In documentary style, events in Petrograd are re-enacted from the end of the monarchy in February of 1917 to the end of the provisional government and the decrees of peace and of land in ... See full summary »
Sergei M. Eisenstein
Based on the historical events the movie tells the story of a riot at the battleship Potemkin. What started as a protest strike when the crew was given rotten meat for dinner ended in a riot. The sailors raised the red flag and tried to ignite the revolution in their home port Odessa. Written by
Konstantin Dlutskii <email@example.com>
Sergei Eisenstein wrote Battleship Potemkin as a revolutionary propaganda film, but also used it to test his theories of "montage". The revolutionary Soviet filmmakers were trying out the result of film editing upon audiences, and Eisenstein endeavored to edit the film in such a way as to generate the utmost emotional reaction, so that the viewer would feel compassion for the defiant sailors and extreme dislike for their pitiless overlords. In the style of most propaganda, the characterization is clearcut and uncomplicated so that the audience could unmistakably tell with whom they should identify.
In both the Soviet Union and abroad, the film stunned audiences not so much for its political message as for its violence, which was explicit by the standards of the age. The film's capability of having great bearing on political ideas by means of emotional reaction was observed by Joseph Goebbels, who said "anyone who had no firm political conviction could become a Bolshevik after seeing the film." This remarkable influence felt and feared by tremendously powerful and influential people is something that never happens in regard to cinema today and hasn't for at least half a century now. Do you know why? Because film is a seminal part of life now. It is a part of the media, and it is easy to overlook one movie in favor of another, or film entirely for another facet of the media, like television. When this picture emerged, it was pure, ripe, brand new, almost surreal to its spectators. Eisenstein's theory of montage has been diluted and adulterated by now to the point where it is either completely ignored or thought of as kindergarten. In 1925, who would have though that a moving picture could provoke such a reaction? Who would have thought it had the capability to change someone who watched it?
Now, this film is obsolete. Film-making has advanced too far for this film to have any kind of effect on the contemporary viewer. The dialogue, as in the title cards, feel too painfully scripted, due to having no need to acknowledge during the writing how people, especially common sailors, speak. The title cards that don't represent dialogue are so self-explanatory that they make the images futile and redundant. "Bowl of soup." Oh, really? There are great closeups of canons, but aside from them, there is no composition, which had not been established as firmly as Eisenstein's montage theory. One shot juxtaposed with another doesn't necessarily say it all. One has to direct the forces withing a shot for a cut to serve any purpose.
I have tried this picture twice. I have felt nothing. The movie's legendary moment is in the scene of the slaughter of civilians on the Odessa Steps, in which soldiers shoot a mother who is pushing a baby in a carriage, and it rolls down the steps in the midst of the escaping mass. This image has been imitated in Brazil, The Untouchables, The Godfather, Joshua and 28 Weeks Later to name a few. These are the only ones of which I can think that I myself have seen, and each one has a more exciting "Odessa steps sequence" rendition than the original "Odessa steps sequence." There is nothing wrong or flat in Eisenstein's sequence. It is well shot and well edited, and why would so many great films imprint off of an unbearably boring film? Because to the generations to which their makers belong, it still had resonance, and it left an effect upon them. But can you watch Brazil or The Godfather and feel that Potemkin, in your own perspective regardless or history's, even compares?
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