UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


SERS0045 Russian Cinema: Innovation and Experiment

UCL Credits: 15

Total Learning Hours: 150

ECTS: 7.5

Level: Advanced


Full Year

Module Coordinator: Dr Rachel Morley

Taught By: Dr Philip Cavendish

To find out more about this module, please contact the Module Coordinator.

Weekly Contact Hours:  3.0 (1 hour lecture and 2 hour film screening per week)
Prerequisites: None
Compulsory Module for: None

Summative Assessment

Two coursework essays of 2000-3000 words (100%)

Formative Assessment

Students are encouraged to write two pieces of coursework (c.2000 words) as preparation for their assessed coursework essays. The formative essays cannot be on the same film or topic as the assessed coursework essays.

Module Outline

The films covered in this module belong to the experimental tradition in twentieth century Russian and Soviet cinema. These works rejected the mainstream cinematic conventions of the day and sought to subvert them and explore new means of visual expression. Students will be expected to engage with a range of theoretical texts where relevant. There will be accompanying lectures which discuss technical and aesthetic developments in cinema generally from the beginnings of cinema to the present day. The chronological period covered by this course ranges from the pre-revolutionary silent period through to the early 2000s. The module is divided into four parts, each part covering a period of five weeks, with four films studied in each part along with one accompanying lecture. You are given detailed background information on each film (the lecture notes on Moodle) which raises points of discussion for the tutorial hour. Russian is not a prerequisite for this module because the films selected, with one exception, exist with English subtitles. Please note that this module is assessed by coursework assignment only, and that therefore you are at something of a disadvantage if you have no prior experience of discussing/analysing film in written form.

Indicative Texts

  • Philip Cavendish, ‘The Hand that Turns the Handle: Camera Operators and the Poetics of the Camera in Pre-Revolutionary Russia’, Slavonic and East European Review, 82, 2004, 201-45
  • Julian Graffy, ‘Cinema’, in Catriona Kelly and David Shepherd (eds), Russian Cultural Studies: An Introduction, Oxford, 1998, pp. 165-191
  • Jay Leyda, Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film, 3rd edition, Princeton, NJ, 1983
  • Barry Salt, Film Style & Technology: History & Analysis, 2nd (expanded) edition, London, 1992
  • The Film Factory: Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents, ed. and trans. by Richard Taylor, co-edited with an introduction by Ian Christie, London, 1994



Course Code



Full Year AffiliatesRegister for SERS0045As Above 7.5
Affiliates here for Term 1 onlyRegister for SERS0080Coursework (100%) 3.75
Affiliates here for Terms 2 and 3 onlyRegister for SERS0099Coursework (100%) 3.75

Please note: This outline is accurate at the time of publication. Minor amendments may be made prior to the start of the academic year.