The End of St. Petersburg (1927) Poster

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Those Darn Capitalists!
Hitchcoc12 October 2009
I have to say that I was quite captivated by this film, and, of course, I found myself rooting for those poor Soviets. The symbol of the boiled potato which at first barely fed two people, finally being shared by the communists is quite striking. The film is visually wonderful. Both Poduvkin and Eisenstein have this thing for wonderful faces, with character and pain. Of course, everything is exaggerated. Those guys at the stock market, feasting on the spoils of the country while the proletariat slaved in the factories is brought to us with an incredible heavy-handedness. These must have been used extensively for propaganda purposes and must have had people up in arms. There are good performances and all the communist symbolism one could hope for. Unfortunately, not everything panned out quite so well a few years later, with the oppressed back under the heel of those who abuse power. See this film, however, and consider the plight of the poor of Russia, stuck under the Tsar and the fat cats.
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The singing, collective eye
chaos-rampant24 August 2011
Pudovkin, it is said, would visit Eisenstein late at night to discuss theories of montage. They were both key figures of the movement, but polar opposites; so one can imagine how heatedly - how excitedly, at the prospect of discovery - the ideas must have been debated back and forth, and is montage the means of collision between images that scream or the scaffold that builds into song?

But whereas Eisenstein was grounded into Freud, Joyce, Banshun and Japanese poetry, Pudovkin - as a British journalist puts it - argued theory like a schoolteacher. So, it makes some sense that he hasn't endured in critical thought like his more famous counterpart, or like Vertov and Dovzhenko. But having read some of Pudovkin's writings, he was indeed one of the great engineers of cinema, at the time when cinema was truly engineered; his theory of human perception as a series of edits, thus how the objective world is arranged movie-like into the mind into a narrative, has far-reaching imports. It implies a way out of the editing mind, and back into the eye.

It's something that I have been looking for in my meditation - how to extinguish these lapses, edits, of mind narrative so that only the silence behind the forms echoes. This is a literal thing btw, I'm not talking about a fancy metaphor. In meditation, you become tangibly aware of intruding thoughts as narratives, lapses during which the surrounding reality is dimmed into a haze. Back into Pudovkin though.

But with the advent of sound, he petered out; the last significant experiment we find is in his first talkie, Deserter, and it is about subjective sound. Here though, he still mattered. The two friends and theoretical rivals were commissioned by the Soviet state to make films that commemorated the ten years since the Revolution. Eisenstein turned out a film on the grand scale, Pudovkin on the other hand something more intricate.

Oh, eventually there is battle and revolutionary spirit rippling through a society of oppressed, exploited proles. Flags are waved from balconies, the streets festively rained with paper as the Reds turn the tide against both Germans and White Russians. By the end, the enemies of the people are shown to have been really few, a handful of pathetic officers scattered in a field. St. Petersburg turns eventually, joyously for the film, into the City of Lenin.

But there is stuff that matters before we get into the simple paean, all pertaining to the mechanisms that control the eye.

I don't know what you will be looking to get out of these films, but to me they matter because these people, erudite engineers of film, were hard at work devising ways by which to unfetter the eye from narrative. Oh, the perception they enabled was the farthest thing from true, but we can discard the politics and focus on the actual engineering; how to make film in a way that seeing and what is seen become one, unmediated by any thought between them?

Look, for example, how Pudovkin edits the scene with the young man at the police headquarters, arguing the release of a man from the same village as he; individually the images may not make perfect sense, the intertitle seems to be a disembodied voice that belongs to no one in particular, but it precisely this scaffold rigged for the eye that makes it resonate. It is only upon seeing, and seeing only, that it translates.

Painterly beauty elsewhere, fields of hay rolling in the distance, the shots of windmills and overcast skies that predate later poetics of Soviet cinema. Or, once in the city, the stark desolation in empty cityscapes that could only be so purely expressed by a film tradition, rooted in Marxist politics, that rejoiced at the sight of masses and crowds.

