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 November of that year. Lenin returns in April. In July, counter-revolutionaries put down a spontaneous revolt, and Lenin's arrest is ordered. By late October, the Bolsheviks are ready to strike: ten days will shake the world. While the Mensheviks vacillate, an advance guard infiltrates the palace. Anatov-Oveyenko leads the attack and signs the proclamation dissolving the provisional government.Written by
The Bolshevik revolutionary killed by the mob can be seen blinking his eyes after dead. See more »
Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin):
We have the right to be proud that to us fell the good fortune of beginning the building of the Soviet State and, by doing so, opening a new chapter in the history of the world.
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Only under the iron leadership of the Communist Party can the victory of the masses be secured. See more »
A restored version was finished in Moscow in October/November 2007, adding material and correcting the timing, growing the length of the movie (compared to the 1967 version, the restored version hitherto usually screened) by about half an hour. The added material includes shots of (an actor playing) Leonid Trotsky, shots which Sergey Eisenstein is said to have removed from the film during the editing process by order from Stalin himself. See more »
Brilliant Eisenstein Aided By a Strong Shostakovich Score
American John Reed, who never met a Bolshevik he didn't admire and trust, wrote a still spellbinding first-hand account, "Ten Days That Shook the World," of the November (October in the Old Style calendar) revolution that ended Russia's Provisional Government. Directors Sergei Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov dipped into Reed's almost breathless panegyric to the quixotic and jumbled events that led to the capture of the fabled Winter Palace for the epic, "Oktyabr" (shown here as "October").
Whatever Aleksandrov's contribution, this is emphatically and unmistakably Eisenstein's film and it's a masterpiece. Tracing the increasingly chaotic days from the overthrow of the Romanovs until the victory of the Bolsheviks and their foolishly trusting partners, Eisenstein's 1927 movie freezes the mood and emotions of one of the most turbulent episodes in Russian, indeed in world, history.
A signature technique of Eisenstein is the fast pan from enormous, fluid and raging crowd action (here occasionally taken from news film but more often staged with a cast of thousands) to a closeup of faces that reflect deep emotion. As in "Battleship Potemkin," dealing with an earlier phase of the unraveling of tsarist Russia, Eisenstein's heroes are the proletariat, poor but possessed of a fierce and empowering nobility. The bourgeoisie are inflated, food and drink-sated fools, their supercilious natures reflected by expressions bordering on the imbecilic.
With Eisenstein's films, viewers tend to remember several scenes that most exported his vision. Here a dead horse and a long-haired young woman, killed as she joined in a workers' protest, undergo a slow passage from the deck of an opening bridge into a river. It's harrowing, unforgettable.
Lenin is, of course, a hero. The hero. Trotsky, on his way to banishment and eventual assassination, is shown as a weak would-be compromiser, actually a mild obstacle to the march of the Soviets to power. I bet he didn't like this movie.
Contrasting peoples' moods with still shots of objects was always an Eisenstein trait. The workers are juxtaposed with weapons, streets, bridges. The feckless Kerensky, head of the Provisional Government, is pictured against statuettes of Napoleon. Depicted as a coward he abandons his cabinet in a car bedecked with a small American flag. The flag is shown several times. I wonder why. And the poor tsar and tsarina, soon to be brutally murdered with their children and servants at Ekaterinburg, have their framed photos alternated with those of their imperial commode.
Dmitri Shostakovich, not simply the greatest Russian composer of the last century but also one of the world's finest, was ideologically and creatively in tune, no pun intended, with Eisenstein and officialdom's retrospective paean to the Bolshevik overthrow. In 1927 he was years away from being Russia's most endangered composer because of the whims of the madman, Stalin (who isn't in this film). His score is hardly his best work, not even his finest film music. It is an effective accompaniment to the action.
Originally a silent film, the added-on soundtrack has virtually no speech but the sounds of marching, running, trains, guns and other objects enliven the picture, now faithfully and well-restored.
"Oktyabr" is, of course, a political polemic and the history portrayed is what the party ordained as truth. Eisenstein was a brilliant innovator but he was no counter-revolutionary deviationist and wrecker. He adhered to the party line and so does the movie.
The restored print is making the rounds of film societies and art theaters and should, if possible, be viewed on a large screen. But even on a TV set "Oktyabr" will reach out and grip the viewer.
10/10. A milestone in film-making.
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