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A Talk by Professor Jeremy Hicks of Queen Mary University of London

The first stage of the Research Team Project was completed by Jeremy Hicks's talk "The Oedipal text in Pudovkin's 1926 adaptation of Gorky’s Mother". This talk led to a stimulating discussion in which our guests took part, among them the film historians Nikolai Izvolov, Svetlana Ishevskaia, Sergei Kapterev and Evgenii Margolit, and the film director Evgenii Tsymbal.

"The Oedipal text in Pudovkin's adaptation of Gorky’s Mother" (abstract)

The relationship between a film adaptation and its original source is traditionally seen through the prism of fidelity, of a comparison with the source in which any deviation is seen as a shortcoming, with the assumption that maximum fidelity is desirable. However, Vsevolod Pudovkin’s 1926 film adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s popular socialist novel of 1906, The Mother is widely seen as a landmark in cinema history, whereas even Maxim Gorky himself saw his own novel as an unsuccessful work of literature, written in haste, with an overly agitational purpose. In this paper, I will argue that one way in which the film enriches the original material is through Pudovkin’s refusal simply to transpose the plot to cinema, through his choice instead to radically rewrite the story, inserting an Oedipal plot line that is absent in the original novel. Ultimately Pudovkin and his screenwriter, Natan Zarkhi, do this in an attempt to reimagine Gorky’s story for the intellectual climate of the 1920s and debates about the relation of Freud’s theories to Marxism.