It is fine, fine stuff. As with other Soviet films of the era, I recommend that you see as 'films', not as 'agitprop' from where we, enlightened viewers of the West, are called to salvage a few cinematic notions of historic importance. Oh yes, the imports of good and evil are simple-minded, but were they any more intricate with the expressionists in Germany or contemporary Hollywood?
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Very Well-Crafted, & A Fine Companion to Eisenstein's "October"
Snow Leopard17 December 2004
This Pudovkin classic and Eisenstein's "October" were both commissioned to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 1917 revolution. The two movies work very well as companions for one another, since Eisenstein concentrated on the major historical events of the revolution, while "The End of St. Petersburg" looks at the era through a story involving some everyday characters. Eisenstein's movie is deservedly well-known, and it is probably the better of the two, but Pudovkin's well-crafted film is a fully worthy companion, and it deserves to be better remembered.

The story is well-conceived and, at least given the perspective from which it was made, it works well. The main character is a young man from the country who heads to the great city of St. Petersburg to find work, and who instead learns a series of unexpected and not always pleasant lessons. As the young man, Ivan Chuvelyov does not have a lot of screen presence, but he does convey sincerity and honesty.

The other two major characters are a proletarian agitator played by Aleksandr Chistyakov, and his strong-willed wife, played by Vera Baranovskaya. Both of them have good presence, and make their characters stand out. The roles are not really all that complex, but they are used well in the story.

It's understood that it is often necessary to set aside political perspectives in order to appreciate Soviet-era Russian movies. There are a few somewhat heavy-handed details here, mostly in the portrayal of capitalists, and occasionally in the titles. But you could easily find techniques used in today's Hollywood movies that are much more labored or manipulative. Further, movies like "The End of St. Petersburg" go a long ways towards explaining how and why Russia turned to Leninism and communism with such determination.

Perhaps movies like this will now be of interest only to those with an enthusiasm for history, but for those who do take such an interest, it should not be a disappointment.
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They don't make 'em like they used to
JohnSeal14 December 1999
The End of St Petersburg was another landmark of Soviet realist cinema, as good as if not better than Battleship Potemkin, Strike, or Storm Over Asia. It's incredibly powerful, with many absolutely stunning montage sequences that make today's quick cut edits look like like child's play in comparison. The language of cinema was invented in Russia and Germany by artists like Pudovkin, Eisenstein, Murnau, and Lang. Anyone interested in cinema history needs to see films like this one to appreciate how weak our current crop of auteurs truly are.
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"What are we dying for?"
evening12 December 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Welcome to a dark and joyless Russia in the days before its revolution.

This is a place where, if you manage to survive childbirth, all you get is a yowling, extra mouth to feed. If your man doesn't work, you starve.

Rabid for profits, industrialists seek higher production by lengthening shifts at the local, hellish factory.

When the workers proclaim, "We're on strike," it sounds triumphant, but fear abounds.

"Soon we'll have nothing to feed our faces," says a unionist's wife (Vera Baronovskaya). "In a week, we'll be dead from empty bellies."

Directors Vsevolod Pudovkin and Mikhail Doller create tension by showing one class conflict after another. When the moneyed class brings in strikebreakers, the viewer braces for violence. But the workers really don't want to hurt one another.

"Brothers, you're going against your own people!" a striker shouts.

The acting in this silent film is stark and expressive. In particular, Ivan Chuvelyov does well as a peasant who unwittingly betrays a unionist. When he realizes what he's done, he attacks his "betters," winds up in police court, and dares to defend the workers' advocate: "He's got kids sitting at home with nothing to eat!"

For his courage, the peasant gets his face smashed and a trip to the Great War front ("Enlist this one as a volunteer," snarls a cop).

