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Eisenstein's most purely enjoyable film, possibly because the theorems are
more lifelike. In many ways a comedy, as the villains (military, police,
factory owners, underworld scabs) are caricatured and dehumanised, which
makes the eventual horrors all the more shocking. The workers are, of
course, idealised, but their paradise of laziness seems odd for a
Montage is the thing, as ever with Eisenstein, both in terms of connecting images to create startling insights, and in making tense, exciting and inevitable the action; but there is an astonishing attention to compositional detail too, most haunting perhaps being the empty, abandoned, impotent, machine-heavy factories, or the vast-stepped drawing rooms of the bloated capitalists.
Russian master Sergei Eisenstein's first feature film is a
tour-de-force of cinematic technique. He appears to have a pretty
speedy learning curve, beginning straight away with a picture that is
confidently crafted and extremely watchable even today.
With the exception of Que Viva Mexico (which he made outside Russia), this is Eisenstein's purest film, the one most free from the constraints of the Bolshevik propaganda machine. There is one mention of the Bolsheviks, but it's inconsequential. This is essentially a film about self-organisation of the workers a placeless and timeless story which acts as a case study in how a strike can begin, how it can be made successful and how it can be defeated.
Strike has an incredibly exhilarating pace to it and, aside from its political message works as a pure action film. Perhaps unusually for a debut film, this is also the closest Eisenstein came to making a comedy. In a style that would mark all his films, he characterises the villains of the piece the factory management, police chiefs and government bureaucrats as exaggerated and often ridiculous figures of fun. The factory owner is the stereotypical capitalist a top hat-wearing fat controller.
As usual with early Soviet cinema, Strike is essentially characterless. The story is told through the masses, and the proletariat as a whole is the hero. Eisenstein was ideally suited to this, as even in this early film he gives an unprecedented realism to the crowd scenes, and uses every technique at his disposal to create drama from mass action. Eisenstein also demonstrates early on that he has the rather unusual talent of directing large groups of people being massacred. It's an image that would crop up in nearly all of his films.
The only real weakness of Strike is that it too often slips into pretentiousness. Some of the techniques are little more than showing off. There are just a few too many superimpositions and mirror images shots. The symbolism is also often a little too heavy-handed and abstract the two kids dancing on the table during the interrogation scene certainly baffles me; god knows what the Russian public made of it.
Eisenstein is often described as a pioneer, a founding father of film technique. However, in truth most of the techniques he used had been developed earlier, in particular by D.W. Griffith. It's just that Eisenstein pushed the possibilities of editing to their extreme. He's more of a maverick than a pioneer, as there really has been no-one like him since. Having said that, I can identify three new uses of the editing process that Eisenstein invented with Strike.
Firstly, he often uses a sequence of similar shots to give the impression of the same action being done by lots of people. For example, three shots of tools being thrown to the ground tells us quickly and effectively, in the context of the scene, that the entire workforce is downing tools. Secondly, he edits rhythmically to punctuate action. For example, a quick, dynamic action like someone throwing a punch or a door slamming shut will be punctuated by a film cut, giving it much more impact. This is particularly effective in silent film, as the jarring cuts mean you can almost hear the action in your head.
The third editing technique debuted here was the most abstract and the least influential. Whereas Griffith would edit back and forth between two or more literally related scenes (for example, between someone in trouble and someone coming to rescue them) to build up tension, Eisenstein edits back and forth between unrelated images to create a metaphor. The well-known example of this in Strike is the cutting from the workers being gunned down to shots of cattle being slaughtered the cattle dying is nothing to do with the plot, but it makes a point. It's a clever idea, but one that was rarely imitated as it breaks up the flow of a film's narrative.
On a totally different note, a little hobby of mine is spotting modern day look-alikes in old films, and Strike has one of my favourites. The king of the beggars is a dead ringer for Shane MacGowan, right down to the missing teeth. Amazing.
Strike has to be one of the most remarkable and mould-breaking debut films of all time. It's not quite up to the level of masterpiece yet, but it's an incredible experience and genuinely gripping entertainment.
