Magnificent Settings: The East Prussian colony in (Post)Soviet cinema
CBEES Advanced Seminar with Jan Levchenko, Professor of Cultural Studies, Higher School of Economics, Moscow
Speaker: Jan Levchenko, Professor of Cultural Studies, Higher School of Economics, Moscow
Discussant: Irina Sandomirskaja, Professor of Cultural Studies, CBEES, Södertörn University
Kaliningrad is a two-layer city. It combines cultures that were close in the imperial period of Russian history and diametrically diverged over the past 100 years. The Soviet Union used the captured lands of East Prussia as a distant western foothold, an ice-free harbour and a setting for films about WWII and / or about its memory. "A kerosene seller's wife" by Alexander Kaydanovsky (1988) has become the culminating masterpiece in the range of "military shades" of Kaliningrad in Soviet cinema. In the Post-Soviet era the city is being re-invented as a space of estrangement. In particular, Mika Kaurismaki shoots Kaliningrad in his brutal "Honey Baby" (2004) to illustrate notions of loss and poverty. Nowadays Kaliningrad has become the scene of the hard boiled detective stories, purchased under license from producers of European TV series. The reason is that here you can portray Europe without leaving Russia. The present paper is to tell about the periods of cinematic adaptation of Kaliningrad on the way from material trophy to symbolic resource.
Jan Levchenko (b. 1974), PhD, prof. of Cultural Studies, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, graduated from the University of Tartu, Estonia, also MA in Art History (European University in St. Petersburg, Russia). Since 2009 he has been teaching in the School of Cultural Studies in National Research University "Higher School of Economics" (Moscow, Russia). His books include Conceptual glossary of Tartu-Moscow Semiotic School (co-edited, Tartu, 1999), The Other Science. Russian Formalists in Search of Biography (Moscow, 2012), The Epoch of Estrangement. Russian Formalism and Contemporary Humanities (co-edited, Moscow, 2017). In 2017-2020 he worked as an editor-in-chief of the web educational platform Open University (openuniversity.io). Currently he teaches courses in film and visual studies in the private School of Art Collectors and Experts and Free University-Moscow.