Bronenosets Potyomkin (Battleship Potemkin): A Classic of Russian Cinema*

         Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 silent film, entitled Battleship Potemkin in English, is a classic film of Russian Cinema and is recognized globally as well. It is a film that broke barriers in its time and is significant for many reasons. In terms of its global context, it is based loosely on events that took place in Russia during a period of revolution. This makes the film have historical contexts in the sense that it was based on these events. The film is significant in its global context though for showing a part of Russian history.

         In terms of its historical importance, the film itself could be referenced to as a part of history of the cinema for the contributions of renowned film director and film theorist, Sergei Eisenstein. On the presumption that this film was originally intended to be a propaganda film, this film stands out above the rest. A main point of propaganda is to get the audience to join a cause. Battleship Potemkin could easily be seen as a film that does this. This brings us to one of the film's greatest aspects and a reason why Eisenstein is held in such high regard in the history of cinema. Eisenstein’s use of symbols and imagery in Battleship Potemkin was an experiment in the use of montage in film. The result of this film is a deep sense of identification on the audience’s part with the victims of the story.

         A good example of Eisenstein’s use of montage is perhaps the most famous scene of this movie. In a scene commonly referred to as the “Odessa Steps Sequence,” the audience views the merciless slaughter of innocent civilians running from a marching army. This scene was very shocking at the time for its inclusion of gore and violence that was not as common in films back then as it is today. The fact that this particular scene of the movie did not happen in real life does not take away from its historical importance though because the film itself is important for its powerful use of montage.

Brian Schuldt

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