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[Xmca-l] Re: Fate of a Man (from Misha)

Misha went on to criticise my characterisation of the boy's life-world, and I have to say that I was mistaken about that. The boy's life world is also "difficult" in Vasilyuk's terms. ... Andy

Andy Blunden
On 18/01/2017 7:50 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
Misha, a Russian psychologist who has assisted Mike and me in analysing previous movies, offers this comment on "Fate of a Man."

I need to re-watch this emotional film. After a while I can write something regarding your theme. Glad to hear you. I think we'll have a lot of discussions. Only one thing I want to say now - This movie is not an /illustration/ of perezhivanie but it /is/ really the perezhivanie.

I re-watched the movie. Had a wonderful, unforgettable experience. Andrey, being a simple Soviet carpenter before the War, fell into the millstone of hard, bloody war by fate. He miraculously managed to survive, losing his son on the front, his beloved wife and two daughters in his native village near Voronezh. The war has warped him, forced to endure emotional anguish, physical pain and spiritual suffering. The war has truly wounded his soul, humiliated him as a man, but he remained a man of great kindness, taking care of the orphan boy, treating him like his own son. The film shows massive heroism of the Soviet people. Reading the story /Destiny of a Man/ by Mikhail Sholokhov and watching the movie of Sergey Bondarchuk with the same name, you can understand what it means to love the Motherland truly. Pain and anxiety for homeland and personal tragedy of the individual and the specific family were organically fused in the fate of Andrei Sokolov.

Andrey's suffering is simultaneously private and public. But the hero of the film found the strength in himself not to fall down, and continue to work for the use and benefit of the country in the post-war period, and, staying alone, to raise the kid without assistants, the child who had experienced the intensive grief because of losing parents. The peculiarity of perezhivanie in this film is closely interwoven with the social disaster caused by the treachery and cruelty of the Germans in the great Patriotic war, and personal grief associated with the loss of his beloved family. The score of V. Basner naturally complements and musically ornaments this movie. It resembles the mood of Shostakovich's symphonies, where you can observe fear, terror and mental confusion, but it remains with kind and optimistic fundamentals. Sincere, not-sugary kindness and human warmth emanates from this strong and powerful film. The power of the spirit of this man is the good (kind and strong) character of such person, united with the solid beliefs of a healthy moral order.

The film triggers a strong, intense perezhivanie from the audience, where an experience of art even gives priority way to perezhivanie of life itself, without losing at the same time tonality of high art.

On 18/01/2017 12:39 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
Thank you Marc! It was the third "plane" which was my intention in providing "Fate of a Man" for discussion. You picked out what were for me also the main (but by no means the only) instances of perezhivanija in this movie.

It seems to me that Sokolov (the author) offers one perezhivanie in particular as the main theme of the movie. At the beginning of the movie, the man and boy walk up the path to the camera and at the end of the movie they walk off together again. So this is the central theme. As you say, when Sokolov's family has all been killed, even his talented war-hero son who was going to be a famous mathematician, his life has become meaningless. I really liked your reflections of Sokolov's reflections too. He sees the young orphan boy who, he discovers, has no family and doesn't even know what town he comes from, but is aimlessly living on pieces of rubbish. He sees that the two of them are in the same situation. So after some time mulling this over a they sit together in the truck, he lies to the boy and tells him that he is the boy's father, and they embrace. But the boy questions this and he reasserts his claim and the boy accepts this. The man is able to define a new meaning for his life; he has done this autonomously without the help of a therapist, but he still needs another, the boy, to embody that meaning. But he knows it is his own invention. The boy on the other hand has to be made to believe it is true; he is not sufficiently mature to manufacture this meaning himself, but as a child he can be guided by an adult. As you say, Marc, it is very significant when Sokolov tells us how he is now, again, worried about his own death. What if I died in my sleep? that would be a shock for my son!

