SteelCity99's Movie Review of Battleship Potemkin ( Bronenosets Potyomkin )

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Battleship Potemkin ( Bronenosets Potyomkin )

Battleship Potemkin
SteelCity99 - wrote on 04/25/18

Besides being officially and several times declared as the best movie of all time, Bronenosets Potyomkin is probably one of the most important movies ever created in the history of humanity. Sergei M. Eisenstein became one of the best geniuses of cinema for those times along with giant cinema icons such as F.W. Murnau and D.W. Griffith. Also, Eisenstein transmitted highly controversial, catastrophic and totally revolutionary ideas for those times, like if he stood for the population of the Soviet Union in its totality trying to speak out loud. With a movie like Bronenosets Potyomkin he didn't only create a masterpiece establishing his own filmic style which would be recognized for several decades to come, but he also was one of the few directors that actually understood the meaning of the terms "cinema" and "filmmaking" completely, as well as all of the elements that conform cinema. The technical aspect that distinguishes most of his films is, without a doubt, the editing. That's the magic word when talking about Eisenstien: editing. Thanks to his first patriotic gem Bronenosets Potyomkin, he became one of the most important and influential filmmakers that cinema could ever had given birth to.

The story is set on the year of 1905 in the Battleship Potemkin, where the unbearable life conditions the sailors are exposed to by the officers of the ship, including rotten meat declared "safe to eat" by the ship's doctor, caused that the crewmembers started to buy provisions at the canteen in a show of protest. Once that the Admiral finds out about it, he organizes a reunion for both the crewmembers and the officers of the battleship, and tests everybody's loyalty. A riot is originated aboard the ship, generating several victims, including sailor Grigory Vakulinchuk. When the body of Vakulinchuk is placed on the docks in the Odessa harbor as a symbol of revolution holding a sign that reads "For a spoonful of soup", the population of Odessa is deeply shaken by the news, and a massacre from Cossak soldiers takes place, who mercilessly slaughter the helpless citizens in one of the most famous scenes in cinema history. The guns of the ship are used in reply to the massacre.

Bronenosets Potyomkin is one of the most influential historical films for cinema. The vision and genius of Eisenstein can be appreciated in this intense and revolutionary epic from beginning to end. Within his own filmmaking style, he created and popularized the use of several filming techniques, like shooting any scene in particular and repeating it from different angles in order to obviously increase dramatic quality. He was probably the first director that ever used this technique, and it was obviously employed and copied by several directors afterwards. Nowadays, many filmmakers and cinematographers owe full credit to Eisenstein. On the other hand, he established the idea that one of the most important elements for adding intensity, rhythm and life to a feature film is the good use of a brilliant editing. While the attack of the battleship towards the Odessa Theater is being portrayed, a lion statue is shown through a very unique edition, making it seem that the lion itself reacts to the catastrophe that is taking place at the moment. In fact, his next film called Oktyabr (1928) contains the best editing worldwide masses could ever witness in a film, and deals with a very similar historical subject matter than the one shown in Bronenosets Potyomkin in documentary form.

The directing is extraordinary. As it has been already mentioned, thanks to Bronenosets Potyomkin Eisenstein became a legend and an incredible cinematographic inspiration. One of the most famous scenes ever filmed consists in a baby carriage dramatically falling throughout the staircase of Odessa while several victims suffer their deaths in the hands of the Cossaks. Such event is preceded by a boy who is brutally crushed and stepped on by the panicked crowd. The boy's mother, scandalized, carries her son between her arms and cries out for mercy while walking towards the soldiers. As expected, the mother ends up being the first victim along with her dead son, and total hysteria ensues. Several reasons exist so that such scene can be considered among the best scenes ever filmed, besides being a cinema icon itself. First of all, the editing adds an impressive dramatic quality. Each angle and shot is extremely well-planned, considering the fact that it is a very delicate scene. The way Eisenstein wanted to show the horrors of war contrasted with such an innocent, pure and beautiful symbol (the baby) is very powerful. When the film was completed back in the 20's, it was banned because of its "excess of inhumanity" and was heavily censored in some other countries. This scene has been referenced and paid homage to in numerous films, being the most famous and remarkable example The Untouchables (1987), by Brian de Palma.

The movie has some extraordinary shots of cinematography and a revolutionary and innovative camera work. The panoramas shown both on the sea and on earth, such as the docks and the staircase, are vast and beautifully captured. Despite the fact that the acting is an element which can't be fully analyzed in silent films as well as it can be in modern films nowadays, the power of the scenes completely transmit the emotions of the characters, such as sadness, anger, deception, tragedy, cruelty, pain and desperation. The spectator feels like he/she was aboard the battleship itself, and/or running quickly down the Odessa staircase.

That is why Bronenosets Potyomkin is one of the best foreign films ever directed, arguably the best war film ever committed to celluloid, and one of the best movies with a historical subject matter after Andrey Rublyov (1966) and Le Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928), which are biopics. The way it was done and directed makes it an epic film. Eisenstein was very careful with the details and although its length could have been longer considering its plot and genre, it doesn't disappoint in any way, not even in the entertainment value. Its importance has reached such a high level for both film critics and film students that some still images of Bronenosets Potyomkin have appeared in History text books that talk about the Russian Revolution and the creation of the USSR. There are no heroes in the film; it simply shows the atrocities of the events that ended up causing the Russian Revolution of 1917. Although Eisenstein directed several remarkable masterpieces afterwards such as Oktyabr (1928), Ivan Groznyy I (1944) and Ivan Groznyy II: Boyarsky Zagovor (1958), Bronenosets Potyomkin is his best and most representative masterwork, and a legacy that will last until the wonderful art of movie creation perishes.


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