Acasă Articole RTR The Artist as Realist: Jean Mihail and the De-Alienating Effects of Socialist...

The Artist as Realist: Jean Mihail and the De-Alienating Effects of Socialist Film


The Artist as Realist: Jean Mihail and the De-Alienating Effects of Socialist Film

Abstract: This article offers a discussion of the aesthetics of realism, which represents a central analytic category in post-socialist debates about Romanian cinema. While many disagreements have concentrated on realism as a technique for either documenting reality or disenchantment, I deploy realism as a dialectical method to understand the work of a pioneer of Romanian cinema, Jean Mihail. In criticising current models of realism, I draw on Georg Lukács’ Marxist theory to argue that realism offers not only a strong account of historical changes but also that it provides the basis of an anti-capitalist critique. Because a materialist method can illuminate shifts in film aesthetics in their social context, I concentrate on Mihail’s evolution from his 1925 social realist film Manasse (Romania) to his corporatist works at the end of the 1930s to his 1949 socialist realist documentary Orașul nu doarme niciodată [The City That Never Sleeps] (Romania). Also, I argue that realism goes beyond rethinking cinema as a technique of defamiliarisation by insisting on the de-alienating effects of cinema. In contrast to recent reformulations of realism (Christian Ferencz-Flatz) inspired by Walter Benjamin, I show that Mihail’s films constitute an important starting point to rethink a socially conscious realism.

Keywords: Jean Mihail; Georg Lukács; Walter Benjamin; Romanian cinema; socialism; realism; materialism; Marxism; alienation; socially conscious cinema.

Citation suggestion: Popa, Bogdan. “The Artist as Realist: Jean Mihail and the De-Alienating Effects of Socialist Film” Transilvania, no. 10 (2022): 78-89.



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