For me, this reflection causes me to look back on the man's whole struggle during the war: in the first phase he does not differentiate between his life as a father and husband and his life as a Soviet citizen - war is his duty and he is confident, as is everyone else, of victory. His bravery in driving his truck to the front line under fire reflects the fact that he has never imagined his own death. Then he finds himself prostrate before 2 Nazi soldiers who we assume are going among the wounded shooting anyone who has survived. But surprisingly, he is allowed to live, but is to be used as a slave. Sokolov has been confronted by his own mortality for the first time and he chooses life, but accepts slavery (Sartre and Hegel both thematize this moment in their philosophy). In this second phase of Sokolov's life he is a survivor. Everything hinges on surviving and returning to his wife and family. As you point out, Marc, his later reflections on this are particularly poignant, when he discovers the futility of this hope. Eventually, the life of forced labour becomes unbearable. He cries out: "Why are we forced to dig 3 cubic metres when 1 cubic meter is enough for a grave!" Sokolov has accepted and embraced death after all. (Transition to the third phase.) To his German masters this is an unendurable act of defiance. As David points out, there are flaws in the scene which follows, but ... he confronts his own death defiantly, stares it in the eye, spits on it, and his life again gains meaning as a "brave Soviet soldier" unafraid of death even in such an impossible moment. Not only does he survive, but takes the Nazi Colonel prisoner and hands the war plans over to the Red Army. Now, when he is offered the chance to return to his wife as a war hero he declines and asks to be sent back to the front. His life has adopted this new meaning which casts his life as a father into the shade. He no longer fears death. But he is persuaded to take time off and learns of the death of his family. As Marc relates, the continued survival of his son, who is now also a war hero, provides continued meaning and integrates the two themes in his life. This takes work, as Marc points out, and he has the assistance of an older man, in achieving this redefinition of his life. But tragically, with the death of his son (and NB the end of the war, albeit in victory) his life is again without meaning. Fourth phase. He has survived, but has no purpose. By becoming a father again (Fifth phase), he regains the fear of death and meaning in his life. It is real work, and we witness this psychological turmoil as he copes with the idea that this scruffy orphan boy could be a son to him, and eventually he manages it.

The transition between each phase is a critical period during which Sokolov's personality is transformed. Note also, that there is a premonition of this perezhivanie in Sokolov's earlier life: his family is wiped out in the Civil War and the famine of 1922, then he meets his wife-to-be, also raised in an orphanage, and they together create a life and have 17 happy years before the Nazi invasion intrudes. So from the beginning of the movie we are introduced to the main theme.

These are the main moments in the movie, which caused me to select it for discussion rather than any other movie. Also, there is no doubt that in producing this movie in 1958 the Soviet government was engaged with its people, in a process of collective perezhivanie and by reflecting on the collective perezhivanie during the period of the war, before and after, they aim to assist the people in collectively assigning meaning to this terrible suffering and like the man and his "son" walking again into the future. As a propaganda movie, of course, it is open to much criticism, but that is hardly the point. I appreciate Marc's analysis in terms of the other concepts he has introduced. I wouldn't mind a recap on these. In terms of Vasilyuk's concepts, Sokolov's life-world is *simple and difficult*. The boy's life world is *simple and easy*.

Can we continue to discuss "Fate of a Man", while I open another movie for analysis? I think there are at least 10 subscribers to this list who have published in learned journals on the topic of perezhivanie in childhood. Perhaps one of you would like to reflect on the boy's perezhivanija?


Andy Blunden
On 18/01/2017 5:14 AM, Marc Clarà wrote:
Hi, all,

and thank you, Andy, for sharing this amazing film, which I didn't know. I think it will be very useful to share and discuss our respective views on

In my view, the film could be analyzed in terms of perezhivanie in three different planes. First, we could consider the person who watches the film, and we could study how the meaning she forms for the film restructures her relationship with aspects of her real life -such as, for example, her own death or the death of a beloved one, etc. (perhaps this is a little bit like what Beth and Monica, or Veresov and Fleer, do with their study of playworlds?). In this plane, which would be perhaps the most naturalistic one, the film could be studied as an human-made cultural artifact which restuctures psychological functions; here, the meaning formed for the film by who watches it and uses it as mediator in her relation to her real life
would be an m-perezhivanie.