This movie, produced to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the revolution, aired on the network of the City University of New York. With class conflict a theme in the presidential election, this film is worth a view.
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No matter what your own politics or interpretation of history, you can't help admire the sheer joy Pudovkin takes in filmmaking.
toqtaqiya215 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Trained in physics and chemistry, Vsevolod Pudovkin joined Lev Kuleshov's film workshop soon after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917. He systemized the master's methods in the pamphlet Film Technique (1926), which ennobled editing as the alpha and omega of film art. Pudovkin also insisted that the filmmaker had to make every scene vivid through facial expression and those details of setting he called 'plastic material'. Although critics judged Sergei Eisenstein the deeper theorist, Pudovkin's doctrines became canonical for aspiring filmmakers everywhere. By treating filmmaking as a matter of strict calculation, Pudovkin may have led critics to overlook his forceful storytelling and poetic imagination. The End Of St. Petersburg remains a powerful portrayal of the 1917 Revolution, seen from the bottom. Pudovkin follows D.W. Griffith in contriving to balance historical sweep with personal drama in a way that The Battleship Potemkin (1925) never attempts. In the most famous sequence, Pudovkin cross-cuts the battlefield with the stock exchange not only to illustrate how war yields profits but also to stir our anger at the obvious contrast between frenziedly bidding brokers and dead soldiers frozen in the mud. Throughout, the political lessons arise from emotional details. Once considered Eisenstein's peer, Pudovkin has wandered into the shadows. Mother (1926), a striking adaptation of Maxim Gorky's novel, has largely been remembered for its textbook montage. Adventurous experiments like Storm Over Asia (1928), A Simple Case (1932) and Deserter (1933) have largely been forgotten.
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Startling early Russian silent
tbyrne414 April 2007
Wow!! I wasn't expecting something like this. Quite frankly, silent Russian directors make American directors of the same era look anemic by comparison.

Nearly every shot in this film is poetry - beautifully composed, lit, not over-acted (like so many silents), simple, and brutally powerfully. The faces, the atmosphere. Vsevolod had an AMAZING eye for composition. The close-ups are gorgeous and intense and fiery and the wide shots are breathtaking in the way they emphasize man's fragile diminutive size.

Of course, this is a propaganda film, so the upper class are portrayed as fat, hysterical beast-people and the lower-class are all rough-hewn and beautiful, but WHO CARES when the movie is this good! And this is during the age of Eisenstein so the quick-cut editing comes into play during the end with the big overthrow of St. Petersburg with great edits that are nearly subliminal.

Wonderful stuff
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Cinema in its finest form
Laitue_Gonflable1 November 2003
This silent 1927 masterpiece is truly brilliant. To me it embodies everything that cinema is meant to be; it's visual art in motion, literature with pictures, history with emotion; all those and much more. It really is at the peak of film-making.

I say that, but that is not to say it is a perfect film. Just that the intention in creating this bleak and powerful look at poverty in early 20th-century Russia is absolutely spot-on: It wants to tell a tale, create an image, and to breathe life into history. The intention is not simply to entertain like so many awful films of the past ten years, which is a good thing, since "The End of St. Petersberg" is great without actually being entertaining.

There are some very powerful scenes and some frankly unforgettable visual sequences - the scenes of the first world war for example, or the beginning of the workers' strike. Take it from me, Pudovkin's direction is absolutely masterful and I think it's sad that seemingly so few people have discovered him. But with all that said, by today's standards this doesn't quite have the staying power of Chaplin or Keaton.

It's quite wonderful to behold, but it can really only captivate the interest of people who are interested in details of history, or who know little of the events leading up to the Russian revolution. Unfortunately for me I'm neither very interested nor entirely ignorant and so while I'm very glad to have witnessed this grand-scale piece of master craftsmanship it couldn't completely peak my interest.

That's unimportant though in the great scheme of things, and I don't mean to say that I don't thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys film or art. ****1/2 / *****
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bastardization abounds
mlink-36-98157 December 2016
they need to STOP replacing Russian titles and leave the film intact - totally Russian. then use electronic subtitles to translate. by removing Russian titles its possible and probable they will mistranslate to simplify and change the meaning. they have done this to END OF ST. PETERSBURG and ruined it. also STORM OVER ASIA which is not the title of the movie. its HEIR TO GENGHIS KHAN. a beautiful original Russian print RUINED. ............. ................ ..>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
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Propaganda, and little more
Turin_Horse25 October 2013
Does anybody know of some film from the first decades of the soviet era which is not plain political propaganda?. Cinema was one of the best media for communicating the "greatness" and "goodness" of the socialist revolution and how evil everything that had happened in Russia before October 1917 was, and directors like Eisenstein and Pudovkin did a very good job at spreading the word.

