9 may. 2014

My Review: Battleship Potemkin (8/10)

"There is an uprising!"

Battleship Potemkin is one of the true masterpieces from the silent film era thanks to the innovative editing techniques used by director Sergei Eisenstein. He took the basic principles of continuous editing that D.W. Griffith had used a decade earlier and revolutionized film with his now famous montages. Battleship Potemkin has brilliant montages and by combining these different shots together an entire new meaning emerges. This is one of those rare silent films that not only can be appreciated for the important role it played in the revolution of cinema, but it also happens to be very entertaining on its own. The action scenes were beautifully shot and edited together to stir an even greater emotional impact. Of course, the film isn't without its flaws because being the political film it is (Communist propaganda), its leftist message is heavy handed. The sailors and workers are presented as the saints, while the tsarists are demonized. No matter if you agree or not with the message of the film, there is no denying that this movie is worth watching thanks to Eisenstein's technical achievements and some iconic scenes that continue to influence the way we view cinema today. 

The screenplay commemorating the uprising of 1905 in Russia was written by Nina Agadzhanova. The story focuses on the crew of the Battleship Potemkin who were being treated poorly by their commanders. One of the sailors, Vokulinchuk (Alexander Antonov), decides it's time for them to stand up like the rest of the nation has against this oppressive government. The next day, the crew refuses to eat the rotten meat served for them and begin a protest which leads to a violent riot. The sailors try to ignite the revolution by raising a red flag near their home port, but when Vokulinchuk is violently killed the people of Odessa become outraged. Things get out of control for the Tsar regime who violently kill hundreds of innocent people on the Odessa Steps, which only ignites more indignation from the rest of the protestors. They have reached a point of no return and there is no stopping the revolution now.

The climactic and most memorable action scene takes place during the middle of the film in the Odessa Steps where Eisenstein brilliantly uses rhythmic editing to build the suspense. This scene has become iconic and many directors have payed homage to it. These montages were a perfect fit for propagandistic purposes because they stirred powerful emotions and could easily manipulate the audience. That is why some directors prefer using long takes instead of montages, but there is no denying that Eisenstein's visionary way of directing has influenced cinema today. I appreciated this film very much, but I also enjoyed it and was entertained throughout its short running time. There are also some beautiful shots in Potemkin so a lot of credit has to be given to cinematographer Eduard Tisse. This is a must see film for all the technical achievements involved, and you will be surprised at how well Eisenstein put together those scenes to leave audiences at the edge of their seats.


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