Battleship Potemkin (1925) Poster

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A gripping story told with style and passion as well as a 'must see' piece of cinema history
bob the moo19 September 2004
With workers striking in Russia, the crew of the battleship Potemkin feel a certain kinship for the plight of their brothers. When they are served rotting, maggot infested meat some of the crew object, only to find themselves singled out and placed in front of a firing squad. With the marines seconds away from firing the deadly shots, ordinary seaman Grigory Vakulinchuk steps into the breach and intervenes to save the men by appealing to the firing squad to ignore their orders. When the officers take their revenge and kill Vakulinchuk, all are bonded together in the struggle; a bond that reaches to the city of Odessa where the rebellion grows, leading to a bloody and historic series of events.

It is hard to imagine that anybody who has seen quite a few films in the past few decades would be unaware of this film, but it is perhaps understandable that fewer have had the opportunity to actually sit down and watch. I had never seen this film before but had seen countless references to it in other films and therefore considering it an important film to at least see once. The story is based on real events and this only serves to make it more interesting but even without this context it is still an engaging story. The story doesn't have much in the way of characters but it still brings out the brutality and injustice of events and it is in this that it hooked me – surprisingly violent (implied more than modern gore) it demonising the actions and shows innocents falling at all sides in key scenes. The version I saw apparently had the original score (I'm not being snobby – modern rescores could be better for all I know) and I felt it worked very well to match and improve the film's mood; dramatic, gentle or exciting, it all works very well.

The feel of the film was a surprise to me because it stood up very well viewed with my modern eyes. At one or two points the model work was very clearly model work but mostly the film is technically impressive. The masses of extras, use of ships and cities and just the way it captures such well organised chaos are all very impressive and would be even done today. What is more impressive with time though is how the film has a very strong and very clean style to it – it is not as gritty and flat as many silent films of the period that I have seen; instead it is very crisp and feels very, very professional. Of course watching it in 2004 gives me the benefit of hindsight where I can look back over many films that have referenced the images or directors who have mentioned the film in interviews; but even without this 20:20 vision it is still possible to see how well done the film is and to note how memorable much of it is – the steps and the firing squad scenes are two very impressive moments that are very memorable. The only real thing that might bug modern audiences is the acting; it isn't bad but silent acting is very different from acting with sound. Here the actors all over act and rely on their bodies to do much of their delivery – word cards just don't do the emotional job so they have to make extra effort to deliver this.

Overall this is a classic film that has influenced many modern directors. The story is engaging and well worth hearing; the directing is crisp and professional, producing many scenes that linger in the memory; the music works to deliver the emotional edge that modern audiences would normally rely on acting and dialogue to deliver and the whole film is over all too quickly! An essential piece of cinema for those that claim to love the media but also a cracking good film in its own right.
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Like Citizen Kane it's almost been TOO analyzed and cherished as a landmark, but still not without good reason
MisterWhiplash15 September 2005
If you're a film student, or were one, or are thinking of becoming one, the name Battleship Potemkin has or will have a resonance. Sergei Eistenstein, like other silent-film pioneers like Griffith (although Eisenstein's innovations are not as commonplace as Griffith's) and Murnau, has had such an impact on the history of cinema it's of course taken for granted. The reason I bring up the film student part is because at some point, whether you'd like it or not, your film professor 9 times out of 10 will show the "Odessa Stairs" sequence of this film. It's hard to say if it's even the 'best' part of the film's several sequences dealing with the (at the time current) times of the Russian revolution. But it does leave the most impact, and it can be seen in many films showcasing suspense, or just plain montage (The Untouchables' climax comes to mind).

Montage, which was not just Eistenstein's knack but also his life's blood early in his career, is often misused in the present cinema, or if not misused then in an improper context for the story. Sometimes montage is used now as just another device to get from point A to point B. Montage was something else for Eisenstein; he was trying to communicate in the most direct way that he could the urgency, the passion(s), and the ultimate tragedies that were in the Russian people at the time and place. Even if one doesn't see all of Eisenstein's narrative or traditional 'story' ideas to have much grounding (Kubrick has said this), one can't deny the power of seeing the ships arriving at the harbor, the people on the stairs, and the soldiers coming at them every which way with guns. Some may find it hard to believe this was done in the 20's; it has that power like the Passion of Joan of Arc to over-pass its time and remain in importance if only in terms of technique and emotion.