In a second plane, we could proceed as if the film was real life, and we could consider Sokolov telling his story to the man he meets by the river (a little bit like Carla telling her story to me). In this plane, Sokolov's narrative (i.e., what is showed to us as narrated flashback) could be considered as a cultural artifact that Sokolov uses to relate to all what happened to him. At this plane, the meaning of this narrative would be the m-perezhivanie that, in that moment, mediates the relationship between Sokolov and the war events he experienced years ago (but these events are still very present to him, so although relating to past events, there is here a Sokolov's activity [towards the past war events] which is in present -this echoes Christopher when, within our conversations, said: “Part of this might also be a question of what it means to describe and represent one's own perezhivanie figuratively/narratively (whether to others, or to oneself), as opposed to living that perezhivanie. Especially if the attempt to capture/represent one's own perezhivanie is, perhaps, also central to
the living of it?”

In a third plane, we could proceed as if Sokolov's narration was not a retrospective narration, but the on-time sequence of events with on-time Sokolov's explanation of these events (in the moments in which the narrator voice is assumed within the flashback). In this plane, there are several interesting perezhivanie phenomena. Clearly, there is a Sokolov's activity of experiencing-as-struggle, which initiates when he realizes that all his family, except one son, had been killed 2 years ago. At this moment, his life becomes meaningless; the meaning (m-perezhivanie) he uses to relate to all his life (including the past) at this moment is expressed in his conversation with his oncle: “it's got to be that this life of mine is nothing but a nightmare!”. In this moment, Sokolov's past in the prision camp becomes also meaningless: then, his link to life (the m-perezhivanie that made being alive meaningful to him) was meeting his family; but at that time his family was already dead, so when he discovers it, he realizes that this m-perezhivanie (the idea of meeting his family) was linking him to death, not to life, so all his efforts to surviving become meaningless: “Every night, when I was a prisioner, I talked with them. Now it turns out that for two years I was talking with the dead?”. In this conversation, however, his oncle offers him an alternative m-perezhivanie to relate to his life: he still has a son, so the m-perehivanie of meeting his family can still turns Sokolov's life meaningful: “you've got to go on living. You have to find Anatoly. When the war is over, your son will get married, you will live with them. You will take up your carpentry again, play with your grandkids”. It takes some time to Sokolov to enter into this m-perezhivanie, but he does it and his life becomes meaningful again: “and then, unexpectedly, I've got a gleam of sunlight”. But, then, Anatoly also dies. How to keep living? Here, Sokolov holds the m-perezhivanie that linked him to life until that moment, and therefore, he needs a son; pretending being the father of Vanya turns his life meaningful again.

Another interesting thing, still at that level, is how Sokolov's relation with his own immediate death changes along the different occasions in which
he faces it. I thing here there are examples of
experiencing-as-contemplation -in my view, this is not
experiencing-as-struggle because the situation of impossibility (the immediate death) is removed existentially (Sokolov's life is given back to him), so that there is not a permanent situation of impossibility which is initially meaningless and is turned into meaningful. In each occasion in which Sokolov is faced with his immediate death, the m-perezhivanie that mediates this relationship is different. When he is captured, his m-perezhivanie is expressed as: “here's my death coming after me”. When he is conducted to meet the nazi official, the m-perezhivanie is expressed as: “the end of your misery”, “to my death and my release of this torment, I will drink”. In the first, the death is running after Sokolov; in the second, it is Sokolov happily going to meet death. Later, at the end of the film, he faces his immediate death again, and the m-perezhivanie is expressed as: “I'm really worried that I might die in my sleep, and that
would frighten my little son”.

Well, just some thoughts after watching this wonderful film.

