Outer Space in Contemporary Russian Film
This thesis will attempt to define outer space as it is constructed in contemporary Russian film. Drawing on social constructionism, outer space is treated as a culturally and socially specific phenomenon, bound within certain constellations of power in a society and a certain cultural logic (which at times appears rather illogical to an outsider). Analysis of outer space from the cultural studies perspective thus sheds some light on more than merely the phenomenon itself: it provides an insight into the workings of a society, the relations of power within it and the logic behind the construction of the social world. Our interest in the cultural construction of Russian outer space was sparked off by the peculiar fact that the phenomenon, often present in Soviet popular culture and even political discourse in the 20th century, was pushed to the margins of media representation after the end of the Cold War and the so called ‘space race’, but has evidently returned to the fore again at the beginning of the 21st century. After a silence that lasted for almost two decades and coincided with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and an identity crisis that all of the newly formed states – Russia being no exception – experienced as a consequence, a sudden interest in outer space appeared, manifest in media and popular cultural production, as well as in a renewed interest in the Russian space programme. Russian cinematography is a particularly interesting phenomenon in this regard: 19 films explicitly dealing with the topic of outer space have been shot in the past decade (2001–2011), compared to a mere one in the previous decade and zero from 1986 to 1994. The outer space of contemporary Russian film, however, is no longer that of the times of the USSR, when around 40 films on the topic appeared. Nor is it the outer space of Hollywood: a dangerous, foreign, ultimately “Other” landscape, where man is all alone, suffering from confinement, solitude and deprivation. It is a mix of all of those elements and the tradition of Russian thought going back to Orthodox Christianity, the idea of Moscow as the Third Rome, the birth of the Russian national idea in the 19th century and the philosophy of Russian cosmism that grew popular around the same time and remains so to this day. The main aim of the thesis is thus to determine which images and meanings are attributed to the concept of outer space in contemporary Russian cinema and to what extent they delineate certain borders of thought and possibility. Methodologically, the thesis draws on Mikhail Bakhtin’s translinguistics, supplementing the apparatus with approaches from critical discourse theory.