Of course, one could go on for books (which have been written hundreds of times over, not the least of which by Eisenstein himself). On the film in and of itself, Battleship Potemkin is really more like a dramatized newsreel than a specific story in a movie. The first segment is also one of the great sequences in film, as a mutiny is plotted against the Captain and other head-ups of a certain Ship. This is detailed almost in a manipulative way, but somehow extremely effective; montage is used here as well, but in spurts of energy that capture the eye. Other times Eisenstein is more content to just let the images speak for themselves, as the soldiers grow weary without food and water. He isn't one of those directors who will try to get all sides to the story; he is, of course, very much early 20th century Russian, but he is nothing else but honest with how he sees his themes and style, and that is what wins over in the end.

Some may want to check it outside of film-school, as the 'Stairs' sequence is like one of those landmarks of severe tragedy on film, displaying the ugly side of revolution. Eisenstein may not be one of the more 'accessible' silent-film directors, but if montage, detail in the frame, non-actors, and Bolshevik themes are your cup of tea, it's truly one of the must sees of a lifetime.
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One of the greatest movies ever made.
Jim Tritten30 September 2000
Originally supposed to be just a part of a huge epic The Year 1905 depicting the Revolution of 1905, Potemkin is the story of the mutiny of the crew of the Potemkin in Odessa harbor. The film opens with the crew protesting maggoty meat and the captain ordering the execution of the dissidents. An uprising takes place during which the revolutionary leader is killed. This crewman is taken to the shore to lie in state. When the townspeople gather on a huge flight of steps overlooking the harbor, czarist troops appear and march down the steps breaking up the crowd. A naval squadron is sent to retake the Potemkin but at the moment when the ships come into range, their crews allow the mutineers to pass through. Eisenstein's non-historically accurate ending is open-ended thus indicating that this was the seed of the later Bolshevik revolution that would bloom in Russia. The film is broken into five parts: Men and Maggots, Drama on the Quarterdeck, An Appeal from the Dead, The Odessa Steps, and Meeting the Squadron.

Eisenstein was a revolutionary artist, but at the genius level. Not wanting to make a historical drama, Eisenstein used visual texture to give the film a newsreel-look so that the viewer feels he is eavesdropping on a thrilling and politically revolutionary story. This technique is used by Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers.

Unlike Pontecorvo, Eisenstein relied on typage, or the casting of non-professionals who had striking physical appearances. The extraordinary faces of the cast are what one remembers from Potemkin. This technique is later used by Frank Capra in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Meet John Doe. But in Potemkin, no one individual is cast as a hero or heroine. The story is told through a series of scenes that are combined in a special effect known as montage--the editing and selection of short segments to produce a desired effect on the viewer. D.W. Griffith also used the montage, but no one mastered it so well as Eisenstein.

The artistic filming of the crew sleeping in their hammocks is complemented by the graceful swinging of tables suspended from chains in the galley. In contrast the confrontation between the crew and their officers is charged with electricity and the clenched fists of the masses demonstrate their rage with injustice.

Eisenstein introduced the technique of showing an action and repeating it again but from a slightly different angle to demonstrate intensity. The breaking of a plate bearing the words "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread" signifies the beginning of the end. This technique is used in Last Year at Marienbad. Also, when the ship's surgeon is tossed over the side, his pince-nez dangles from the rigging. It was these glasses that the officer used to inspect and pass the maggot-infested meat. This sequence ties the punishment to the corruption of the czarist-era.

The most noted sequence in the film, and perhaps in all of film history, is The Odessa Steps. The broad expanse of the steps are filled with hundreds of extras. Rapid and dramatic violence is always suggested and not explicit yet the visual images of the deaths of a few will last in the minds of the viewer forever.

The angular shots of marching boots and legs descending the steps are cleverly accentuated with long menacing shadows from a sun at the top of the steps. The pace of the sequence is deliberately varied between the marching soldiers and a few civilians who summon up courage to beg them to stop. A close up of a woman's face frozen in horror after being struck by a soldier's sword is the direct antecedent of the bank teller in Bonnie in Clyde and gives a lasting impression of the horror of the czarist regime.

The death of a young mother leads to a baby carriage careening down the steps in a sequence that has been copied by Hitchcock in Foreign Correspondent, by Terry Gilliam in Brazil, and Brian DePalma in The Untouchables. This sequence is shown repeatedly from various angles thus drawing out what probably was only a five second event.

Potemkin is a film that immortalizes the revolutionary spirit, celebrates it for those already committed, and propagandizes it for the unconverted. It seethes of fire and roars with the senseless injustices of the decadent czarist regime. Its greatest impact has been on film students who have borrowed and only slightly improved on techniques invented in Russia several generations ago.
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This is a cinematic masterpiece, way ahead of its time.
Charlie Korch10 December 1999
There are only a handful of movies that were made on such a grand scale and made such a difference in the art of movie making.

