OK, we’re sailing back towards Grim again, but this film by Sergei Eisenstein is a classic. You’re probably familiar with parts of it even if you’ve never seen Battleship Potemkin.
I’d rate the movie at least a PG-13, probably an R. The massacre on the Odessa steps is horrifying but also breathtaking – it may be the best movie sequence ever filmed.
This is not an overstatement.
Keep in mind that this is a Soviet-era propaganda film. It’s baloney, in other words – but baloney that’s easy to watch and served up by a master.
The plot is childishly black and white – mutineers are pure good/authorities from the Tsar right on down to the ship’s officers are pure evil, and it’s just so unfair that they get upset about a little mutiny.
The historical facts are messed with, too.
There was never a massacre on the Odessa steps, thankfully. There was a battleship called Potemkin (though another ship is used in this movie), and there was a mutiny, but its actual legacy is debatable.
All that said, Eisenstein made history and influenced many modern film makers with this movie.
As University of Alaska Professor Daniel Griffin says,
Eisenstein more or less invented the use of quick cuts of several pieces of ongoing action, reaction shots, and close-ups, all spliced together to tell one complete story. The now famous scenes at the steps in which the Russian army shoots down innocent workers utilized such storytelling and editing devices, and they were both revolutionary in their time and influential to just about every subsequent cinematic endeavor. So effective are these moments, in fact, that most film historians/professors tend to skip the rest of the movie—about the true 1905 uprising on the Russian battleship Potemkin and the subsequent support the mutineers found on land—and focus on Eisenstein’s choice of rapid cuts and edits that he used in these several minutes of screen time.
We visited Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony earlier this week, so it’s a good time for this version of Battleship Potemkin because this was where I first heard his music.
Shostakovich didn’t score this movie – whoever posted this sampled his music, particularly the Fifth Symphony – but it fits nicely.
Well, this is not the place for a breezy Buster Keaton short, so let’s just weigh anchor. All aboard the Battleship Potemkin!
Categories: Saturday Silents