If you’ve ever taken film classes before or at least Film Appreciation, this film will come up at least twice. I assure you. So the last film we saw of Sergei Eisenstein’s was Strike! about a group of factory workers who go on strike against the factory for the mistreatment in their workers told in a daring fashion. Well, if Strike! was daring, then Battleship Potemkin was legendary. Battleship Potemkin is about a bunch of sailors who fight against their officers after being served unhealthy meat and not being treated fairly.
So Battleship Potemkin is told like Strike! was where it’s told in parts and the protagonist is in the sailors as they all come together as one. What other similarities can you find with this film and Strike!? This film originally was released as revolutionary propaganda but then Eisenstein wanted to use this film as a way of experimenting with his editing techniques. He came up with a revolutionary technique that all future film editors should be aware of called Montage Theory where Eisenstein wanted to show contrasting shots fitting together- seeing something happening in one shot and then a reaction shot to follow. It can also manipulate time this way. Eisenstein did this in order to generate as many emotional reactions as possible to what the audience was seeing.
Where you can see this montage in the film is in the infamous Odessa Staircase sequence where a group of officers moving in a robotic motion are shooting at unarmed citizens who are fleeing down the staircase. Can you believe this scene wasn’t originally supposed to be in the film? It was added in later. Good thing it was considering it’s a scene that people remember the most from this film. When you think about it, this whole sequence could have just been about ten seconds if it was in real time but with montage sequence, it ran about seven minutes long as you’re seeing rapid quick shots of the tragic shot, the reaction, the same shot in a different angle, reaction, a different tragic shot, etc. With seeing children getting killed, graphic images of bullets through people’s eyes, and a baby rolling down the stairs, this film should convince anyone that to say war is bad would be an understatement.
If only not just filmmakers but public service announcements or campaigns would use this technique. What would you use this technique for or what films/ads would have benefitted from this technique to make it stronger? This film is revolutionary in the world of cinema and one every film lover such as myself should see it at least once.
Watch Sergei Eisenstein’s masterpiece and let me know your reactions to it: