Orphans of the East

Orphans of the East

Postwar Eastern European Cinema and the Revolutionary Subject
Constantin Parvulescu
Distribution: World
Publication date: 06/08/2015
Format: Paperback 16 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-01685-0
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Unlike the benevolent orphan found in Charlie Chaplin's The Kid or the sentimentalized figure of Little Orphan Annie, the orphan in postwar Eastern European cinema takes on a more politically fraught role, embodying the tensions of individuals struggling to recover from war and grappling with an unknown future under Soviet rule. By exploring films produced in postwar Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Poland, Parvulescu traces the way in which cinema envisioned and debated the condition of the post-World War II subject and the "new man" of Soviet-style communism. In these films, the orphan becomes a cinematic trope that interrogates socialist visions of ideological institutionalization and re-education and stands as a silent critic of the system’s shortcomings or as a resilient spirit who has resisted capture by the political apparatus of the new state.

Author Bio

Constantin Parvulescu is Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society at University of Navarra, Spain. He is editor (with Robert A. Rosenstone) of A Companion to the Historical Film.


“By using the trope of an orphan Constantin Parvulescu demonstrates how films made in countries such as Hungary, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania reflected on the specific problems affecting Eastern Europe after 1945, such as the loss of population, economic backwardness, the legacy of the Holocaust, while engaging in wider debates, especially the superiority of socialism over capitalism. Economically and elegantly written, it demonstrates that cinema produced in the periphery can be central to our understanding of films as ideological tools. This is one of the best books on Eastern European cinema ever written.”
 — Ewa Mazierska, University of Central Lancashire

“This groundbreaking study figures the orphan as a key cinematic trope for interrogating socialist representations in feature films produced in postwar Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Poland.  The author's comparative, transnational perspective in chapters devoted to close textual analyses of each narrative demonstrates the value of reading film as a primary source for understanding the relationships among state power, intergenerational trauma, and revolutionary subjectivity.  Parvulescu's highly original portrayal of a landscape of parentless children evokes the trauma of war and the specificity of the socialist experiment in the former Eastern Bloc.  ”
 — Catherine Portuges, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

“A stunning, brilliant, and very rich book!”
 — Robert A. Rosenstone, author of History of Film/Film on History

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Socialist Experience and Beyond
1. Creatures of the Event: Subject Production in the Reconstruction Era
2. Producing Revolutionary Consciousness in the Times of Radical Socialism
3. The Testifying Orphan: Rethinking Modernity's Optimism
4. Children of the Revolution: The Rebirth of the Subject in Revisionist Discourse
5. The Family of Victims: Stalinism Revisited in the 1980s
Epilogue: The Abandoned Offspring of Late Socialism
Works Cited

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