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[Xmca-l] Re: Fate of a Man

For some reason I couldn't see the subtitles showing up in Fate of a Man
the first time, so I started to watch it dubbed in English instead. But the
mannered Hollywood accents definitely were not exactly helping to convey
the "real Russian soul" Robbins talks about! It felt like I was being asked
to imagine Cary Grant inhabiting Andrei's perezhivanie-ing body. So, I
started over with the subtitled version.

Here are some quick initial reflections: wonderful movie, and in Andrei one
of the more memorable characters I have seen. But I also found myself
thinking how big a difference there is between watching a film on my
12-inch laptop with headphones (my only option at the moment), and sitting
back and immersing yourself in a darkened theater or at least on a
widescreen TV without any other distractions, allowing ourselves to "fall
into this space" by virtue of our very awareness of the illusion generated
by the frame, as Beth and Monica put it. This difference becomes even
bigger if the screen you're viewing it on also enables you to quickly check
email from time to time during the movie, as many people do these days. If
we are to consider the film experience as a model (analogy?) for
perezhivanie or even a certain kind of simulation of it, this effect that
occurs when we lose ourselves in a film would be undermined by an
especially small frame or poor viewing conditions. At what point does "the
knowledge that the movement we experience is just an illusion" (p. 2 in
their article) undermine the perezhivanie-like quality of film as opposed
to forming an integral part of it? And, might the way distraction functions
to undermine perezhivanie in the context of film in any way mirror how we
"distract" ourselves in the course of living lives from conscious
engagement with the perezhivanie we are otherwise undergoing? Is viewing a
film on a 12-inch screen while checking email and calling it an
"experience" in any way analogous to the self-deceptions and escapes we
engage in during the course of either experience-as-struggle or
experience-as-contemplation? I did not check email while watching Fate of a
Man, by the way. Just in case you're wondering.

As for the film itself: I was struck by the incidental way in which the
earlier loss of his childhood family is introduced and acknowledged at the
very outset, and how this contrasts with the dramatic ongoing perezhivanie
that ensues going forward: it is as if this early loss is "taken for
granted" as also part of the Russian experience.  We are not privy to any
perezhivanie he might have presumably undergone before that point; it is
simply not "within the frame." At several points, I was reminded of
Satyajit's World of Apu (last movie in his trilogy), where there was also a
set of early losses and a relationship formed with a "son." Have any of you
seen it? I think it would also be a good example of perezhivanie.

I would not want to overemphasize the use of literary motifs, since
Bondarchuk was presumably not making any references to the concept of
perezhivanie as such. But there were several devices that evoked Beth and
Monica's passage from To The Lighthouse ("Time stand still here"), and
their metaphor of a life (or more specifically, a perezhivanie within a
life) spiraling back over itself to bring two disparate moments into
juxtaposition in a way such that "your life becomes three-dimensional
again" (p. 2). One occurs in the various scenes when Andrei gazes up at the
sky in reverie and all we see are clouds, or the scene where he lies in the
grass after his first escape and the camera pans back as it becomes very
quiet, leaving nothing but him swallowed up in the vastness of nature.
There is a certain timeless quality to these scenes, a sense that he is
momentarily transcending the linear temporal flow of his life as he either
stands outside it and "stands still" in it. It could be a thousand years
passing by in those clouds, or just the 17 years of his second phase; it
suddenly doesn't matter. Another thing I noticed was the use of the two
musical themes: the love song the accordionist plays for him and Irina, and
the festive music incongruously piped in at the concentration camp during
that amazing scene around Part 1, minute 45 where the prisoners are being
marched in and the crematorium is going full blast down the road. At some
point (I couldn't relocate it) Andrei has a flashback where he revisits the
love song and his memories of Irina; then at minute 20 in Part 2, while
processing his family's death after coming home from the war, he finds
himself hearing the concentration camp song on the record player and is
suddenly transported back to that traumatic experience. Yet he does not
smash the record right away; he stares at it for a minute, almost as if he
is resituating these two moments in relation to each other.

Perhaps I am overanalyzing, but I found both these motifs to speak to Beth
and Monica's examples in the way they bring two moments back into contact
with each other.

Finally, Mike and Andy's discussion in the Misha thread about the watching
of a film functioning as perezhivanie for those viewers for whom it
reflects and repeats their own experience, raises a question about the
difference between extended perezhivanie and the personal re-enactment of
one's perezhivanie within a much smaller time scale (the two or three hours
spent watching the movie). I hope at some point we could delve more into
this issue of time frame and time scale in various forms of perezhivanie.


On Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 8:39 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> 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
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> Andy Blunden
> http://home.mira.net/~andy
> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
> 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
>> perezhivanie.
>> 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,
>> Marc.
>> 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
>>> >
>>> wrote:
>>> 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
>>> exist
>>>> in the world as a temporal flow, within finitude and situation. Indeed,
>>> the
>>>> fascination of the film is that it does not transcend our
>>> lived-experience
>>>> 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
>>> as
>>>> 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
>>> rehearsals
>>>> or from the “source ma-terials” (1985, p. 39)."
>>>> Alfredo
>>>> ________________________________________
>>>> 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
>>> this
>>>> 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
>>> view
>>>> it not so much as a complete, self-sufficient "example" of perezhivanie,
>>> as
>>>> a *tool *for pivoting back and forth between the concept of perezhivanie
>>> as
>>>> 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
>>> put
>>>> it) that reveals new insights about perezhivanie, rather than
>>> understanding
>>>> the concept from the film per se.
>>>> On Sat, Jan 14, 2017 at 3:08 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
>>>> wrote:
>>>> 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
>>>> reason
>>>> 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
>>>> "perezhivanie",
>>>>> but it is a designed perezhivanie rather than an evolved one; it
>>>> doesn't
>>>> explicitly display the various stages of emergence required for a
>>>> genetic
>>>> analysis, unless we analyze it not as a complete and finished work of
>>>> art
>>>> but instead for clues as to the stages of its creation (the way that,
>>>> for
>>>> example, "Quietly Flows the Don" was analyzed to determine its
>>>>> authenticity).
>>>>> I remember that In the original short story, the schnapps drinking
>>>>> scene seemed like pure sleight of hand: an artistically gratuitous
>>>> example
>>>>> 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 <
>>>> carolmacdon@gmail.com
>>>> wrote:
>>>>> Fellow XMCa-ers
>>>>>> I have watched it through now, thank you Andy, but right now only
>>>>> empirical
>>>>>> psychological categories come to mind.  I will watch it again and in
>>>>> the
>>>>> meanwhile let my fellows with more recent experience of
>>>>> /perezhivanie/
>>>> take
>>>>>> the discussion further.
>>>>>> It is a kind of timeless story, and modern film techniques would
>>>>> perhaps
>>>>> be
>>>>>> more explicit. At the least I would say it has for me a Russian
>>>>>> understanding of suffering, perhaps because of their unique
>>>>> experience
>>>> of
>>>>> it. But having said that, WWII must have generated other similar
>>>>>> experiences, apart from the first part about Andrei's family dying in
>>>>> the
>>>>> famine.
>>>>>> Carol
>>>>>> On 14 January 2017 at 02:15, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
>>>>>> I watched it in two parts with subtitles:
>>>>>>> http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x16w7fg_destiny-of-a-man-
>>>>>>> 1959-pt-1_creation
>>>>>>> http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x16wat4_destiny-of-a-man-
>>>>>>> 1959-pt-2_creation
>>>>>>> Andy
>>>>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>>>> Andy Blunden
>>>>>>> http://home.mira.net/~andy
>>>>>>> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-
>>>>>> decision-making
>>>>> 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