It takes place during the 1912 Factory Strike in Russia. This was the
brilliant debut of Sergei Eisenstein which introduced the idea of montage.
Done before Potemkin, Stachka/Strike(1925) is a film about the struggle of
the working class against the Tsar. The film showed of things to come for
the career of Eisenstein. This was to be part of a series of films
concerning the events that led to the 1917 Revolution. He shows the working
class as the main protagonist in Strike. Was co-written by frequent
co-writer Grigori Aleksandrov.
Stachka and Battleship Potemkin would be the only films in which Eisenstein would have complete artistic control. Like Potemkin, it also features a grand massacre sequence. Eisenstein's direction is nothing short of first class. October(1927) can be looked upon as a sequel to Strike. The images of this is an example of why the silent period was the last truly great era of visual filmmaking. Strike would be the first of many great movies from a master artist. A fine scene is the superimposition of a slaughtered bull over a scene of massacred workers.
This is Eisenstein's directorial debut and alongside Citizen Kane it
may be one of the most important debuts in the history of film
showcasing a fully-fledged artistic maturity. This is a fictitious
narrative-driven movie though it is very consonant with reality. As a
Communist Eisenstein's aesthetics was opposed to the "bourgeois" art
style that considered the artistic object as a subject of
contemplation. Eisenstein advocated in theoretical terms in his books
and practically with movies such as this a pragmatic vision of art.
Movies should have a purpose; they should mobilize the viewer into
action by filing him with emotion.
This strategy is obvious early on with the use of the motto from Lenin that links the idea of organized workers and that of social action in an equation of efficiency. The movie tries to prove that the workers are entitled to organization and that only in such a manner they could achieve their full potential. The movie focuses on the workers as a group; there are no "characters" as we have grown accustomed to seeing on screen. The collective character of the workers, though, has a very powerful emotional impact on the viewer because Eisenstein knows how to present it:
1) The workers are presented in the factory, in what would appear to Chaplin, for instance as a medium of alienation. Here, the workers seem "at home" because they are so many they balance the non-human elements expressed by the machines. More than this the brilliant montage sequences emphasize that the workers are in peace in their environment, the visual patters give a clear feeling of the strength of the united workers. Later on with the advent of sound the beauty of an industrial landscape will be extraordinarily depicted by Vertov in Enthusiasm;
2) The workers are contrasted with the fat and greedy capitalists. Their environment is luxurious and far more "human" than a factory. However, Eisenstein makes it appear as a place of sin and debauchery. The cigar smoke emphasizes the strength of the exploiter much like the smoke from the furnace shows the force of the factory. There are many correspondences between the two environments which Eisenstein later uses to achieve some of the greatest and most emotionally engaging associative montages ever displayed. One of the most impressive shows a boss squeezing a lemon to fix himself a drink while the workers are squished by the police forces trying to repress the strike;
3) Individuals predominantly appear only when they are associated with heavy dramatic scenes, the innocent worker who commits suicide ( who only functions as the dramatic instigator of the plot without any real emotion displayed for the actual character who dies even if we know his actual name; it is insinuated that a human life has a meaning only as part of larger community), the child who is killed by the police, the spies who serve as much needed humorous debouches that relieve the tension associated with the workers exploitation but that also build up tension in the sense that they show the stupidity of the bosses and of their methods;
4) The key to the movie is its pragmatics. It is after all a propaganda piece and the ending clearly shows it. The advice addressed to the proletarians not to forget is charged with emotion because it discharges a tension that has been carefully build frame by frame at a rampant pace. Even if we disengage with his doctrine we should keep in mind that Eisenstein's genius can only be acknowledged in its cultural context and related to his conception of art's function in a society. We can screen out the propaganda but we must keep the emotion in order to understand this movie today at its full power.
