The homogenous thinking subject, or Soviet cinema learns to sing

Lilya Kaganovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Igor' Savchenko (1906-50) is a pivotal figure in the history of Soviet cinema, yet his work is very little known in the West. Born in what is now Ukraine (Vinnitsa) but educated in Leningrad, Savchenko made films in Moscow, Kiev and Ashkhabad. He returned throughout his career to Ukrainian topics, most notably and often controversially in the films Riders (1939), Bohdan Khmel'nytskyi (1941), Partisans in the Ukrainian Steppes (1942) and Taras Shevchenko (released posthumously in 1951). This article examines Savchenko's role in the emergence of Soviet sound cinema, most notably as director of the first Soviet musical, The Accordion (1934). Based on a poem by Komsomol poet Aleksandr Zharov, who wanted to defend the old village ways of music and dancing and passing the time from the changes brought on by collectivization - specifically, not to give the accordion over to the kulaks, but to preserve it for Komsomol youth. Yet, the film stages the new Komsomol 'enjoyment' music and dancing not in terms of pure unfettered pleasure, but in terms of bodily control: the new Komsomol body is disciplined and rigid, its movements stiff and controlled, while the 'old' kulak body is represented as loose, dissipated and disorderly. This 'old' body must be eliminated from the Soviet ranks (validating the project of collectivization), and this is done in Savchenko's film via the introduction of music to film: sound-on-film technology subordinates the bodily movements of the characters, acting as an external force and subjecting the new disciplined Soviet bodies to a rhythm whose source is located elsewhere, both inside (diegetic) and outside (extra-diegetic) to the image track.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-299
Number of pages19
JournalStudies in Russian and Soviet Cinema
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Ideology
  • Musical comedy
  • Sound
  • Soviet cinema

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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