"Bronenosets Potyomkin" is one of these movies, and it should be on anyone's list looking to learn more about the history of cinema.

Grigori Aleksandrov & Sergei M. Eisenstein directed this groundbreaking film that documents the horrors taking place on a Russian battleship. When the sailors finally retaliate against their superiors, the locals embrace the them, and support them. Things get ugly when a group of soldiers are sent to the small town to take care of business. What follows is one of the most imitated scenes in the history of cinema. Anyone who has seen "The Untouchables", and "Bronenosets Potyomkin" knows exactly what I mean.

Overall I think this movie raised the bar for film making just as "Intolerance" did a few years earlier. If you do not mind silent films, do yourself a favor, and see "Bronenosets Potyomkin".

If you don't like silent films..... watch "Bronenosets Potyomkin" anyway.
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Still one of the best films ever made.
Orlok20 June 1999
Quite a lot has been said about this film and its landmark importance in forming the language of film. If you are interested in film history, to truly understand the innovations Eisenstein brings to the medium you might try viewing Potemkin along side most any film made before it (those of D.W. Griffith offer a good contrast). It should be allowed that Eisenstein was not the only montage theorist and the principles of montage editing would likely have been discovered by another given time. However, even today, few directors have approached the skill with which Eisenstein created meaning through the combination of images at such an early point in the evolution of the medium.

If you are not interested in that sort of thing, Potemkin is still one of the most beautiful and moving films ever made. You should see it, buy it, and tatoo it to your chest.
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"The time has come for us to speak out."
ackstasis5 April 2007
On June 14 1905, during the Russian Revolution of that year, sailors aboard the Russian battleship Potemkin rebelled against their oppressive officers. Frustrated with the second-rate treatment they receive, and most particularly the maggot-infested meat that they are forced to eat, the ship's crew, led by the inspirational Bolshevik sailor Grigory Vakulinchuk (Aleksandr Antonov), decide that the time is ripe for a revolution. And so begins Sergei M. Eisenstein's rousing classic of Russian propaganda, 'Bronenosets Potyomkin / The Battleship Potemkin.'

The film itself is brimming with shining examples of stunning visual imagery: the spectacles of an overthrown ship captain dangle delicately from the side rope over which he had been tossed; the body of a deceased mutineer lies peaceful upon the shore, the sign on his chest reading "KILLED FOR A BOWL OF SOUP;" close-up shots of the clenching fists of the hundreds of spectators who are finally fed up with the Tsarist regime; a wayward baby carriage careers down the Odessa Steps as desperate onlookers watch on with bated breath (this scene was memorably "borrowed" by Brian De Palma for a particularly suspenseful scene in his 'The Untouchables'); the barrels of numerous canons are ominously leveled towards the vastly-outnumbered battleship Potemkin.

However, the film itself is best analysed – not as a fragmented selection of memorable scenes – but as a single film, and, indeed, every scene is hugely memorable. Though divided into five fairly-distinct chapters, the entire film flows forwards wonderfully; at no point do we find ourselves losing interest, and we are absolutely never in doubt of whose side we should be sympathetic towards.

The film is often referred to as "propaganda," and that is exactly what it is, but this need not carry a negative connotation. 'The Battleship Potemkin' was produced by Eisenstein with a specific purpose in mind, and it accomplishes this perfectly in every way. Planned by the Soviet Central Committee to coincide with the 20th century celebrations of the unsuccessful 1905 Revolution, 'Potemkin' was predicted to be a popular film in its home country, symbolising the revitalization of Russian arts after the Revolution. It is somewhat unfortunate, then, that Eisenstein's film failed to perform well at the Russian box-office, reportedly beaten by Allan Dwan's 1922 'Robin Hood' film in its opening week and running for just four short weeks. Luckily, despite being banned on various occasions in various countries, 'The Battleship Potemkin' fared more admirably overseas.

The film also proved a successful vehicle for Eisenstein to test his theories of "montage." Through quick-cut editing, and distant shots of the multitudes of extras, the audience is not allowed to sympathise with any individual characters, but with the revolutionary population in general. Eisenstein does briefly break this mould, however, in a scene where Vakulinchuk flees the ship officer who is trying to kill him, and, of course, during the renowned Odessa Steps sequence, as our hearts beat in horror for the life of the unfortunate child in the tumbling baby carriage. The accompanying soundtrack to the version I watched, largely featuring the orchestral works of Dmitri Shostakovich, served wonderfully to heighten the emotional impact of such scenes.