Sergei Eisenstein's "Strike", like his more well-known films, is interesting
and contains some memorable imagery. The story is worthwhile in itself, and
it repays careful attention because of the considerable detail that is shown
using Eisenstein's distinctive approach. It lacks any particularly
interesting characters, but then, so did "Battleship Potemkin". Only an
occasional lack of polish sets this apart from Eisenstein's later
The story starts with the situations that provoke the strike, and then follows developments on both sides of the dispute. It becomes surprisingly involved for what seems at first to be a simple confrontation. There is quite an assortment of situations, settings, and characters. On occasion, the images are overdone, occasionally even off-putting, but you can already see the creative use of imagery that Eisenstein would later use so effectively.
"Strike" will probably be of interest mainly to those who already appreciate Eisenstein's films, but it is worth seeing. It is really only a cut below "Potemkin", which itself, though generally the most-praised of his films, might actually be surpassed by some of his later works. In any case, "Strike" displays the same kind of style, and has several of the characteristics of the fine classics that were to come.
This film is definitely a piece of political propaganda on behalf of
Communism. However, whether or not you agree with the film's politics or
with propaganda in general, it is an important work in the history of
Sergei Eisenstein was one of the greatest film-makers of the silent era. His theories of film editing and "montage" (juxtaposing different images to heighten dramatic or emotional impact) give the film it's impact.
The film's story deals with a strike by the workers of a Russian factory in 1912. It's told through striking images, camera angles and, sometimes excessive symbolism.
This film is a must-see for anyone studying film or interested in the history of world cinema.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Strike was the first film of one of the early masters of cinema, Sergei Eisenstein, of the Russian formalist school. This film as a debut is as important as Citizen Kain by Welles, both featuring novel directorial methods. This film captures the soul in the world of pre-dictatorship Russia, portraying it in utmost experimentation with inter-cutting, expanded time sequences, editing and most especially, his montage techniques.
The story itself is basic in plot, yet of great magnitude in theme: the exploitation of hard workers by the lazy cigar-smoking bourgeoisie. The story is set in a pre-dictatorship town where, in a industrial factory, a man is accused of stealing a micrometer. The man, though innocent, is to be fired so he commits suicide out of escape from the stigma of being a thief, leaving a note behind to his fellow comrades declaring his innocence and also some deplorative statements about the ruling class. This sets off a few other incidents which lead to the inevitable slaughter of the workers at the hands of the police.
This film, though not tied together in as much unity as Battleship Potemkin(1925), with it's consistency of technique, purpose and vision, still shows unique signs of an original director and thinker of cinema, who was not concerned about the straight material that the camera received, but how it changes through a formulation process into parallel images, hieroglyphic symbols and conceptions themselves. Though living in the USSR and his themes being 'communist', or agitprop in nature, his techniques often surpass his material and make for necessary viewing to anyone who is a film buff, directorial hope-to-be-er, Russian historian or, activist.
A superb piece of theme depiction, directorial work, agitprop and art in general.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In STRIKE Eisensein glorifies the noble downtrodden worker against the
greedy , uncaring capitalist rulers . From the very first opening scene
of the film he uses the concept of typage where the ruling director is
portrayed as being overweight and well dressed lazily reclining in a
comfortable chair . Right from the opening shot it's obvious whose side
Eisenstein wants the audience to take . Later on we see more
stockholders and the audience are told in the inter-titles that " Their
thrones rest on the labour of the workers " . As the workers strike one
of the ring leaders proclaims " We have no cowards or traitors among us
. We will stand by our demands till the end " . The end being Tsarist
police attacking the protesting workers , sending a toddler falling to
its death while the action is inter-cut with a laughing police chief
against the back drop of dead strikers massacred by the Tsarist police
All this can be criticised as seeing the world as black and white , but let's be honest here: When was the last time you watched an American film where the concept of good and bad have been blurred ? Seeing as the " bad guys " won you could say that it's not very entertaining but as the director himself said film should not be used as entertainment this makes him something of an auteur and did you know Russians don't like stories with a happy ending ?
