The moment when the new technologies of photography, film, and the mass distribution of images upset the social and cultural practices of the 20th century is especially striking in Russia, where artistic experiments coincided with great social cataclysms and the search for a new expressivity of the body produced sometimes unparalleled results.
As the Revolution disrupted social norms and traditions, Soviet society experienced a radical change in the gestural code. The abolition of gestural restraints was interpreted as the liberation of natural man: bad manners were re-evaluated as socially acceptable behavior, some body techniques that had been contained within the private space – like washing or calisthenics – were now accepted in the public sphere, and some gestures from the public sphere were transplanted to very private settings. The Soviet cinema, which had to reflect and invent a new social model, used very eclectic sources: the rhetorical gestures of political leaders, the symbolic gestures of the imperial code, the eloquent gestures of theatrical melodrama, the new gestures of decadent flamboyant hysterical bodies, the body language of American film stars, sports culture, and Taylorism.
Film proposed utopian, sometimes contradictory models of the new body behavior that should be imitated in reality. A new society striving to free itself from old rituals was developing a new design of clothing and living spaces, new standards of perception, and a new body language for a new anthropological type: homo soveticus, a specific version of a man of modernity.
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