One of the greatest films of the silent era, 'The Battleship Potemkin' is a triumph of phenomenal film-making, and is a significant slice of cinematic history. The highly-exaggerated events of the film (among other things, there was never actually any violent massacre on the Odessa Steps) have so completely engrained themselves in the memory, that we're often uncertain of the true history behind the depicted events. This is a grand achievement.
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Vivid & Memorable
Snow Leopard19 December 2001
This classic is filled with vivid images that stay in your mind after you have watched it, and there is a lot to appreciate in the way that the key scenes were set up and photographed. The visuals are so impressive that the movie's imperfections are usually not so noticeable, and they don't keep it from being a memorable film.

The movie certainly deserves the praise that it gets both for the influence that it has had, and for some ideas that for the time were most creative. The famed 'Odessa Steps' sequence alone demonstrates both fine technical skill and a keen awareness of how to drive home an image to an audience. It deserves to be one of cinema's best remembered sequences. Some of the other scenes also demonstrate, to a lesser degree, the same kind of skill.

It says a lot for how effective all of the visuals are that so many viewers think so highly of "Battleship Potemkin" despite a story that is sometimes heavy-handed, and despite characters and acting that are both rather thin. These features might simply stem from the collectivist philosophy that lies behind the story, and they are obscured most of the time by Eisenstein's unsurpassed ability to present pictures that viewers will not forget.

Despite the flaws, this is a movie that most fans of silent films, and anyone interested in the history of movies, will want to see. There's nothing else in its era that's quite like it.
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A true Masterpiece from Eisentstein
Joseph P. Ulibas5 October 2003
Battleship Potemkin is a celluloid masterpiece. The direction of

Eisenstein is truly a sight. The film chronicles a ship of disgruntled

sailors who are tired of being mistreated by their superior officers.

Eventually, the sailors finally have enough of the abuse and send the

officers packing. During this time period, there was a shortage of film

stock in the Soviet Union. The goverment wanted to get their message

out to the people so they started a National Film Company and one of

the members was Sergei Eisenstein. The films were shot on miniscule

budgets and the shortage of film stock forced Eisentein to be careful

and selective with the footage that he shot. In the end, Eisenstein had

to reuse footage in order to make a feature length picture.

The most famous of the action set pieces in this film is the much

talked about massacre on the steps. This scene was spoofed in Bananas

and most recently in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. If you want to

learn film-making, I strongly advise you to watch Battleship Potemkin.

It's one of the essentials.

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A Seminal Masterpiece of Silent Film
EThompsonUMD5 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The silent film masterpiece Battleship Potemkin (1925) was commissioned by the Soviet government to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the uprising of 1905 and to establish the event as an heroic foreshadowing of the October Revolution of 1917. Ironically the film's director, Sergei Eisenstein, was one of the earliest and most influential advocates of a formalistic approach to film art. Subsequently, Eisenstein's formalism and suspect politics would cause innumerable conflicts with government agencies insisting on "socialist realism." Influenced by the Russian film theoretician, Lev Kuleshov, and through him by D. W. Griffith's Intolerance (smuggled into Russia in 1919), Eisenstein constructed his films from a "collision" of rapidly edited images, a montage of shots varied in length, motion, content, lighting, and camera angle. Without question the most memorable illustration of Eisenstein's stylistic approach - and probably the single most cited and studied sequence in world cinema history - is the "Odessa Steps" sequence in Potemkin.

In structure Potemkin is a "five reeler" divided into five narrative parts, an organization clearly derived from the five-act arrangement of Western drama. In "Men and Maggots," Eisenstein dramatizes the pre-revolutionary oppression and discontent of the battleship's working class sailors as the situation inevitably builds to mutiny. Even before the sailors and their upper class officers/masters are visually introduced, Eisenstein establishes revolutionary conditions symbolically by the collision editing of waves breaking violently and ominously at sea. Onboard ship we witness crowded, unsanitary conditions. Eisenstein emphasizes the sailors' dehumanization with shots of arbitrary lashings, harsh labor, and - most memorably - the maggot infested meat intended for the evening's meal. The ship's nearsighted physician is brought forward by the other officers to declare the meat perfectly suitable to be served with the dark soup, boiling like the sailors' rage. In accordance with Marxist maxims, the church also fails the men, and we see one of them smashing a plate inscribed with words from The Lord's Prayer from two different camera angles (in perhaps the first deliberate "jump cut" in cinema history).

