Saturday, December 10, 2016

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Seamen on the Black Sea battleship Prince Tavricheskiy (known to the girls downtown as Old Man Potemkin) are angered by poor treatment and rotten mean. When the Captain decides to execute most of his crew because they wouldn’t eat their borscht (as all good boys should!), they mutiny. When the good people of Odessa openly support the sailors, the evil Cossacks brutally shoot them down. You know, down the steps. The Odessa steps.

Battleship Potemkin is an unflinching propaganda piece, make no mistake, but it’s a very innovative one. In here Sergei Eisenstein developed techniques every Scooby Doo episode owes a debt of gratitude to. Well, kinda. Anyhow, I found it curious how when the crowd declares the revolution for all Russians, and one Odessa citizen yells down with Jews, he is ostracized from the group. A very noble moment, if in striking contrast with the reality of the subject.

But propaganda by its very nature plays fast and loose with the facts. The mutiny of the Potemkin took place twelve years before the Russian revolution and the events transpired quite differently. Or so Wikipedia tells me. I’m no historian.

There is no arguing how important Potemkin is. Eisenstein used non actors to heighten authenticity. I found the nuts and bolts activities of sailors very interesting. But even for an under 70 minute film, parts did seem tedious. Particularly the buildups to the stairs sequence as well as the finale. Really, this is a film school film. A document of early film making innovations. But still, it’s a good watch even for us non film students. AMRU 3.5.

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