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The Promise of Collective Authorship: Bela Balazs’s Move to the Soviet Union (1931-1946)
Eszter Polonyi, unpublished conference contribution

Abstract: Balazs belongs to a generation of Central and Eastern European critical thinker, cultural philosopher and writer that is often credited with exporting Marxist cultural analysis to North America, but about whom very little is known to English-language scholars. The fifteen years he spent in the Soviet Union are among the most undocumented of his career, even though this was when he wrote the text that would become his most widely-cited book, Theory of the Film. This paper examines Balazs’s decision to flee to the Soviet Union from Germany in 1931. While it has long been assumed that Balazs’s decision to move East rather than West—the route otherwise taken by colleagues of his such as Siegfried Kracauer, Michael Curtiz or Rudolf Arnheim—was due to commitments of a political nature, this paper evaluates Balazs’s options from the viewpoint of the scenarist’s rising importance within competing modes of film production. Pre-constituting a film by way of a plan, sketch or model, the scenario promised different types of leverage over production to capitalist and communist systems. Conceived of as a commodity blueprint in Hollywood, the scenario appeared as it was a means of enhancing the effectiveness of production and as a tool of capital, whereas, for Balazs at least, the scenario was a source of sensory and spiritual attunement between an assemblage of humans and machines. Understood as offering vision rather than oversight, collective authorship rather than collective control, the script appeared to complement the utopian arguments driving the Soviet film industry.
Keywords: film studies, industrial design, Soviet studies, authorship
Published in RUNG: 14.12.2020; Views: 2069; Downloads: 0
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Írás fénnyel: Balázs Béla a forgatókönyv megjelenéséről
Eszter Polonyi, 2020, original scientific article

Abstract: Film was fast becoming the dominant form of narrative discourse by the time of the establishment of the great European film studios in the 1940s. While many writers regarded film as undercutting other systems of narrative delivery, namely print, others discerned potential in the new industry for a form of authorship that possessed attributes of the prior, literary regime of writing. This piece considers the case made for literary authorship in and through film by the Hungarian film theorist and film scenarist, Bela Balazs. Balazs’s bases his claim regarding the return of literature on the scenario. While the scenario is habitually defined as the verbal projection of a film, Balazs also locates its effects at the level of the photographic image, so that film is read as symptomatic of the language of the scenario. Tying developments in the conventions of film editing to the writing techniques of the scenarist, Balazs describes the authorship of the scenarist as both palpable and yet non-visible, which this piece argues explains the obscurity into which historic „film authors” have fallen, including Balazs himself. Although Balazs makes every effort to recognize the scenario, when it comes to acknowledging the scenarist, there is a distinct inability and unwillingness to designate them as the scenario’s author.
Keywords: film studies, film theory, industrial design, Soviet studies, literary theory
Published in RUNG: 10.12.2020; Views: 2372; Downloads: 0
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