Basically this film is a companion to Eisenstein's October, this one showing the main actors of the October revolution, while Pudovkin's focuses in the facts from the common people point of view. This might have resulted in an interesting study of the soul of the Russian people, on how peasants and citizens lived, what they believed in, what was their position with regard to the political events that were developing in their country. Unfortunately there is nothing of this anywhere in the film, propaganda takes over, and the film is a succession of topics such as how evil the stock market-bidding capitalists are, how desperate the living of the peasants and proletarians was, the betrayal of the coalition governments to the people on forming and alliance with the financial power... There is no individual character development (well, individuals as such mattered little for the soviets, we know), each personage represents something, it is not him/herself but just a part of the social class he/she belongs to, and thus performance from all the actors is as plain and superficial as the lecture of a political manifesto in the supreme soviet.

Nothing particularly interesting either regarding cinematography: the trite scenes of masses in movement, poorly executed in general (a very long way from Griffith, for instance), close-ups which pretended to impress the audience I suppose (they made me giggle instead), and a poor montage, full of symbolisms (like the equestrian statue of some past Tzar) repeated again and again tiresomely.

One only scene was of some appeal to me, the very last one, when the wife of the worker's communist leader enters the Catherine's palace and is dazzled by its magnificence and beauty, a scene with a highly symbolic meaning: the old palaces of the nobility were now freely accessible for the common people, everybody was now "equal". We know now that this would be for a very short time however...

So, this was my last attempt with old soviet cinematography. Creativity was so curtailed that I know I can't expect anything new from what I have already seen. One star for the final scene, plus another one for its mastery in propaganda, plus the basic one = 3 stars.
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Leave the Symbolism to Eisenstein
kril1023 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The End of St. Petersburg would have been a good dramatic account of the two Revolutions of 1917 if Pudovkin had used less symbolism and focused more on developing the specific characters of his film. During the time of its production, Sergei Eisenstein was considered to be a master of generalization and symbolism, with all of his movies lacking many well- developed characters, while Pudovkin was associated much more with the individual. The End of St. Petersburg seems like a failed attempt on Pudovkin's part to be more like Eisenstein—certain symbolic actions were somewhat confusing and detracted from the coherence of the plot.

There were several instances of such "failed symbolism." One was the image of the crying bronze statue as Russian soldiers left St. Petersburg to go fight in World War I. Although on the surface it would seem that this image represents the suffering of the city and the unnecessary loss of life, when this action is placed in the revolutionary context of the film, it is unclear what it means. The statue, possibly of Peter the Great, represented monarchist Russia, so why would it cry for the Proletarians being sent off to fight? Another problematic piece of symbolism was at the end, after the overthrow of the Winter Palace, when the mistress of the bald man passed around her potatoes to wounded revolutionaries. This is likely to demonstrate the collective ownership ideal of Communism, but why would it be a Proletarian woman to share? Why did the revolutionaries not raid the overthrown bourgeois palace for necessary supplies?

All this was also done at the expense of some confusion revolving around certain characters. For example, was the first peasant to leave the countryside the same as "the bald man," i.e. Lenin? What happened to him while he was detained and before he ended up on the front? Explicit scenes to answer these questions may have helped in solidifying the film about the revolution.

Pudovkin did a decent job in representing the revolution through the eyes of a few specific characters, like the bald man, the younger peasant, i.e., "the lad," the bald man's mistress, the leader of the factory and his stock market representative, and the chief of police, but he should have stayed in this realm, since he believed in cinema through the individual. The Eisenstein-like attempts at grand symbolism partially spoiled the film.
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Starts slow, but continuously builds
vladislavmanoylo19 September 2015
This films editing style lends, which can jarringly cut between shots with little regard to space and time, itself well to scenes with lots of tension or aggression. This makes the majority of the movie very intense by using images transitions to convey emotion, but the early parts suffer for it. Noticeable emphasis is placed on the angles and content of shots to convey mood, which frequently works as an effective metaphor in the narrative. But before the story is set up, the meaning of many juxtaposed shots floats away without having another element in the story to meaningfully attach to.

