Pavel Lungin has been a dynamic, award-winning figure on the Russian film scene for nearly forty years, approximately twenty-five of which he has spent in the director’s chair. Lungin’s success in courting a range of international and domestic financiers has permitted him to work not only through rough economic patches in crisis-ridden post-Soviet Russia, but has also afforded him relative liberty to craft films in accordance with his own designs, and not necessarily in response to public appetites. This artistic freedom has redounded to a diverse oeuvre, which incorporates comedies and tragedies, blockbusters and art-house films, original screenplays and literary adaptations, as well as genre and genre-bending films. Lungin’s storied career has most certainly warranted a monograph-length scholarly examination. My study provides the first analytical survey in any language of Lungin’s directorial corpus.
A common thread running through Lungin’s diverse films is their showcasing of a wide range of topical and historical male typologies that critique traditional notions of culturally viable heteromasculinity in the Russian context. Having developed such a cinematic modus operandi, Lungin appears to have distinguished his films from most post-Soviet mainstream fare. Seemingly in response to fervent pleas by cinema luminaries Daniil Dondurei and Nikita Mikhalkov, successful Russian directors have by and large featured idealized, palliative masculine heroes as a discursive antidote to the Russian public’s pessimistic perception of men as perpetually inebriated, short-lived deadbeats. My dissertation argues that, contrary to this trend, Lungin’s films consistently foreground alternative, unconventional, and even marginalized models of Russian masculinity to reform or overthrow previously valorized types. Lungin champions such traits as the creative ingenuity, proactive passivity, and physical longsuffering of artists, holy fools, and religious leaders in contrast to the brute force, competitive drive, and blind compliance stereotypically attributed to the soldiers, businessmen, and romantic leads of recent record-breaking Russian blockbusters. In other words, while mainstream Russian filmmakers have been toiling to reinvigorate their industry on the backs of sympathetic, redemptive masculine heroes—and provide a boost to public morale—Lungin has been offering up critical take after critical take not only on traditionally ideal, socially sanctioned masculinity, but also on topically jeopardized, discursively ostracized masculine figures. I demonstrate that Lungin accomplishes this feat through a system of juxtaposition and triangulation of the various positive and negative, yet always culturally resonant male characters in his films.
Most significantly, my study directs specific attention to the reality of multiple masculinities in Russian film, utilizing Lungin’s work as possibly the most dependable purveyor of a rich array of manly and less-than-manly typologies, not only heroes such as Danila Bagrov in both Brother films. In adopting a concept of the cinematic gaze as dialogical and textually embedded, my dissertation examines the possibility of manifold representations of masculinity, as well as multiple points of spectatorial identification. Thus, my study treads fresh ground by expanding the boundaries of what may be presented and viewed as socially and aesthetically productive masculinity in Russian film.