Depiction Of Women In The Commissar

2193 words - 9 pages


Throughout the existence of the Communist regime in Russia that reigned from 1918 to 1989, many cinematic productions were made to highlight certain key areas of not only the Russian Revolution, such as Sergei Eisentien's "October", but also to identify many key characteristics of the individual that is placed amidst such a transition. Aleksandr Askoldov's 1967 production of "The Commissar" is arguably the most famous film portraying the various circumstances and conditions of individuals amidst the revolution. He focuses on a female commissar named Vavilova who, along with her Red army military unit, believe firmly in the communist revolution and are engaged in a civil war with tsar loyalists and various western troops known as the White army. Whilst Vavilova represents a strong, dominant and brutish depiction of women that is made clearly apparent very early on in the film, Askoldov also presents another portrayal of women through the character of Mariya, a traditional Jewish wife and mother of six. Askoldov enhances the depiction of women through the character of Vavilova herself who, as the film progresses, seems to transform from her hard exterior shown in the beginning of the film, into a more traditional woman such as Mariya. However, whilst it is conceivable to believe that Vavilova has transformed herself due to becoming a mother and living with a simple but loving family and away from the harshness and brutality of war, Yefim, Mariya's husband, suggests that Vavilova's feminine qualities have always existed, but have always been deeply buried, "#Does putting on breeches make you a man?." This suggests that Vavilova was forced to place a hard exterior around her in order to survive such a hard time in her country's history and indeed effectively carry out her duty as a commissar. Therefore her femininity always existed but needed to become secondary to her survival. Mariya's feminine qualities however are clearly apparent for the viewer to immediately recognise as she cares for her husband and six children despite very poor conditions. She is essentially the leader of her family just as Vavilova is of her military unit and must always remain strong and in control in order for her family to survive.

Therefore in the following essay I will discuss and analyse the portrayal of women in the film "The Commissar" and present parallels between the two main female characters, Vavilova and Mariya. Furthermore, I will debate whether these depictions can be used to highlight other key factors of individuals in the Russian revolution.

The protagonist of the film is a female commissar named Vavilova who has been impregnated by her husband during the Russian civil war of 1918, and despite all efforts to abort the pregnancy now has no choice but to continue, "# I put my gun to the doctor's head but he said it was too late." Vavilova up to this point is depicted as a brutal and unforgiving woman who appears...

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