Identified by inter-titles as "Drama on the Quarterdeck" and "An Appeal from the Dead," Potemkin's second and third parts depict the actual mutiny and the onshore funeral of its leader and first hero of the revolution, Vakulinchuk. United by Vakulinchuk's appeals to brotherhood, the initial mutineers are joined by the entire crew in an attack on the officers. A chaotic scene ensues whose violent passion is served well by Eisenstein's editing techniques. The officers' quarters are trampled and symbols of their privilege are destroyed. The ship's doctor is thrown overboard, accompanied by dramatic crosscuts to the maggot-ridden meat and his eyeglasses metonymically dangling in the rigging. Tragically, Vakolinchuk's death is the price paid for the revolt (no omelet without breaking eggs) and he is laid out with dignity on an Odessa pier. Hundreds of ordinary Odessa citizens gather with the sailors to honor him and to pledge "Death to the oppressors." Shots of fists clenching and unclenching signal the birth of revolutionary consciousness.

The complex and unforgettable Odessa Steps sequence constitutes the film's fourth act. It begins with uplifting music and a series of close-ups and medium shots on the elated faces of diverse people on the shore and selected objects (parasol, eyeglasses, baby carriage). Suddenly (as exclaims a title card in huge letters) the music stops and lines of soldiers with drawn rifles and fixed bayonets appear at the top of the steps. Here Eisenstein releases the full force of collision editing as nearly a hundred shots are pieced together to contrast the panicked mayhem and victimization of the citizenry with the relentless assault of the soldiers driving the citizens down to the trampling horses and flying sabers of the waiting Cossacks below. The mise-en-scene is framed by a statue of Caesar at the top of the stairs and a church at the bottom, symbolic metonyms for Russia's oppressive institutions: tsarist monarchy and the Orthodox Christian church.

Punctuating the sequence are two scenes involving mothers and children. In the first, a mother and young boy who had been introduced among the joyous faces in the crowd are among the slaughter's first victims. The boy is shot, but the mother continues running until close-ups of her face convey her horrified gaze at the son's fallen body being trampled by the crowd. With a much slowed editing pace, the camera follows the mother as she carries the lifeless body of her child up the stairs to confront the soldiers (shown only in a diagonal shadow line). They summarily shoot her dead. After this lull, the carnage continues for another several dozen cuts until a second mother is shot through the stomach (the womb of Mother Russia?) as she tries to shield her baby in its carriage. In a scene famously imitated in The Untouchables, the carriage incongruously slips down the staircase. Horrified faces of huddled citizens watch the slow progress to its doom. When the carriage reaches the bottom there is a cut to a Cossack wielding a sword and a classic Kuleshov effect suggests what we do not actually see: the slaughtering of this pure and symbolic innocent. The final series of shots in the Odessa sequence is of three stone lions, one in repose, one sitting up, and one roaring. The editing animates them into a visual metaphor of the people's awakened rage.

Somewhat anticlimactically, the fifth act returns us to the battleship as the mutinous sailors flee on the high seas and await an encounter with other ships from the fleet. They and the viewer expect retribution, but when the meeting occurs no shots are fired and instead all the sailors wave and throw their hats in the air in a symbol of comradeship. Eisenstein was rewriting history at this point since the revolution was not successfully launched for another twelve years. But that quibble aside, Battleship Potemkin stands as one of the seminal works of the silent film era, and it retains extraordinary cinematic power.
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Shatters preconceptions of silent cinema
squirre1125 March 2008
So, I approached this in the way I guess people might approach silent movies - as something that was going to be clunky but quite interesting. I'd seen Metropolis - I thought I knew the form.

I was impressed with the way Eisenstein captured everyday events on board the Potemkin. It has none of the fierce narrative drive of later movie, leaving the director free to show whatever he wants, anything he believes to be visually arresting. The use of boiling soup as a visual metaphor for conditions on board ship is inspired.

The propaganda aspects verged between odd and amusing. Make no mistake this is a communist film. the crazy priest with the wild hair showing the communist disapproval of religion. At times it verges on the unbelievable - could one cry of "Comrades!" really stop an entire firing squad? And then I got to the most famous sequence - The Odessa steps. And that was where all my tolerant amusement shattered and fell to pieces.

The Odessa steps sequence is savage. It's brutal. Like Salvador Dali's Un chien Andalu, it remains shocking even to this day. Blood, carnage and brutality. And of course, a baby in a pram falls to its death, in one has to be one of the most renown sequences in cinema.

You may thing you've heard enough about this film, but you really have to see it to believe it. Impressive to this day.
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still great after all these years
Lee Eisenberg26 September 2005
Sergei Eisenstein's most famous movie has truly withstood the test of time. The story of a mutiny aboard a warship in 1905 does have the feeling of Soviet propaganda, but does a good job showing the conditions that led to the revolt. The scene on the Odessa steps should remain seared into anyone's mind.

