Category: ARTMargins Online: New Media & Film

The Splendor and Misery of the Little Mermaid: Roundtable On Anna Melikyan’s “Rusalka” (Introduction)

Mermaid (Rusalka). Directed by Anna Melikyan. Central Partnership, 2007. 115 min/100 min (theatrical version in Russia), 35 MM.

As a result of a workshop held in Berlin in November 2008 we invited five critics and scholars to discuss Anna Melikyan’s film The Mermaid (Rusalka, 2007). The workshop was tied to an international research project at the Free University in Berlin. One of the underlying objectives of this project – entitled “Die nicht mehr neuen Menschen” or “The New Man No More” – was to historicize different concepts of the individual as they emerged in Russian film and … Read more

The Polish New Wave at Tate Modern (Film Review)

Polish New Wave, Kinoteka Film Festival 2009, Tate Modern, London, 3-5 April, 2009

As the title of this event implies, the Polish New Wave is by no means a straightforward pre-existing historical movement that can be precisely dated. In contrast to the FrenchNew Wave and the closer example – both geographically and politically – of the Czech New Wave, the Polish New Wave was never able to have a continuous, stable development but was rather evident in a number of individual cinematic projects occurring over an extended period of time, the contours, definition and limits of which are still … Read more

The Magical Bug Trainer: a Whimsical Biography of Ladislas Starevich (Film Review)

The Bug Trainer (Vabzdži? dresuotojas), directed by Donatas Ulvydas, Linas Augutis, Marek Skrobecki, and Rasa Miskinyte. (Lithuania-Poland-Japan-The Netherlands – Finland, 2008).

The Bug Trainer is a biopic which tells the story of the legendary Polish-Lithuanian animation artist Ladislas Starevich (aka. W?adys?aw Starewicz, 1882-1965). Today Starevich is known only to film historians, but in the first decades of the twentieth century, his pioneering work in stop-motion animation enjoyed a wide international success. “How does he manage to couch beetles?” exclaimed the enraptured spectators of his early shows, unable to believe that the insect stars they saw on screen were … Read more

Archives Don’t Burn: Hito Steyerl’s Film “Journal No.1 – An Artist’s Impression” (Film Review)

Journal No. 1 – An Artist’s Impression. Directed by Hito Steyerl.  2007. Video: 21 min.

“Once upon a time there was a country…”  This sentence, borrowed from Dušan Kova?evi?’s novel of the same title and later adopted into Emir Kusturica’s film Underground, evokes a temporality that is tied to origins and to the kind of arkhè Jacques Derrida challenged as part of his undoing of the metaphysical relationship between being and its history in Western culture and thought. Steyerl’s short documentary questions the fairy tale perspective on Yugoslavia’s mythical origins and its relationship with time. The film tells of … Read more

A Little Mermaid in the World of Russian Advertising (“Rusalka” Roundtable, #5)

“Starting life as a tiny fish in the belly of a libidinous Russian woman, only to be released by the sperm of a drunken sailor, doesn’t sound like the beginning of a simple existence for anyone. So for the scrawny, awkwardly endearing Alisa […] it’s no great surprise to go unnoticed and unappreciated by those around her.”(Edinburgh International Film Festival, “Mermaid,”, 2007.)

usalka/Mermaid (2007), the second feature film by director Anna Melikyan, has been chosen as Russia’s entry for the Foreign Oscars in 2009. It has already received ample recognition at the Russian box

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Lev Kuleshov’s Retrospective in Bologna, 2008: An Interview with Ekaterina Khokhlova

From June 28th to July 5th 2008, the 22nd Bologna Film Festival Cinema Ritrovato, dedicated to rare and restored films, hosted a large retrospective of the legendary Russian filmmaker Lev Kuleshov. “We make films, Kuleshov made cinematography,” once wrote Vsevolod Pudovkin, one of Kuleshov’s distinguished disciples. This phrase, reflecting Kuleshov’s contribution to Russian cinema, became the motto of the retrospective. The program of the show spanned the period from 1917 to 1943 and included all of Kuleshov’s most famous films, a number of surviving fragments of his works made at different stages in his career, an early editing experiment … Read more

Lightening up the World: Documentary Mixes Soviet Propaganda, Reality Soap and Music TV.

Coal Dust (Ugol’naya Pyl’). Directed by Maria Miro (aka Maria Miroshnichenko). VGIK, Ostrov Studio, 2006. Video: 20 min, 35mm.

