Dimitri Kirsanoff’s Estonian origins, his films and his important place in the world cinema.

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Exploring the Ways Cinematography Affects Viewers’ Perceived Empathy towards Onscreen Characters

Abstract

In the history of cinematography there is a noticeable tradition to deliberately highlight the elements that accentuate space and spatiality in the shots. At the same time, there is also a contrary tradition, i.e. the conscious reduction of spatiality with the help of artistic tools in order to evoke a feeling of alienation. In this article I will argue that it is highly likely that the visual reinforcement of depth has become one of a cinematographer’s most frequently used tools, because it plays an important role in the audience’s perceived empathy towards onscreen characters. Since the practices of art-making – e.g. cinematography – represent a way that the empirical experience accumulated in professional practices reflects underlying neural processes, this article will first draw upon evidence from the common tenets of cinematography and reflect on how these correspond to the respective phenomena in human perception and cognition. The second part of the article examines the theory of the para-dramatic and eso-dramatic factors established by Gal Raz and Talma Hendler as it applies to cinematography; thereby suggesting possibilities for broadening the theoretical foundations of the twofold division of the causes for the viewers’ empathetic responses. The article will also introduce the results from a pilot experiment. However, I will not argue that the rendering of cinematographic space and drawing attention to certain areas are superior tools for creating filmic empathy. I will rather point out that they are often used by cinematographers when they want to create an immersive experience, and therefore, there is reason to believe that a connection exists between emotional empathy and the usage of these cinematographic tools.

Open access
On the Topics and Style of Soviet Animated Films

Abstract

This article provides a survey of Soviet animation and analyses the thematic and stylistic course of its development. Soviet animated film emerged and materialised in synch with the fluctuations of the region’s political climate and was directly shaped by it. A number of trends and currents of Soviet animation also pertain to other Eastern European countries. After all, Eastern Europe constituted an integrated cultural space that functioned as a single market for the films produced across it by filmmakers who interacted in a professional regional network of film education, events, festivals, publications etc.

Initially experimental, post-revolutionary Russian animation soon fell under the sway of the Socialist Realist discourse, along with the rest of Soviet art, and quickly crystallised as a didactic genre for children. Disney’s paradigm became its major source of inspiration both in terms of visual style and thematic scope, despite the fact that Soviet Union was regarded as the ideological opposite of the Western way of life and mindset. The Soviet animation industry was spread across different studios and republics that adopted slightly varied production practices and tolerated different degrees of artistic freedom. Studios in the smaller republics, such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in particular, stood out for making films that were more ideologically complicated than those produced in Moscow.

Open access
Transcending ‘Cold Intimacies’ in Veiko Õunpuu’s Works

Abstract

This article examines five films by Veiko Õunpuu, Estonia’s most renowned contemporary director – Empty (Tühirand, Estonia, 2006), Autumn Ball (Sügisball, Estonia, 2007), Temptations of St Tony (Püha Tõnu kiusamine, Estonia/Finland/Sweden, 2009), Free Range: Ballad on Approving of the World (Free Range: ballaad maailma heakskiitmisest, Estonia, 2013) and Roukli (Estonia, 2015), focusing on his representations of neoliberalism and especially its effect on the emotional and intimate lives of the characters. We argue that the characters of his films typically reject the conventional romance promoted by neoliberal discourses, including Hollywood cinema, yet this does not make them happy, but disoriented and restless. The repudiation of ‘emotional capitalism’ also pertains to the way Õunpuu’s films are conceived and executed. Most importantly, he resists the conventions of Hollywood cinema, including a classical script and happy ending, and also sets and shoots his films in peripheral places. Our main theoretical framework is the concept of ‘emotional capitalism’ as elaborated by Eva Illouz.

Open access
Audiovisual Policymaking in Estonia at Times of Convergence: An ‘Innovation System’ as a Policy Rationale

Abstract

The first thing this article tries to do is discuss the Estonian audiovisual media and content production system in its entirety - i.e. to look at film, television and interactive audiovisual services as an increasingly integrated system. Secondly, it tries to understand the issues that this convergence process presents to these formerly distinct sub-fields of the audiovisual culture, as well as for the country’s cultural policy makers. Thirdly, it presents an alternative rationale for audiovisual policymaking - reconceptualising the policy in support of an ‘innovation system’. The aim of this policy would be to improve ‘innovation coordination’ - to make the system generate more innovative cultural forms and representations, which at the aggregate level would translate into increased cultural diversity. The article assesses the innovation coordination within the Estonian audiovisual media and content production system.

Open access
Constructing National Identity in Soviet Estonian Documentary Cinema: A Case Study of the Documentary Ruhnu (1965) by Andres Sööt

Abstract

This article aims to find out how Soviet Estonian documentaries constructed the national discourse in the 1960s, by focusing on the case of the 10-minute documentary Ruhnu (1965) by Andres Sööt. Ruhnu was the first Soviet Estonian documentary released after World War II that romanticised Estonian nationalism. In order to narrate the national ideals considered undesirable by the official ideology, the Soviet Estonian filmmakers often chose to portray characters embedded in the national consciousness as archetypal heroes from pre-Soviet times and the landscapes associated with them. In the desire for past times, national heroes and idealised landscapes were constructed and naturalised in a contemporary context. The article raises the question - what kind of heroes, landscapes and activities were used to construct the national identity and which elements of film language were used? The research method used, critical discourse analysis, allows us to analyse the archetypes created in the documentary and the archetypal landscapes used as a framework for the narrative.

Open access