Best regards,


2017-01-15 0:06 GMT+01:00 Christopher Schuck <schuckcschuck@gmail.com>:

Yes, definitely that article! And specifically, when I used "pivoting" I couldn't help but think of Beth's earlier example about how a child will use a stick as a pivot for a horse. Perhaps a somewhat different
application but related, no?

On Sat, Jan 14, 2017 at 4:06 PM, Alfredo Jornet Gil <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>

Chris, all,

your post is totally relevant to Beth's and Monica's article in the special issue. They write about film and perezhivanie (quoting Sobchack)
the following:

The reason that film allows us to glimpse the future is that there is a connection between filmic time and ‘real’ time: “The images of a film
in the world as a temporal flow, within finitude and situation. Indeed,
fascination of the film is that it does not transcend our
of temporality, but rather that it seems to partake of it, to share it”
(1992, p. 60).

And later

"Specifically, the way that the flow of time becomes multidirectional is that “rehearsals make it necessary to think of the future in such a way
to create a past” (1985, p. 39). As Schechner ex-plains: “In a very real way the future – the project coming into existence through the process of rehearsal – determines the past: what will be kept from earlier
or from the “source ma-terials” (1985, p. 39)."


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
on behalf of Christopher Schuck <schuckcschuck@gmail.com>
Sent: 14 January 2017 21:43
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Fate of a Man

But that's both the limitation and strength of art or fictional narrative as opposed to real life, isn't it? That art focuses our attention and highlights certain features in a way that is idealized and artificially "designed" to convey something more clearly and purely (but less organically and authentically) than it would be conveyed in the course of living it, or observing someone else living it? One way to get around
would be, as David says, to analyze the film in terms of clues as to the stages of emergence. But maybe another way to use the film would be to
it not so much as a complete, self-sufficient "example" of perezhivanie,
a *tool *for pivoting back and forth between the concept of perezhivanie
imaginatively constructed (through fiction), and the concept of perezhivanie as imaginatively constructed (through our real living experience and observation of it). So, it would be the *pivoting* between these two manifestations of the concept (designed vs. evolved, as David
it) that reveals new insights about perezhivanie, rather than
the concept from the film per se.

On Sat, Jan 14, 2017 at 3:08 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>

I think there's a good reason why Andy started a new thread on this:
he's a
very tidy thinker (quite unlike yours truly) and he knows that one
why xmca threads are seldom cumulative is that they digress to related
problems without solving the immmediate ones.

Yes, of course, a film allows us to consider an example of
but it is a designed perezhivanie rather than an evolved one; it
explicitly display the various stages of emergence required for a
analysis, unless we analyze it not as a complete and finished work of
but instead for clues as to the stages of its creation (the way that,
example, "Quietly Flows the Don" was analyzed to determine its

I remember that In the original short story, the schnapps drinking scene seemed like pure sleight of hand: an artistically gratuitous
of what eventually gave Soviet social realism such a bad name.

David Kellogg
Macquarie University

On Sat, Jan 14, 2017 at 10:04 PM, Carol Macdonald <

Fellow XMCa-ers

I have watched it through now, thank you Andy, but right now only
psychological categories come to mind. I will watch it again and in
meanwhile let my fellows with more recent experience of
the discussion further.

It is a kind of timeless story, and modern film techniques would
more explicit. At the least I would say it has for me a Russian understanding of suffering, perhaps because of their unique
it. But having said that, WWII must have generated other similar experiences, apart from the first part about Andrei's family dying in


On 14 January 2017 at 02:15, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

I watched it in two parts with subtitles:



Andy Blunden
On 14/01/2017 2:35 AM, Beth Ferholt wrote:

Thank you for taking us to a shared example. I think that
having a

Carol A Macdonald Ph.D (Edin)
Cultural Historical Activity Theory
Honorary Research Fellow: Department of Linguistics, Unisa
alternative email address: tmacdoca@unisa.ac.za