Bronenosets Potyomkin ( Battleship Potemkin )(1925) 

Directed by

Grigori Aleksandrov 

Sergei M. Eisenstein  (1898-1948)

NOTE: DVD EDITIONS ARE COMPARED HERE

 

REVIEW BY GARY TOOZE

Probably one of the most surprisingly unwatched of the classic genre films, Sergei Eisensteinís Bronenosets Potyomkin ( Battleship Potemkin ) made in 1925 has not maintained a distinctive impact on modern audiences. It was voted the greatest film of all time at the Brussels, Belgium, World's Fair in 1958 and the following year ``Citizen Kane'' had its giant re-release and went to the top of the list for the next 40+ years.

Battleship Potemkin was restored in Moscow in the mid 70ís. and there is no mistaking the age of the source material on the Image Entertainment DVD, but the print is in acceptable condition and its scratches and flaws do not inhibit the films viewers experience, in fact that can tend to supplement it. We are not only watching a storyline, but also history. Political and Cinematic. The monophonic orchestral musical score, by Dimitri Shostakovich, is quite nice as well with occasional unusual pauses and stoppages.

The level of appreciation for the film depends on oneís tolerance of endeavoring to accept the numerous symbols and parallels administered through typical over exaggerated silent film acting. Eisenstein himself represents The Church as he plays the wild looking Russian Orthodox chaplain.  It is hard to pinpoint actual flaws in the acting due to the style in which the film is made, often at a blisteringly edited pace with no focus on any individual characters. . D.W. Griffith and such films of his as ďIntoleranceĒ, 1916, ( which I believe is out of print on DVD ) heavily influenced the film Battleship Potemkin.  Not unlike the propaganda message it delivers, BP fittingly never focuses on an individual behavior for long, but rather the whole persona and often harried and violent activities that are being shown before our eyes. There are no three dimensional individuals in the story who may cause it to become personalized. The only real star of the film is stated in the title.

Eisenstein became quite focused on the actual Potemkin mutiny that his film is based. The crews of the battleship, sailing through the Black Sea after returning from the war with Japan, become outraged because of tainted rations and uncaring bourgeois officers. After a cloth, their death shroud, is thrown over a small group of defiant sailors and orders are shouted for them to be shot. The tension mounts for the viewer and the films potential protagonist Vakulinchuk cries out, ``Brothers! Who are you shooting at?''

 

( CLICK ON IMAGES FOR LARGER VERSIONS ) 

His simple act of imploring for justice to be done was all that was required to start the massive uprising. The firing squad lowers its guns and a melee breaks loose as officers, the shipís doctor and maggot infested meat are hurtled overboard. Vakulinchuk dies in the foray and becomes an important martyr symbol.

Note: The Battleship Potemkin was made on the 20th anniversary of the war with Japan made with the cooperation of the Russian Navy. Historians may take interest that actual Russian sailors are shown operating the battleship controls.

 

The most famous of scenes in the film is, of course, the slaughter on the Odessa steps. Word of the sailors uprising has reached the port of Odessa where more individuals of all economic stature and breeding are supportive of their efforts with boatloads of fresh farm animals and food sent out to the meet the Potemkin.

 

Quite soon the support ends as the faceless military Cossacks come firing in unison at the crowd on the steps. .

Brian De Palma, perhaps more famous for imitating Alfred Hitchcock, found his most famous scene, which he duplicated in ďThe UntouchablesĒ, as an unguarded baby carriage bounces slowly down the steps as the masses run from the gunfire. Innocent civilians and children are slaughtered without remorse.

 

( CLICK ON IMAGES FOR LARGER VERSIONS ) 

Eisensteinís masterful use of symbols, concepts and montage theory editing, forgoing character development and individuality, have created something so far away from the sporadic flashes of sex and violence that have infiltrated the television and movies of todayís, aptly named, X-Generation. I enjoyed the film for its story and historical meaning in cinema, but am also saddened that so many, including my younger girlfriend, will never see it or have any desire to. The turning of the century has further distanced so many with its bombardment of quick gratification and image stimuli, who could not hope to appreciate the impact of Battleship Potemkin simply giving it the opportunity to speak. I recommend it quite strongly to all budding film buffs and film students before, like many other classics, it becomes unavailable.

NOTE: DVD EDITIONS ARE COMPARED HERE

 Bronenosets Potyomkin ( Battleship Potemkin )(1925)   

Directed by

Grigori Aleksandrov 

Sergei M. Eisenstein 

 Writing credits

Nina Agadzhanova 

Sergei M. Eisenstein 

 

 Credited cast overview:

I. Bobrov ....  Salior 

Beatrice Vitoldi ....  Woman With Baby Carriage 

N. Poltavseva ....  Woman With Pince-nez 

Julia Eisenstein ....  Odessa Citizen

 

rest of cast listed alphabetically

Grigori Aleksandrov ....  Chief Officer Giliarovsky 

Aleksandr Antonov ....  Vakulinchuk 

Vladimir Barsky ....  Commander Golikov 

Sergei M. Eisenstein ....  Ship Chaplain 

Mikhail Gomorov (I) ....  Sailor 

Aleksandr Levshin ....  Petty Officer 

 

Also Known As:

Battleship Potemkin, The (1925) (USA)

Battleship Potyomkin, The (1925) (USA: alternative transliteration)

Bronomzidi Potiomkini (1925) (Soviet Union: Georgian title)

Potemkin (1925) (USA)

‚“ŌőŇőŌ”Ň√ ūŌ‘£Õň…ő (1925) (Soviet Union: Russian title: original Cyrillic KOI8-R title)

Runtime: Russia:75 / UK:75 / USA:66

Country: Soviet Union 

Color: Black and White 

Sound Mix: Silent 

Certification: Finland:K-16 (1952) / Netherlands:AL (video release) / Sweden:15 / UK:U / USA:Unrated