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Battleship Potemkin

Battleship Potemkin(1925)

The influence Battleship Potemkin has had on the cinematic world from its initial conception-onward could not be overstated. Even Hollywood films which contested much of the radical ideals of European cinema of the day lauded Eisenstein's masterpiece. To this day Potemkin is studied in a wide range of film schools and film studies classes world wide. Perhaps the most important reason for this is the assumption of dialectical montage whereby thesis and anti-thesis create synthesis, which in turn creates the new thesis and onward. I have reviewed many films thus far, however, most of the films I have reviewed and praised throughout would have come under heavy fire under Eisenstein's keen eye. Many films I have reviewed would be considered what we refer to as "constructivist" and "modern", Eisenstein was deeply at odds with this approach to film making which is why he could not see eye to eye with his fellow contemporaries such as Dziga Vertov. Vertov's cinema was very much in the ideals of the European experiments of the time. His films, no matter how much visual grandeur, still function almost as if they are documentaries themselves. Eisenstein on the other hand was steeped in a tradition of Romanticism, which could explain to an extent why he held John Ford in high regard despite what was steep cultural and credo differences.

I thought it was important to mention Potemkin because of these circumstances. There is a cinematic mythos that one either relates to Eisenstein's Romanticized symbolic manipulations or a more Modern approach which is found throughout Vertov's work. This view is as damning, if not more so, than the relationship of viewers who place themselves within the certain "camps" of either Fellini and Antonioni. Taking on such vantage points impedes on the viewpoint that one may perhaps blend the possible notions of "Romanitcized Modernism"? Regardless, to those who disagree with Eisenstein's approach and view it as a more "manipulative" approach to film making, the question remains, in my mind, "Would the Revolutionary fervor of the era be handled so correctly without it?" If one views the methods of the Kuleshov Workshops though the process of a "operational paradigm", the end question that would be raised is the control and cost of utilizing the very technique itself. So if one thinks in terms of the Revolutionary times, Eisenstein is no more manipulative, (in my opinion), than that of Vertov who procured movies about the latter, more "stable", aspects of Soviet life.

What is interesting about Battleship Potemkin, (as with other Eisenstein films), is that such dialectical approaches to the films psychological responses are not limited only to montage itself. There is also a deep-bedded emotional aesthetic which layers upon this concept. Whether intended or not, Eisenstein allows the viewer to be "the thesis" to which he is "the anti-thesis" which, in turn, makes the viewer the ever engaged, ever emotional, and the ever changing "synthesis/thesis". How does Eisenstein achieve this? Unbeknownst to him or not, Eisenstein takes the vantage point of "anti-humanist", which is the "anti-thesis" to much of our concepts of perception and philosophies. So working on these two levels, is it any wonder the Odessa Steps is the most studied sequence in cinema history?

Battleship Potemkin would be, under normal circumstances, a very hard film to come to terms with because had certain sequences not been montaged with precision, the film itself would have been rather inaccessible. One takes into an account the "Daily Bread" plate-smashing sequence, in which the sailor commits two completely different forms of action at once. However, though the thought of montage, the "synthesis" that one derives from this action is one of unsettled mutiny. Throughout the film, these type of concepts are seen. Each action is therefore enhanced by unconventional practice, but is ultimately excepted by the well-defined edit itself.

I highly recommend this cinematic masterpiece to film lovers of all types. It doesn't hold such worldwide regard without reason. So by all means, enjoy.

My Rating:

5 Star of 5