Not According to Plan
Filmmaking under Stalin
In Not According to Plan, Maria Belodubrovskaya reveals the limits on the power of even the most repressive totalitarian regimes to create and control propaganda. Belodubrovskaya’s revisionist account of Soviet filmmaking between 1930 and 1953 highlights the extent to which the Soviet film industry remained stubbornly artisanal in its methods, especially in contrast to the more industrial approach of the Hollywood studio system. Not According to Plan shows that even though Josef Stalin recognized cinema as a "mighty instrument of mass agitation and propaganda" and strove to harness the Soviet film industry to serve the state, directors such as Eisenstein, Alexandrov, and Pudovkin had far more creative control than did party-appointed executives and censors.
The Stalinist party-state, despite explicit intent and grandiose plans to build a "Soviet Hollywood" that would release a thousand features per year, failed to construct even a modest mass propaganda cinema. Belodubrovskaya’s wealth of evidence shows that the regime’s desire to disseminate propaganda on a vast scale was consistently at odds with its compulsion to control quality and with Stalin’s intolerance of imperfection. Not According to Plan is a landmark in Soviet cultural history and the global history of cinema.
Maria Belodubrovskaya is Assistant Professor of Film in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.