Bronenosets Potemkin (1925)


BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (Bronenosets Potyomkin)

(director/writer: Sergei Eisenstein; screenwriter: Nina Agadzhanova Shutko; cinematographers: Vladimir Popov/Eduard Tisse; editor: Sergei Eisenstein; music: Dmitri Shostakovich-reissue; cast: Ivan Bobrov (Sailor), Beatrice Vitoldi (Woman with Baby Carriage), Nina Poltavseva (Woman with Pince-nez), Julia Eisenstein (Odessa Citizen), Grigori Aleksandrov (Chief Officer Giliarovsky), Aleksandr Antonov (Vakulinchuk), Vladimir Barsky (The Captain), Sergei Eisenstein (Ship Chaplain), Aleksandr Levshin (Petty Officer), Mikhail Gomarov (Sailor); Runtime: 65; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jacob Bliokh; Facets; 1925-USSR-in Russian with English subtitles)

“It still fascinates as a shocking piece of history preserved on film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Sergei Eisenstein (“Strike”/”October”/”Ivan the Terrible-parts 1 & 2”), the noted film theoretician, was commissioned by the Soviet government to make a movie commemorating the failed uprising of 1905. That famous incident led directly to the Communist Revolution of 1917. Film scholars have greatly honored the film through the years and have made it one of the most analyzed films ever. Though fictitious, it accurately depicts in its recreation the revolutionary mutiny by the Soviet sailors on the Potemkin in June 1905 and the subsequent massacre of their citizen supporters from Odessa. The mutiny was over inedible rations and worm-eaten meat that the sailors refused to eat. It was further provoked when the czarist commander ordered at random ten sailors to be executed by a firing squad. The remaining sailors turned on the officers and killed them all. The oppressed people of Odessa joined the revolt to show their rejection of the czarist regime. The Cossack troops responded and on the town’s Odessa Steps mowed down both the rioters and innocent citizens without mercy. The scenario still retains the chilling power of that bloody slaughter. It just might be the most famous sequence ever filmed.

The film, in equal parts of art and propaganda, is renown for its creative editing, use of montage and outstanding photography. Though there’s something cold and didactic about it, it still fascinates as a shocking piece of history preserved on film.