The twenty-minute documentary Coal Dust (Ugol’naya Pyl’) was shot by a young VGIK team in the Chelyabinsk area (located in the east of Ural Mountains) in 2005. After the shooting was completed in 2006, the director Maria Miro (Miroshnichenko) was honored at the “Window to Europe” festival in Vyborg in 2007 for the best debut. In the same year her film also won the Moscow student film festival “St. Anna” (“Svyataya Anna”) in the non fiction film … Read more

The Truth Is Two Faced: Godard at the Margins of Bad Faith

Our Music (Notre musique). Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Avventura Films, 2004.

Jean-Luc Godard has played martyr and matador throughout most of his career, casting himself ostentatiously in his own films, even when he’s not in them. His self-reflexivity is signal; true to his own dictum, he usually finds some way of putting himself in the picture and his Our Music (Notre musique) from 2004 is no exception. Setting both himself and an array of committed and/or transnational figures (of letters, politics, architecture) in the reconstitutive space of Bosnia, namely Sarajevo and Mostar, Godard plays out his … Read more

The Nonbiodegradable

At the beginning of the The Ister, the camera makes a long take of the setting sun and the riverbed of the Danube. As the ship on which the camera is perched is overtaken by another, faster one, the ship gently sways in the wake of the other, and the gaze, captured by the camera, sways with it.

Thus, the beginning of the film sets up a divided frame of the division within that will carry throughout the filming: the interrupted single take shot, the thematic and rhetoric fluidity of the gaze that is cast on the flow of … Read more

From Scardanelli to Orfée

1. Heidegger explained that his 1942 lectures on Hölderlin’s The Ister were not an analysis or an explication of the poem, but a series of comments that surrounded it. The film called The Ister constructs its project in parallel with this model, as a montage of comments surrounding Heidegger’s lectures. Accordingly, this essay will also proceed as a series of comments or contexts that circulate around the film.

2. Ross and Barrison’s videofilm, The Ister, represents one of the possible futures of cinema, and by synechdoche, the proliferating possibilities of the medium. The DV frontier means that moving images … Read more

Against the Stream: Remarks on the Film “The Ister”

The film The Ister (2004) by David Barison and Daniel Ross defines itself as a “remark” on Martin Heidegger’s lectures on Friedrich Hölderlin’s poem Der Ister (1942). What is the meaning of this remark? What is “a remark”? And how can a documentary film provide a remark on a philosophical text that defines itself as beyond philosophy? What then, is a remark on Heidegger? According to Heidegger’s own understanding, the remark is a supplement. The remark accompanies the original text, it goes along with it. It is a way of writing that calls for moments of attention(Heidegger, Hölderlin’s The Read more

The Danube: Hölderlin, Heidegger, ‘the jews,’ and the Destiny of Europe

The Ister. (Dir. David Barrison and Daniel Ross. Based on Martin Heidegger’s 1942 Hölderlin lectures. 189 minutes. Black Box Sound and Image, 2004, 2005. 

The University of Florida, Gainesville (March 20, 2007), organized by Dragan Kujunfzic).


Dragan Kujundzic (University of Florida, organizer); Galili Shahar (University of Florida); Scott Nygren (University of Florida)


“At the height of World War Two, the most influential philosopher of the twentieth century delivered a series of lectures on a poem about the Danube river, by one of Germany’s greatest poets.

The philosopher was Martin Heidegger, who in 1927 achieved worldwide fame with … Read more

Where Gravity Doesn’t Apply: An interview with Igor Ivanov about his film Upside Down (Macedonia, 2007)

Hideous corners of the city, scenes without a trace of sophistication, depressing enclosed spaces – this is the setting chosen for the desperate life drama of young Jan Ludvik. Its individual chapters are recalled as retrospectives by Jan himself as he travels in a train hurtling through the darkening landscape, in the company of a random female passenger whose miserable exterior renders her the embodiment of the bleakest of destinies. Jan was a gifted student and, by some strange quirk of fate, also a talented circus artist, but the world in which he lives drives him only to self-destructive actions. … Read more

Film Philology: A conversation between Holt Meyer and Chris GoGwilt (Part I)

Why do literary critics turn to film? Why do films turn to literary texts? The dialogue that follows is preoccupied by this double-fold question of film and philology. As part of an ongoing conversation about the responsibilities of our respective academic fields—English studies and Slavic studies—this dialogue considers the relation between film and philology comparatively, historically, and theoretically. Comparatively: what does the relation of film to philology tell us about the interrelation between the fields of English studies and Slavic studies? Historically: can we track a relation between the eclipse of philology and the birth of cinema (and then again, … Read more

Grigori Kozintsev’s “Hamlet”

 Hamlet. Directed by Grigori Kozintsev. Lenfilm, 1964. DVD release RUSCICO, 2000.

