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Friday, May 20, 2016

Battleship Potemkin

Commissioned to commemorate the failed 1905 revolution against the Tsar, Battleship Potemkin is a 1925 Russian silent masterpiece directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein and considered one of the most influential and greatest films ever made.
Presented in five acts, Battleship Potemkim distills the 1905 uprising against the czar in one exemplary story of the mutiny on board the battleship Potemkin. As revolution is taking place in Russia, some of the crew of the Potemkin is debating whether they should do their part. As officers treat them cruelly and they are given maggot-infested meat rations, the tension on board the ship rises and when some of the men refuse to eat their food, they are charged of insubordination and sentenced to a firing-squad. Their fellow crew members, however, refuse to carry out these order and so the mutiny begins. The crew kill their officers and make their way to the port of Odessa, where they are greeted as heroes by the people there but this also results in a regiment of Cossacks being sent down to bring the mounting revolution under control. As they brutally kill anyone who stands up to them, the crew of the Potemkin decide to use the ship's firepower against their adversaries whilst other warships make their way to Odessa to crush the revolt.
Sergei Eisenstein, a Soviet filmmaker, film teacher and film theorist, made Battleship Potemkim as a revolutionary propaganda film whilst also applying his theories of "intellectual montage", leading to one of the most famous sequences in cinema history with the "Odessa steps scene" and changing the way film would be edited for basically every film that followed. Using rhythm and rapid cuts between the soldiers boots marching down the stairs and their victims, amongst which an old woman being shot in the eye and a mother losing her baby and carriage causing it to roll down the stairs, the scene was unlikely anything which had come before it and it became the blueprint for a whole new way for cinema to evoke emotion. Whilst only four minutes long, the sequence feels much longer due to its impact and is perhaps one of the most imitated scenes to have ever been filmed, perhaps most famously and blatantly in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. Battleship Potemkin was voted the greatest film of all time at the Brussels World's Fair in 1958 and has been in Sight & Sound's top ten greatest films ever for about sixty years straight. The influence of the film cannot be understated and this is absolute must-see cinema for any serious film lover. A masterpiece.

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