Battleship Potemkin (1925)

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Battleship Potemkin (1925). Eisenstein shooting Potemkin. Battleship Potemkin. Pronounced “Potyomkin” Planned as a part of a cycle of films about the Revolution (along with Strike and October ) Tells about an episode of the 1905 revolt (suppressed)
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Battleship Potemkin (1925)Eisenstein shooting PotemkinBattleship Potemkin
  • Pronounced “Potyomkin”
  • Planned as a part of a cycle of films about the Revolution (along with Strike and October)
  • Tells about an episode of the 1905 revolt (suppressed)
  • Myth-making, but relatively true to the historical events (not in details!)
  • Historical Events
  • 11 days of mutiny on Potemkin
  • Hailed and supported by the population of Odessa
  • Unrest in the city suppressed by Imperial troops
  • No support from other ships
  • Ran out of food and fuel, fled to Romania
  • No significant political outcome
  • Battleship Potemkin: structureFive parts (reels) introduced by intertitles, resemble five acts of tragedy:ReelOne: Men and Maggots Rotten meat, doctor refuses to see the maggots, image of glassesReel Two: Drama on the Quarterdeck Refusal to eat soup – cornered on the deck, refusal to fire on comrades, mutiny, Vakulinchuk’s deathReel Three: Appeal from the Dead Vakulinchuk’s body brought to Odessa, shrine, mourning, raising of red flagReel Four: The Odessa Steps Fraternization of sailors and townspeople. Sailboats bring food to ship. Soldiers massacre people on steps. Battleship fires on army headquarters.Reel Five: Meeting the squadron Night of suspense, the engines of ship fired up. Ship passes triumphantly through squadron sent to suppress mutiny. RealismActorsSetsStatic cameraLong shotsStatuesque human form: full shotsEroticismFictional narrativeFocus on the individualThe RealReal peopleFilmed on locationMobile cameraShort, staccato shotsGrotesque deformed body: detail shotsBrotherhood, motherhoodHistory as mythFocus on the massesEisenstein’s Cinema as rejection of established cinematic normsThemes and motifs
  • Brotherhood: Vakulinchuk’s cry “Brothers!”
  • Religious motifs: slaughter of the innocent
  • « Optimistic tragedy »: Individuals die, while the cause of revolution triumphs.
  • Machines and men
  • Eisenstein’s films are didactic: they always channel an ideological message introduced here in the quotation from Lenin.
  • There is no hero (well-rounded individual) in Strike and Potemkin : there are masses, classes, types; the hero will only appear in October: Lenin as the leader without whom the revolution cannot succeed.
  • Montage of attractions: juxtaposition of unrelated expressive images in a rapid succession (technique influenced by D.W.Griffith’s Intolerance, 1916).
  • Montage and camera
  • Creates metaphors of power (ex., lions)
  • Innocence vs violence (ex., the face of the woman – the rows of soldiers with bayonets lowered)
  • Soldiers as depersonalized graphic lines moving forward; citizens of Odessa as individuals (close-ups)
  • Difference in perspective: soldiers are in control, move downwards; victims’ perspective is from below
  • Lens Theme
  • Doctor refuses to see maggots
  • Shattered lens of woman’s glasses on steps
  • Canvas over mutineers so that comrades with guns cannot see them
  • Camera lens sees and records
  • Camera as inverted metaphor for the gun: cf. “the pen is mightier than the sword.”
  • The Odessa Steps SequenceThe glorification of the machine…
  • Battleship itself joins the revolution
  • camera focuses on guns, machinery of engine room
  • Soldiers advance like faceless automatons down the Odessa steps
  • Visual quotes…Francisco Goya The Third of May 1808 (1814)Michelangelo’s PietàEdvard Munch: The Scream (1893)Hand-painted flag
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