Okay, so "The Battleship Potemkin" wasn't actually the first movie to use montage, but they did a great job with it here. Certainly any film history class should show this movie. It's a great historical drama (although I will admit that I don't know how accurate it is). A 10/10.

Oh, and we should have learned by now that "Potemkin" should be transliterated as "Potyomkin".
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This Film Is Now Obsolete.
jzappa7 October 2008
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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Hey, "Adolf" Putin, read this!!
John T. Ryan12 August 2014
FILMING OF OUTDOOR events on a truly grand scale is the hallmark of this film. It is obvious that there was near unlimited budget and an autocratic and absolute control exerted by the director, Comrade Sergei Eisenstein. The filming is done in such a carefully plotted manner as to appear to be an actual newsreel documentary.

THE STORY IS a retelling of a 1905 incident of rebellion and mutiny against the hierarchy of the Imperial Czarist Russian Navy. It builds its tension with use of varying camera angles, liberal doses of editing, imaginative & original lighting and boldly placed bits of shocking realism.

THE FILM IS very powerful and will hold just about anyone's interest for the duration of its time on the screen. We do recommend that anyone and everyone can and should see it at least once, But we do do with just one caveat to all.

THAT PRECAUTIONARY WARNING would be that we all must remember that the movie is and was intended as a propaganda piece for the likes of Joe Stalin and his comrades the USSR. Director Eisenstein definitely knew of what side his bread was buttered as he carefully crafted the telling of this 1905 incident on the Black Sea as an allegorical work. In his capable hands & clapboard, the whole situation and all of the incidents surrounding it were reduced to metaphor for the Russian Revolution and the ascent of the Communist Party.

DURING THE PROCESS of telling this story, the director actually manages to make a case for the dignity of man. Now that is just bizarre and ironic; when one considers the track record of the Kremlin masters. The Communist Party has always called itself: "The Vanguard of the People", no matter how many of their own people that they had to kill to prove it.
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Masterful film-making from Sergei Eisenstein
sme_no_densetsu24 July 2011
When "Battleship Potemkin" was released in Moscow back in 1925 it was described by some as the greatest film of all time. While I can't claim much familiarity with films predating 1925, I expect that those people were probably right. But what's truly astonishing is how well the film stands up, even today.

The film tells the story of the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin. Fed up with poor treatment, they revolt and overthrow their superiors. However, this accomplished, they meet the inevitable resistance from the military, whom they implore to join them. Predictably, the plot & intertitles savour of propaganda but not overwhelmingly so.

Easily the most impressive aspect of the film is the visual aspect. Eisenstein's direction is impeccable but his editing techniques were nothing short of revolutionary. There's a reason why this film is still considered one of the greatest films of all time by countless critics.

That's not the film's only drawing point, though. Nearly as impressive is the original score by Edmund Meisel. I watched the 2005 restoration where the score was adapted by Helmut Imig and I found it to be an integral element of the picture. Though there have been other scores for the film over the years I can't imagine any better than this one.

Ultimately, while "Battleship Potemkin" is mainly notable for pioneering influential techniques it also functions as a rousing, tense historical drama. If you're a true lover of the art of cinema there's simply no excuse for not seeing this movie.
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Not everyone will like this, but it is a fascinating movie.....
LoneWolfAndCub2 July 2006
The Battleship Potemkin is now the oldest film I have ever seen. I didn't know what I'd think of it as I had never seen a silent film before. I was amazed. Cinema owes this movie for what it has done. Some people see it as a precious collectible only to be enjoyed from time to time but it is much more. It is a dramatic and emotional experience of anguish. There are many scenes from this film which are now famous. The baby carriage rolling down the stairs in the middle of a massacre is the most famous. The whole scene is tragic, suspenseful and wonderfully filmed.

Although there is little or no character development, I felt the anguish the sailors felt. I felt sorry for the people during the massacre. The plot is minimal, but that doesn't make the movie boring. I was never bored during those 75 mins. Although not many would be able to appreciate this film and what it has done, those who do know how good it really is.

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Propaganda? Yes Stunning? Definitely
Richardcheese_630 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
To think that this was made almost 80 years ago, but still inspires movies of today (The odessa steps scene = The Untouchables for example). Yes - it is a propaganda movie - it considers the lynch mob attacks on the ruling class / ship's officers to be justifiable, but the shooting of the leader of the ship's revolution is just not on - but even so it is a stunning piece of cinema. It was even banned in Britain until 1954 - so strong was its political message. The characters are one dimensional, but it must be remembered that the aim was to make political statements and symbolise events, so the characters become mere tools of this symbolism. Witness the twirled wax moustache of the evil tsarists - only stopping short of tying a girl to a railway track to complete the image.

