Affective Communities
: Music, Emotion, and Subjectivity in the Popular Cinema of the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, 1933-1949

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis examines the use of music in the cinema of the Third Reich and the Soviet Union from the perspective of community construction. Each regime promoted its own myth of transcendent national-political communities and filmmaking was linked with the task of affective integration. Emotions were understood to serve an integrative function, whilst also containing the potential to provoke anarchic responses. As such, they required careful management. Whilst all films attempt to achieve certain emotional responses from their audiences, the ideological value placed on the emotions in encouraging affective integration into imagined political communities by the Nazi and Soviet regimes alters the ideological undertones of the films’ affective appeals.

Through close analysis of how music functions in films from the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, this thesis reveals a high proportion of song and diegetic musical performances that foreground the affective role of music. It also reveals an attempted management of desire in which music plays a role in guiding the emotional responses of the audience as well as leading the meaning-making processes through intertextual referents and providing continuity and connections between the images represented. This is especially true of death scenes, which reveal anxieties over the representation of death on-screen in both contexts.

In analysing the relationship between music and ideologies of community in the films, this thesis fills a number of significant gaps in the literature. It moves beyond a focus on production history to discuss how music functions in these films, combining film theory with historical research to provide historically-informed readings of the music in films. In addition, the comparative aspect considers whether the films do similar things with music in film and if so, what this might reveal retrospectively about their historical contexts.
Date of Award23 Jan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorPauline Fairclough (Supervisor) & Guido Heldt (Supervisor)

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