Tech specs. Video: 140 (70+70) min, b/w, 16:9, NTSC/PAL. Sound: Mono & Dolby Digital 5.1. Made in Russia, region-free.Grigori Kozintsev’s Hamlet was released in 1964. The film has won several international awards, including the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival,and has become a classic in the world of cinematography, having secured Kozintsev a place in the history of the Hamlet canon. The fact that Kozintsev’s masterpiece appeared on DVD, with restored video and audio, is absolutely thrilling. To my knowledge, this is the first digitally … Read more

Transit Visas Are Not Being Issued Here: The Loop as Symbolic Form On Clemens von Wedemeyers Short Film “Otjezd”

At first glance—for those who grew up with Eastern European cinema—Clemens von Wedemeyer’s film “Otjezd” seems so astonishingly familiar that one can not believe it was not made by a “native viewer.” Gloomy, self-absorbed characters with fur hats, stuttering nervously or reciting poetry in dream-like surroundings seem to be a reference to Andrei Tarkovsky’s famous Mirror (1975). It is only when a living advertisement dressed as a green frog appears for a split second, chatting nonchalantly with bored policemen, that one begins to suspect that something has changed. There is obviously some capitalism around.

The simple Russian word otjezd, … Read more

Karen Shakhnazarov’s Brand of Terror

“The world offers itself to us in full spectacle, but there is nothing to see except a deluded man who calls himself Emperor standing naked in the street”,(<>) “King of terror hits Moscow cinema screens,”(<>) “A Rider Named Death: Terrorism Before Chechnya,”(An interview Dostoyevsky vs.Nietzsche by Olga Shumyatskaya at, N 39, 2004.) “In his new film, Karen Shakhnazarov uses Russian history to revisit the issue of terrorism…”(<>)

These are only some of the titles which followed the international premiere of Karen Shakhnazarov’s latest film … Read more

Carbon Club: On Russian Video Art

February 20, 2004 Reithalle Munich

During the “Days of Russian Culture,” the Reithalle offered not only a broad variety of insights into the world of contemporary Russian theatre but also a little glimpse into recent Russian film productions.

Although I am presenting the movie shorts by Alexandr Shaburov and Viatsheslav Mizin that were shown in the Reithalle as a movie event, it is hard to decide whether they should be actually considered as such, or whether the categories video art or even video fun art or even anarchistic…video…punk…fun…art would suit the work of the artists also known as the “Bluenoses” … Read more

Video still

New Video, New Europe

New Video, New Europe: A Survey of Eastern European Video, The Renaissance Society, Chicago, 11 January — 22 February 2004(The exhibition will also travel to St. Louis and to the Tate in London.)

It is important to acknowledge the integral role video art has played in disrupting the institutional sanctity of the white cube. The traditional relationship between author, viewer, and subject gives way to spatial experiences that reconstitute the parameters of time and place. Video has also problematized standard curatorial practices presenting a new set of challenges, particularly how to display video works neither as … Read more

The Films of Polish Women Artists in the 1970s and 1980s – From the Archive of Polish Experimental Film

The program was staged at the Kitchen (NYC, April 28), co-joining with the exhibition “Architectures of Gender: Contemporary Women’s Art in Poland” (Sculpture Centre, NYC, April-June 2003). Many of the films in the presentation were being shown for the first time since they premiered 20-30 years ago. The majority had been in need of restoration or even partial reconstruction.

When observing Polish art over the last decade, one can discern a somewhat sudden increase in the number of women artists using video techniques.

The presentation of “Films of Polish Women Artists in the 1970s and 1980s” is an attempt to

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Dust was supposed to be one of “the” films: the most expected one, disputed between the festivals, starting with huge difficulties and even more incredible events during the shoot, provoking controversy, on purpose perhaps, and with actual political background for the film story.

At the time of Milcho Manchevski’s debut feature film, Before the Rain, which won the Golden lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1994, the crisis in the Balkans had reached its culmination point when Sarajevo under siege: peace in these remote areas of Europe being more than uncertain.

Macedonia, homeland of Milcho Manchevski, was one … Read more

The “Last Resort” of an Eastern European “Refugee by Mistake”: On Diasporic Cinema

In dealing with the ever-escalating drama of migration and estrangement of ethnic minorities and refugees seeking asylum in the countries of the West, Jacques Derrida’s writings of the late 1990s have provided a forceful critical guidance into the ethics and politics of hospitality, constituting, as they do, both a philosophical response as well as a political intervention.(The article is an expanded version of a paper given at the CongressCATH 2002 (AHRB Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory, and History, University of Leeds) Translating Class, Altering Hospitality, 21-23 June, Leeds Town Hall. Addressing the dual structures of social estrangement in Read more

Roundtable on Alexander Sokurov’s film “Russian Ark”

