It doesn't need saying that Sergei Eisenstein was one of cinema's most significant innovators, and his mastering of the montage was forever to alter how films were made and perceived by audiences. I can't confess to being Eisenstein's greatest admirer not through any aversion to his work, but simply due to inexperience. Aside from the 'The Battleship Potemkin (1925),' a prerequisite for any budding film buff, I'd previously only seen his debut effort 'Glumov's Diary (1923),' a brief and plot-less short that is rather difficult to come by. 'Sentimental Romance (1930)' was co-directed by Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov, who worked together on several occasions. This was the pair's first venture into "talkies," and I must admit to being impressed by the film's complex mastery of this new medium. Dialogue is absent, with the exception of the lone female protagonist's melancholy opera performance, and rhythmic editing is used to synchronise the music with the accompanying images. IMDb inexplicably lists 'Sentimental Romance' as a comedy short, which is odd since there isn't a trace of humour in sight.
Instead, this is one of the saddest films I've seen in weeks, a mournful and bittersweet ode to inescapable loneliness. I don't know what the singer (played by Mara Griy) was singing about, but her solitary plight really broke my heart. There are really two sides to Eisenstein and Aleksandrov's film. The first, comprising the opening five minutes or so, is a frenetic and zany montage of trees falling down, intercut with crashing ocean waves, which are spliced so ingeniously into place that I could swear I saw a shot of water actually engulfing a forest. Then everything slows down a bit, and Eisenstein briefly steps back from the editing console. The singer is introduced as a silent silhouette against a brightly-lit window, and the camera catches her movements smoothly and gracefully. Though likely inspired by the ever-more-popular Surrealist works of the late 1920s and 1930s namely 'Un chien andalou (1929),' 'H2O (1929)' and 'The Blood of a Poet (1930)' I like this effort much better. It lacks the pretensions of its contemporaries, and has considerably more heart than I imagined possible for a work of surrealism.
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