Friday, March 21, 2014


In the beginning...She Blinded Me With Silents (Post 10 of 12)

Battleship Potemkin

Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (a film on the rebellion of of a Russian battleship and the subsequent reprisals from the czar's army) is yet another silent I first encountered in The History of Film class I took during the 80's. It makes me nostalgic for my "textbook" A Short History of the Movies by Gerald Mast.

Here are some points on Battleship Potemkin from Mr. Mast:

1. Eisenstein has the visual ability to convert huge groups of people into complex and striking geometric shapes.

2. Eisenstein's montage increases the sense of movement and tension as the individual shots collide, crash, explode into each other.

3. Eisenstein's ability to alter mood: From the peaceful idyllic sequences of the striking workers at rest and play to the vicious slaughter of vicious slaughter of the workers in their tenements.

4. Eisenstein's sense of metaphor to comment on the action: the sickening slaughter of the dumb and defenseless ox, which comments on the slaughter of the workers.

5. Eisenstein's vision that the capitalistic Czarist system is  fundamentally inhuman and inhumane, an obstacle not only to physical survival but also human fellowship, family and brotherhood.

6. The power of his cutting is unmistakable (All the various shots and points of view of the sailor breaking the plate with the biblical platitudes on them)

7. For a film with a mass protagonist, the faces of individual people are strikingly memorable.

8. The film's five parts, mirroring the five-act structure of classical drama, form a taut structural whole: from the unity the sailor's build on the ship to the unity between ship and shore, to the unity of the entire fleet.

9. The most dazzling editorial sequence of all in the film is the slaughter of the innocent Odessans on the Steps.

10. The film time for the sequence on the Odessa Steps is longer than the actual time it would take a group of people to run down a flight of steps. Subjective time, the way it felt to be there, replaces natural time.

The most famous sequence in this film is definitely the murder of the innocent on the steps of Odessa by the czarist army. This has been called by many one of the most influential scenes in film history (obvious example-Brian De Palma in The Untouchables). One thing is for sure, you can't get through The History of Film class without it.


  1. While the Odessa staircase may be the most famous scene from the film it is the maggot infested meat on the ship that I remember the most vividly. Just the thought makes me want to puke. + the insane comment by the doctor that the meat is fine.

  2. Yes, perhaps the Odessa steps from Potemkin may be so famous, we tend to overlook the many other memorable images from this film.