I think too much time is spent early in the film on imagery the film deemed important, instead of offering context for the imagery. But after that it is quite enjoyable to watch. Montage used as metaphor relies heavily on a common ground between the language of images a film uses and the audiences understanding of them. But the impression and transition between images itself can enhance pacing and tension, and this greatly improves the movie. In particular the scenes where the younger protagonist attacks his employer is very powerful. In fact the content of the film after that point is enough to justify watching it. It takes characters to make a story enjoyable, and the film becomes aware of this and uses its editing to enhance the characters.
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The end of St. Petersburg
maria_isabee19 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The film entitled "The end of St. Petersburg," directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin is a narrative, revolved around a naïve young country boy who travels to St. Petersburg along with his mother in search of work. He then betrays his friend, whom he is staying with, by informing the factory's manager of him being the perpetrator behind the strike leading to his arrest. He then realizes the consequences of his mistake and comes to understand the economic forces his countrymen are fighting for and results in attacking his employer. He then goes to jail and later is forced to join the army. Pudovkin uses parallelism quite a bit to express certain situations take for example the shot of Russian soldiers running over the top of the trenches towards their death, which immediately cuts to a shot of a mass amount of bourgeoisie men running up the stairs to the stock exchange facility. This showing completely different environments, as well as different actions that are taking place at the same moment in time. We are shown the brutal reality of the capitalist system that is making a profit in the murder of their own people. Pudovkin shows individuals who hold power as larger figures in comparison to the lower class citizens. For instance near the beginning of the film the naïve country boy and his mother are shown to us shrunken to the size of ants in comparison to the city's gigantic monuments. There was a scene when they were asking directions from a local officer, where the officer was also a significant amount taller than them. Pudovkin again shows us this near the conclusion of the film but where the young country boy is the equal size of the city. The instrumental throughout the film also serves to dramatized actions take for example the scene were a mother slams her daughter from reaching to grab a potato, or when an object breaks. Pudovkin also uses text to caption off certain scenes beautifully.
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Epic, too long but artfully done
samanthamarciafarmer10 December 2015
Early on in The End of St. Petersburg, Pudovkin's reputation as a montage director is evidenced. A lake shore and rising sun is paired with a view of a windmill, linking together to form a more complete view of the morning. Montages show up later, most notably a scene in which an official stands up, the camera cuts to the chair falling and breaking, and then to an attendant's shocked face. These are instances wherein Pudovkin's linkage method is clear, as the images relate and build a fuller scene. However, there is a scene one might consider more in the vein of Eisenstein: footage of soldiers rushing out of trenches in WWI is interspersed with shots of businessmen viewed from above running up steps of buildings. They are surely different, and they juxtapose sharply. Perhaps Pudovkin aimed to show the differences of those two scenes, or maybe to show that they are similar as well. Shots of a chalkboard in between these two parallel worlds (it is unsure if it belongs in that of the businessmen, but one tends to assume it does) suggest that soldiers' deaths and workers' labor are but numbers. These scenes could come off as heavy handed, but they are nuanced and the film is an intricate piece of plot and tasteful treatment of history. The depiction of WWI doesn't hold anything back, with shots of bodies floating in trenches and men being gunned down in mass. The narrative of the villager is engrossing; it doesn't overshadow the history itself and yet the film would feel lacking without it; Ivan Chuvelev's piercing stare is taken full advantage of to provide a haunting and unsettling sensation. Pudovkin's The End of St. Petersburg is a cinematic epic, but not in the same vein as Battleship Potemkin; it is a lighter, more detail-oriented fare.
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Scott-18913 December 1999
Arguably the magnum opus of the silent screen. It must seen to be believed! One can only wonder what the film would have been like had it been made a few later, after the advent of sound. Would appreciate any information regarding the original score. The version we saw on TCM has what seems to be a new soundtrack
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I wanna talk about breathtaking scene
mohammedsverdolov12 February 2021
There is a scene in this movie which I have repeatedly replayed it many times. it's the scene of the village young man and the old woman when they arrived St. Petersburg. the camera from a far angle following them . showing them between the shadows of tsarist giant status. to the bridge when they stood aside letting the horseman cop in the center of the scene. Kept following them again from a far angle above labor houses. they looked tiny and wasted in the huge imperial city. a great traditional Russian music soundtrack was added to this scene at 1969 in Mosfilm studios. this scene shows the scenographical theory of the director and the soviet montage method which was superior at these times.
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Pioneering portrayal of urban poverty
stokke12 July 1999
Pudovkin makes use of revolutionary techniques, especially montage, as he narrates the story of the storming of the Winter Palace in Skt. Petersburg, 1917. The plot centres on two families, one rural and one urban, whose paths cross as they engage passionately in the uprising. The film is a masterpiece in silent film narration.
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