The echo on our publication of Dragan Kujundzic’s essay on Alexander Sokurov’s film Russian Ark (Russkij kovcheg) has been very lively. It is followed this week by another text or echo on the film by Raoul Eshelman. In addition, we have asked well-known critics and film historians for their responses to Sokurov’s film. These responses will be published over the next few weeks. Please find the first of them below. The questions we asked of all discussion participants were the following: “What will the moving image of St. Petersburg look like in the 21st century?” and “What … Read more

The Empire Strikes Back – Sokurov Takes Revenge on de Custine

Sokurov is a specialist in analyzing totalitarian ideologies-he proposed visual interpretations of Hitler (Molokh, 1999) and Lenin (Taurus, 2000). These films are the first half of a tetralogy on dictators of the 20th century. (Rumour has it that his next project will deal with Mao Tse Dong).

Russian Ark does not fit at all into this series. This breathtaking movie seems not to analyze but to produce ideology. It is a dream phantasy with a narrator who owns Sokurov’s voice and the eye of the camera.

This eye (which is in Nabokov’s homophony also an I) is led … Read more

Sokurov’s Russian Ark And The End Of Postmodernism

One of the most fascinating things about The Russian Ark, it seems to me, is that it is situated on the cusp between postmodernism and a new epoch in which such things as the experience of transcendence, the focus on simple subjects and things, theism, and the spatialization of time play a paramount role.

In other words, The Russian Ark can be viewed or read according to two distinctly different aesthetic paradigms. Since Dragan Kujundzic has already provided a thoroughly poststructuralist (i.e., postmodern) interpretation of the movie, I would like to reciprocate with a view from the other side … Read more

“And He Saw: It Was Good”

Anyone who knows Sokurov’s films-his obsession withmists, dissolves and fadeouts, their hypnotic thrills, his delving into a mystery-can easily understand Sokurov’s desire to make a film “in one breath”.

In one of his latest interviews Sokurov confessed that his idea of making a film without a single cut was already almost fourteen years old.

Then Sokurov wanted to make a film about the Tower of Babylon, where – as he mentioned – all nations and languages form one spiritual movement.

Sokurov is interested indeed in this kind of inner gesture, in the movement of big masses encircled by an … Read more

Sokurov’s Jubilee Film

Sokurov’s much debated film Russian Ark is a film of many paradoxes. Its premiers travel from West to East in America, Europe, and Russia, and contrary to the histories of Russia it (re)presents, has led to many confusions and irritations.

Picture theory as “sculpted” through the history of pictures, bodily perceptions and intercultural questions seem to be an entry-point for understanding and analyzing the film. A tangible simultaneousness of historical epochs, visual techniques and thoughts about preserving a national film-culture (in the context of the “global” or European threat) comprise some of the complexity of the film. Still, these issues … Read more

“Radical” Art in Russia, the 1990s and Beyond

This essay examines someaspects of the visual and the spectacle within what is known as Russian radical art of the 90’s. Its aim is to look at what happened in various visual art forms (video, TV, film and actionism) in times of fundamental change within mass-culture and their technologies-that is, during the process of being ‘swapped-over’ by ‘western’ products, lifestyles, all of which unavoidably, and maybe most remarkably, accompanied post-Soviet societal transformation at least in Russia’s main cities.

It thus attempts to locate coincidences between a history of the 90’s and the ongoing discussions about their intensity and the specific

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An Ark for a Pair of Media: Sokurov’s Russian Ark

Sokurov’s Ark is a 21st century vessel, floating on the old fluids of analogous pictures in and of the space of the Hermitage of St. Petersburg – oil, ink and film emulsion.

The digital image of these pictures lives in this Ark, produced by a “never blinking” (Kujundzic) video eye, and a noise reduced stereophonic ear: a dolby digital camera. But: We do not see the digital image itself, we see its copy, in a 35 mm film projection.

The Ark is a versatile vessel. It contains representations and their media, all grouped in biblical pairs: the blind narrator –

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After “After”: The “Arkive” Fever of Alexander Sokurov

The Russian Ark. Directed by Alexander Sokurov. Starring Sergey Dreiden, Maria Kuznetsova, Leonid Mozgovoy. Written by Anatoly Nikiforov, Alexander Sokurov. Cinematography by Tilman Buettner. Music by the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra. Film: 2002, 99 min., 35 mm, color, Dolby Digital Video: 2002, 95 min., HD, 16:9, Dolby Surround. The State Hermitage Museum, Hermitage Bridge Studio, Egoli Tossell Film AG production, Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, Fora-Film M, Celluloid Dreams. English Sub-titles. Special pre-screenings: Lincoln Plaza Cinema, New York City, December-January, 2002-3. Nuart Theater, Los Angeles, January 2003.

Peu de gens devineront combien il a fallu etre triste pour … Read more