The most stunning piece for me however was the quick three frames of the heraldic lions, as the battleship fires upon the Opera House we see first a sleeping lion, then a waking one, and then a third fully alert statue. Whether this symbolised a waking beast representing the revolution, or the tsarists being awoken by the assault upon it I don't know.

Even so, propaganda has never been so impressively done.
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I don't get it (possible spoilers)
Serva26 October 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Ok, I didn't expect much, but I'm having problems with the 'greatness' of this movie. I think I'll take the liberty of not jumping on to the bandwagon of proclaiming that everyone should see this movie and so forth. Any normal person today who don't know what you "should" think about this movie, would probably find it quite boring and strange at times.

Thing is I'm not comfortable with the way the 'rebels' in this movie value lives. Reminds me of the death sentence mentality in the US and other countries today. The sailors kill several officers on the ship, but since they are bad guys that is perfectly OK. When one of the sailors however get killed, the horror. Out of nowhere a couple million of Russians come along and cry their eyeballs out for some sailor's death, a person they've never seen before! It lacks logic, and as I said I think you can go on fine without seeing this movie. Don't get me wrong I still think the movie's OK, but certainly not the greatest of all time.
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Very dated now but a very good piece of propaganda
robertasmith17 September 2012
I first saw this film when it was shown on the BBC for the first time in the seventies. I remember it being a real event, and feeling very sophisticated as I watched it.

The reality today is a very dated film that is 90% fiction, with wooden acting and unbelievable events. However, it is of interest to me as a Naval historian and researcher, and the conditions it depicts are typical of the time. Of course, the German High Fleet and the Royal Navy didn't mutiny but conditions on board their ships were similar. It is also of interest for the filming of the small sail boats that go out to the Potemkin with provisions. Hundreds of them and it is an important film record of the type of craft still being used in the 1920s.

As for the rest, so much of it never happened but it is etched onto peoples minds so much that people visit Odessa expecting to see a plaque or a statue commemorating the massacre on the steps.

Once you know the true history I think the film loses some of its impact but as an example of film making, of its time, it will always be studied and commented on. Definitely worth watching but prepare to be a little disappointed.
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Takeover of the System
tedg25 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Eisenstein significantly contributed to the invention of film editing. He thus changed how we dream.

This film is often considered his best. I think that a mistake, and would like to recommend to viewers that they put two others higher on their lists -- one very early and one very late.

`October' is highly experimental. Extreme even. In it, Eisenstein tried everything and with committed youthful passion. Not everything works. Not everything was carried over into future work. But the film has soul compared to mere competence. It lives rather than just points to life.

`Ivan Part 1' is much later. Apparently by this time, Eisenstein has abandoned the montage and (because beaten all his life) has adopted the relaxed, `normal' style. But this is not so. It has instead been so completely absorbed it is invisible, But it is there with shocking mastery. If you are interested in film and editing.

Don't flock to "Battleship:" it is too obvious to be interesting -- not yet mastery and too late for the exuberance of invention. See one of the others instead, better both, Ivan first.
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Light years ahead of its time
Agent109 May 2002
Eisenstein created the Russian Montage Theory, and this film is his finest example. It took years before someone could utilize his ideas and make them work (The Limey, 1999). Nonetheless, the baby carriage scene really demonstrates the discombobulated nature of RMT. Granted, like most movies, it gets long in some parts, the beauty of the film is amazing. One of the best silent films I have ever seen.
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Innovative? Maybe. Good Film? Good God, NO!
Big Bo24 May 2003
The version I saw was a '70's restoration that ran for 74 minutes. I understand that originally it ran 183 minutes. I could have chopped out another 20-30 minutes and lost none of the relevant content. Don't take this the wrong way; I do have a long attention span and am in no way opposed to an epic. This film is not an epic. This film is a short that has been filled out with a lot of recycled footage. For instance, The Odessan populace flowing down the steps to the waterfront is about 10 minutes long but uses about 1 minute of footage looped. This is like dead air on the radio. The same 5 second snippet of sailors brawling during the mutiny is spliced in so many times amongst other footage that I lost count. The acting and plot are horrible by silent film standards (think BAD melodrama). The only slightly redeeming quality in the film is the Odessa Steps massacre montage but, unless you are taking a class on film editing, AVOID THIS FILM.
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Must See
Slacker-1212 February 1999
"Battleship" is the best example you will see of the montage editing used by the Russians in the 1920's. By using a series of simple images they where able to communicate complicated ideas to an uneducated audience. Now seen mostly in TV commercials montage editing has been very influencial in the US. "Battleship" is a must see for anyone interested in film history.
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Honestly, I wasn't a fan
sheepie8718 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Okay, so let me start off by saying that I am not a film studies major, neither am I a doofus who only finds cinematic satisfaction in shoot-em-ups (although they are quite fun!). One of my favorite movies is Lang's Metropolis, so I expected something similar here.