Perhaps not as good as POTEMKIN this is still a landmark of cinema . You might not agree with the politics but I'm sure we can all agree that it's a technically superb piece of film making
012: Strike (1925) - released in Russia 4/28/1925; viewed 8/4/05
A law is passed in Tennessee prohibiting the teaching of evolution. The Great Tri-State Tornado tears through Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. F. Scott Fitzgerald publishes The Great Gatsby.
BIRTHS: Rod Steiger, George Cole, Eugen Weber.
KEVIN: Sergei Eisenstein's debut feature Strike was something else entirely. Every single frame of this film from the shots, the editing, the lighting, the over-the-top performances and even the themes were beyond anything we've seen so far. People must have thought Eisenstein was crazy to make films the way he did, especially on his first feature. With the kind of imagery he put on the screen, it must have been hard for his film crews to keep up with his mind. This film definitely has an underdog quality that would continue into Eisenstein's future films, most notably Potemkin. This film does have a gritty sense of reality, even though the characters are fairly two-dimensional and over-the-top. The way the camera moves with the close-ups and the very sharp focus is incredibly unique for the period, as are the kinds of harrowing images that we see over the course of the story. Here we see things happening, like the rioters being sprayed with fire hoses and the cops dropping babies off balconies, that other directors like Griffith or Murnau would never have the guts to shoot.
DOUG: It would be silly to watch all these silent films and not watch anything from Eisenstein. It is clear right from the start that he was doing things on film that no other filmmaker had dreamed of doing. The look of the shots, the lighting, the angles, the way the camera moves, and of course the editing, all of it is very unique for the time, and in fact looks very modern. Many scenes could be filmed shot-for-shot today, in color, with sound, and they would not look the slightest bit old fashioned. The editing is quite unique; Eisenstein recognized that editing could be used as stylistically as the writing or the directing to tell the story and set the mood, and used it thus in virtually all of his films. I noticed a few similarities to Potemkin, like the citizens rising up to battle the oppressive government. Eisenstein seems to have been interested in showing the steadfast camaraderie unique among the working class of Russia (perhaps it was a Communist thing). The music in this version was quite memorable; I kept on thinking of the band Stomp, who perform songs by banging trashcan lids and broom handles. There are cues in the musical score that are meant to work as sound effects.
Last film: Seven Chances (1925). Next film: The Gold Rush (1925).
The Movie Odyssey is an exhaustive, chronological project where we watch as many milestone films as possible, starting with D.W. Griffith's Intolerance in 1916 and working our way through, year by year, one film at a time. We also write a short review for each film before we watch the next, never reading the other's review before we finish our own. In this project, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of the time period, the films of the era, and each film in context, while at the same time just watching a lot of great movies, most of which we never would have watched otherwise.
This is an impressive looking piece of Communists propaganda, that
glorify the common worker, from Russian movie-making pioneer Sergei M.
It's one of Eisenstein's first movies, which also means that he was experimenting a lot in the movie, with many different compositions and with fantastic fast editing that give the movie pace and make the sequences more exciting. Some of the sequences are highly creative and artistic looking, with great cinematography and camera-angels. It makes "Stachka" real eye-candy to watch. It's a real innovative movie and by watching it you realize that there was a real craftsman at work. It's an absolutely brilliantly directed movie!
Of course if you're looking for a movie with a good story and compelling characters, look further. The movie itself is pretty simple with its story and uses deliciously stereotypical characters, such as the capitalistic, fat, cigar smoking and drinking factory owners. The movie uses so many stereotypes that the movie intentionally also works out as an humorous movie. It's very welcome, since the movie in general in its story is very serious and tries to send out a message.
The story is perhaps easier to follow than in most other Eisenstein movies. It's a very simple story that on paper sounds to weak and uninteresting to fill a 90+ movie with. Yet the movie never bores and always remains interesting and 'enjoyable' to follow, also not in the least thanks to the rapid editing that makes sure none of the sequences go on for too long and allow the sequences to speak for itself, rather then relying on the actors their performances or title-cards.
An essential viewing for movie-lovers!
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