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Silent Screenwriting in Russia: For and Against the Orthodoxy

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The Modernist Screenplay

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in Screenwriting ((PSIS))

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This chapter explores how the screenplay became an important agent of renewal in post-revolutionary Russian literature. Many authors held that the screenplay opposed the psychological fiction of the nineteenth century by focusing only on the immediately visible side of events. The laconic, non-figurative language of orthodox screenwriting corresponded to the “literature of fact” movement, popular among the Russian avant-gardes. Conventional screenplay style also brought out the irony in the politically subversive scripts of the authors who were critical of the new Soviet regime. While many literary authors celebrated the orthodox screenplay as new literary genre, industry practitioners deplored the deficiency of orthodox screenwriting and instead developed the so-called literary screenplay.

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  1. 1.

    For some reason, Gorki (1952, 239) dates this uprising in his script 1666–1668.

  2. 2.

    One of the earliest Russian film historians, Boris Likhachov, discovered and reprinted in his 1927 study what he and later researchers consider to be the original screenplay for Sten’ka Razin, entitled Stenka Razin; or, The Rebels from the Lower Reaches of the Volga (Sten’ka Razin ili ponizovaya vol’nitsa), written by Vasili Goncharov. This script accompanied Goncharov’s letter to the Union of Playwrights and Composers, where he asked for copyright protection for his work (see Kryuchechnikov 1971, 11). There is, however, no conclusive evidence that this document was indeed the original screenplay and not the description of the completed film.

  3. 3.

    Contrary to what Brik further asserts in the article, Novokshonov later wrote a novel based on the same story, which has been repeatedly mistaken as the basis for Brik’s script. For a more detailed clarification of the script’s genesis, see Valyuzhenich (1993).


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Ksenofontova, A. (2020). Silent Screenwriting in Russia: For and Against the Orthodoxy. In: The Modernist Screenplay. Palgrave Studies in Screenwriting. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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