Alas, not really. I can't analyse the montage, the shots, the cuts, etc. because I don't have that background. But to my (perhaps jaded and most definitely cynical) eyes most of the movie seemed quite ridiculous. I know I have to think of the context and of film-making at the time, but I honestly think that Potemkin could have done without a lot of film we see.

So, anyway, we start out on a ship where the soldiers are maltreated by pompous officers who order them to eat maggot infested meat. This is shaping up well. They refuse to eat the soup made with the meat (so good so far), which ticks off the officers, most of whom have pointy waxed mustaches that they twirl with malice. The portly captain orders all hands on deck and proceeds to inform those who did not eat the soup that he will kill them all.

This gave me pause. Logically, what would a captain have to gain if he executed the majority of his crew? A whole lot more work for himself, that's what! Okay. So the captain is a dolt. Anyway, he orders the ship's guard to fire upon a group of "we want something else"-ers who have been draped in a tarpaulin for easy jettisoning and assuaged consciences. In an agonizingly long and unrealistic sequence, everyone looks at each other for a while; finally the ship's resident revolutionary persuades everyone to turn on the officers, most of whom are thrown overboard to drown (since swimming is not a prerequisite to become a naval officer in tsarist Russia, evidently). The ship's priest, a man who desperately needs some Frizz-Ease or maybe just a hint of hair gel, and who is very much the crazy-man Rasputin type, gets pushed down a ladder (into Hell?). However, one of them pursues the ship's Lenin and shoots him in the back of the head. Said shot man then is obviously a hardy fellow, since he manages to reach his hand up and touch his head wound, fall into a net of ropes and writhe for a while before he falls into the sea. His comrades sail into Odessa harbor and dump him on the shore in a tent.

The whole town turns out to see him, and they get all whipped up and vow to destroy the oppressors. Then we have the famous Odessa stairs sequence, which I admit was quite moving, but also too long. I felt like an awful person for smirking when the bereaved mother with her obviously dead son in her arms says to the troops "My son is very ill." Well, if that isn't an understatement I don't know what is. Does anyone know if this is an exact translation?

Anyway, at the end of the film all the other ships join Potemkin. Revolution is fun, yay!
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Flawed But Compelling
Theo Robertson18 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN begins with a compliment of sailors asleep in their hammocks where one of them is woken by a blow from a petty officer . The reason ? No reason except for the petty officer to vent his rage upon someone lower down the military hierarchy . A few minutes later we see what the ordinary sailors have to eat - rotten , maggot infested meat . When the sailors protest about this inedible diet their complaints are quickly dismissed by the ship's doctor Smirnov who tells them to wash the meat with brine . Very quickly Eisenstien has let the audience know whose side they should take . These men in the service of their country are treated worse than the Russians in Japanese POW camps . When the crew complain the ship's captain Golikov threatens to have the entire crew hanged . This leads to a mutiny . When the Potemkin sails to the port of Odessa we see the brutality of the Tsarist regime . Men , woman and children are massacred on the Odessa stairway

I've got to be honest here . This is a very overstated film . In fact it comes close to shooting itself in the foot with its revolutionary tributes . Watch the early scene where Smirnov inspects the meat . Was anyone else reminded of a Monty Python sketch " This meat is rotten " - " No it's not it's just pining for the fjords " But when all is said and done it does contain the Odessa sequence which remains the most analysed and referenced scene in the history of cinema . Also take note of how well and how fast everything is edited and compare this with the way Spielberg and Van Sant keep a ridiculously long average shot duration . You might not agree with Eisenstein's politics but we can all agree that this director's reputation is very hard earned and well deserved
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great work
Kirpianuscus22 November 2017
a propaganda film. it is obvious this conclusion. and one of films who seems more than perfect. because it is a challenge. for cinematography, for memorable scenes, for details. and for the state. and this does it one of rare meetings who remains in memory for entire life. because it is the film who change. perspectives, opinions and who defines the pure art. because it is one of the brilliant cinema lesson for each viewer. and, maybe, this is the most important thing about it.
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