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Interview with Shaidulova, Liudmila (2017)

Analysis of Interview with Liudmila Shaidulova.

Conducted by Joshua Greenfield (interviewer) and Hannah Hampton (camera and sound) in June 2017.
Transcribed and translated by Hannah Hampton, Daniel Sheaffer, Joshua Greenfield, and Madison Zolper in Spring 2018.
Analysis written by George Barros and David Woods in Spring 2018.

Joshua Greenfield and Hannah Hampton  interviewed Liudmila Shaidulova on July 19th 2017 in St. Petersburg Russia. The interview was transcribed and translated by George Barros, Josh Greenfield, Hannah Hampton, Sarah Salem, Daniel Sheaffer, David Woods, and Madison Zolper during the Spring 2018 as part of the Russian Movie Theater Project.

Liudmila Shaidulova has lived in St. Petersburg since 1956. Due to the frequent re-stationing of her father’s air force regiment during the Cold War, her family was stationed and lived in several different cities, but they finally settled in St. Petersburg in 1956. Shaidulova mentioned that she has higher education, but did not specify her area of specialization or provide details about her work experience. While she grew up in St. Petersburg, moviegoing with friends and family was her primary recreational activity – “главное занятие в жизни в то время” (5:07), which is how Shaidulova spent her weekends.

As a child Shaidulova enjoyed going to the theater to watch children’s morning performances on the weekend with her father, a tradition that continued with her son. According to Shaidulova, in the Soviet era there were many cartoons and other special “children’s films,” because “the film industry worked a lot for children in the Soviet Union” (7:18). As her interests evolved later in adolescence and adulthood Shaidulova came to enjoy foreign films featured in international film festivals, blockbusters, detective films, war action films, and, most of all, romantic movies “about love” (7:34). Among her favorite film are the melodramas Чистое Небо(Clear Skies) and Женщины” (Women) and the disaster thriller “Экипаж” (Air Crew), made during the seventies as part of what Shaidulova described as “the best years of Soviet cinema” (расцвет советского кино) (39:19). As far as foreign films are concerned, she particularly likes the Shawshank Redemption which she watches often. More recently she has watched “Брестская крепость” (Fortress of War) and the 2016 remake of “Экипаж” (Air Crew). As for actors, Shaidulova cites foreign actors Michael Douglas, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hanks, and Tim Robbins as her favorites, but does not mention any Soviet actors.

Over the years, Shaidulova’s moviegoing routine gradually changed. When she first started going to the movies, Shaidulova went with her father, but around the age of 8 she began going by herself or with her friends. She continued to frequent to movie theaters throughout her childhood, school, and university years, as moviegoing was one of her primary modes of entertainment (6:06). During Perestroika and the Yeltsin years foreign films – especially from France and Italy – became more available in Russia due to the abolishment of the special film commission. Shaidulova mentions that in the Soviet era foreign films always resulted with big lines in which it could take an hour to get tickets (14:06, 14:49). In 1956 her family obtained a model of the first Soviet commercial KVN television. This did not affect their movie-going behavior however, as the television’s screen was small and it was “more interesting to watch movies on the big screen, than in a small house” (36:08). Nowadays Shaidulova goes less frequently due to the “circumstances of life” (6:31). She explains that due to her husband’s evening work hours he returns tired, making it difficult to go to the movies in the evenings like they used to. Nonetheless, Shaidulova and her husband still find time to see new films that come out (25:59).

As they have everywhere, the evolution of modern technologies and screen media have affected moviegoing in Russia according to Shaidulova. As a result of modern technology, print advertising such as film posters and adverts in newspapers has taken a backseat to television and internet advertising. Shaidulova also says that the internet has reduced the number of lines for tickets at theaters, as moviegoers can now purchase tickets online and immediately pick them up upon arrival at the theatre (33:20). Additionally, the internet has also made it possible for anybody to watch any film online, demonstrating that the movie industry in Russia faces the same problems as Hollywood in confronting changing technology (33:31).

Shaidulova’s interview tells us that movie theaters were not just places to go. Moviegoing in the Soviet Union had a certain social aspect. When people went to the theatre they could buy ice cream, lemonade, soup, fruit, cakes, and sandwiches with fish or caviar at the theatre buffet and listen to concerts (24:13, 17:36). Shaidulova is sad that much has changed since then. While films are more accessible, contemporary movie theaters don’t have the same charm they used to. The halls, screens, and sounds are different: it used to be quiet in the screening room but now the volume is excessively loud and makes her ears ring (19:40). Shaidulova liked the old theaters better because they were “more at ease with a calm atmosphere” (19:43). In general, Shaidulova fixates on the issue of the change of sound in Russian cinema. Back in Soviet theaters the sound systems were weak and films were sometimes silent, so people quietly watched and listened attentively. Now, she says, the speakers are too loud and people in the screening room talk and aren’t “calm” (21:22). While not a film expert, Shaidulova’s interview provides insight on moviegoing during the Soviet Union and in Russia today by extrapolating on the practical details, thus normalizing the experience and making it easier to picture.

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