Battleship Potemkin (1925)

This classic Eisenstein has eluded me for years.  Despite having read many readings about this film in grad school, I haven’t managed to actually watch this film until now. 

It was well worth the wait.  Why, you ask?

For starters, I didn’t fall asleep. 

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is elaborate on your own thoughts.  I think with Battleship Potemkin, this is infinitely difficult given only one viewing.  What stands out for me the most are some of the beautiful camera shots:  the battleship’s gun barrel in the foreground with the clouds in the background (giving a very nice, clear perspective of the barrel with murky clouds in the background), and the woman holding her dead child looking right at the viewer as she’s yelling on the steps (she’s yelling at ME, wanting ME to do something about the supression and the atrocities that are unfolding).  Nice!

Even the shear length of the film is impressive.  As I was watching it, I was thinking about how difficult it must have been to piece an hour and fifteen minutes together because there are so many repeated shots throughout. But, I must also consider that Eisenstein very well must have had a point to all of the repetition: perhaps as a reinforcement of the ideals he was portraying.

Something else I was thinking as I was watching the film was how the people in the film are clearly regular people.  I recall saying to SL, something like “move over NeoRealism!”  (though obviously Eisenstein predates the Italians on this one)  There’s just something about using regular people in a “People’s revolution” film that makes my heart swoon.  Perhaps that’s why I love Italian Neorealist films so much too.  SL and I cogitated over these regular folks, especially one of the older ladies in the film who could easily be found in the dictionary or encyclopedia under the term “Rode Hard and Put Away Wet.”  Bless her heart, as my mother would say.

I liked the use of the ship model, so clearly fake.  I think filmmaking today is too overdone in terms of its attempt to make things look “real.”  I invoke  Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Jonson and say:  let me retain my suspension of disbelief; I like it better that way. Don’t try to convince me that what I see is real. Let me see the puppeteer and I’m bound to appreciate your art a lot more.

The last thing I have to say is that I think it’s awfully ironic that the music that accompanies silent films is so important.  With this film, the somewhat frantic music (at times) sets a mood of anxiety and impending catastrophe that is altogether fitting for the mood of the film. 

Next time I screen this film I’m sure to have more to say. For now, this will have to do.

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