This article analyzes the unique historical collaboration between the revolutionary Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein (1898–1948), the cultural psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896–1934), and the founder of contemporary neuropsychology, Alexander Luria (1902–1977). Vygotsky’s legacy is associated primarily with the idea that cultural mediation plays a crucial role in the emergence and development of personality and cognition. His collaborator, Luria, laid the foundations of contemporary neuropsychology and demonstrated that cultural mediation also changes the functional architecture of the brain. In my analysis, I demonstrate how the Eisenstein-Vygotsky-Luria collaboration exemplifies a strategy of productive triangulation that harnesses three disciplinary perspectives: those of cultural psychology, neuropsychology, and film theory and practice.
Triangulation and Third Culture Debates
Eisenstein’s Attractions, Mirror Neurons, and Contemporary Action Cinema
This article investigates the concept of cinematic attractions through an analysis of current research on mirror neurons. It suggests that when developing his conception of attractions, Sergei Eisenstein isolated the effect of visceral spectatorship, which today’s science associates with mirror neurons. The involuntary nature of some of Eisenstein’s attractions helps to dissociate them from Tom Gunning’s later conception of the cinema of attractions. Whereas Gunning’s attractions targeted viewers’ conscious engagement, Eisenstein’s attractions tapped into preconscious and automatic responses. Moreover, while Gunning contrasted the cinema of attractions with the cinema of narrative integration, Eisenstein’s attractions were compatible with narrative. Eisenstein’s attractions were a closer precursor to the contemporary impact aesthetic than Gunning’s cinema of spectacle and display, and the concept of attractions, returned to its original sense and paired with the literature on mirroring, may better explain the functions and effects of contemporary action cinema.
Franz A. Birgel
Characterized by Siegfried Kracauer as "the first and last German film that overtly expressed a Communist viewpoint," Kuhle Wampe (1932) is also noteworthy for being the only film on which Bertolt Brecht collaborated from beginning to end, as well as for its controversial censorship in the tumultuous political context of the late Weimar Republic. When set against the background of the 1920 Motion Picture Law and the censorship of two other high-profile films—Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin and Lewis Milestone's All Quiet on the Western Front—the political history of Kuhle Wampe highlights the indecisiveness, fragility, and fears of the German Left as the Nazis prepared to take power.