It’s the scene that everyone knows. You might not have seen the whole film but you’ve seen this one. Soldiers firing, people dying, blood spilt, chaos reigns. The Odessa Steps is one of the greatest cinematic sequences and it is infamous for all the right reasons. The filmmaker behind the choreographed rebellion, Sergi Eienstein, created a masterpiece about a mutiny on board a Russian battleship, which, was also based on real events.
Split into 5 chapters, each one is it’s one story within the greater one. The film begins with the grumblings of poorly treated sailors who argue they are been given rotten meat. Slowly the sailors band together and take the battleship after an intense scene on deck when officer order soldiers to shoot unarmed sailors covered in a canvas. News the mutiny reaches shore the citizens side with the sailors. Each chapter is quite intense as everyone’s actions are unpredictable, making you perch on the edge of your seat. The film may be from 1925 but its as good as any modern thriller.
There is not denying the fact that this film is bloody and violent. The film was banned in the France, West Germany and the UK (until 1954) because of the passionate and violent revolution. Watching the down trodden rise up and take control of the battleship would have seemed more intimidating at the time of the film’s release. But now, it is considered a PG film, surprisingly. The most violent sequences or montage as Eienstein said is Chapter 4: The Odessa Steps, in which civilians who supported the sailors are gunned down while fleeing down the steps. Several characters are introduced to us in the happy scene, where everyone is waving to the battleship to how they meet their end. Tragedies are witnessed but there is no room for pity here. The image of the pram rolling down the steps throughout the massacre is an image that will stay with you.
Widely considered a masterpiece due to the techniques used by Eisenstein, the same for which he was criticized for by the Soviet Union. His theory of montage which relies heavily on editing, creating cinematic impact. It might seem strange to sit down and relax while watching Battleship Potemkin, but even though it’s a silent film, the music more than makes up for the lack of dialogue. The feeling and emotions are not in the speech but in their expressions. The film has most definitely has aged but just like an vintage wine, Eienstein’s revolution is more relevant, maybe not with the subject but because of the techniques. This film has inspired other filmmakers and guarantee it will continue to.
Dir: Sergei Eisenstein
Scr: Nina Agadzhanova, Sergei Eisenstein
Cast: Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barksy, Grigori Aleksandrov
Prd: Jacob Bliokh
DOP: Eduard Tisse
Music: Vladimir Heifetz, Meisel
Country: Soviet Union
Runtime: 75 min
Battleship Potemkin is out now on Blu-ray and DVD.