Tuesday, September 1, 2009

October (Sergei Eisenstein) ***1/2

Director: Sergei Eisenstein

Cast: Vladimir Popov, Vasili Nikandrov

Background: Eisenstein's previous film Battleship Potemkin is widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. It revolutionized film editing and contains one of the most famous film sequences of all time. He was commissioned by the Soviet government to direct a film celebrating the 10th anniversary of the revolution.

Story: Documentary (using recreated footage) following the historical events starting from the end of the monarcy in Russia and dissolution of the provisional government.

Thoughts: What could have been a bland docudrama is given alot of power by Eisenstein's skillful editing and terrific use of sound effects. The film moves at a surprisingly brisk pace, thrusting the viewer right in the middle of the historical events. The Soviets were not happy with Eisenstein's experimental nature, including the use of symbolism in his montage sequences. They worried that it wouldn't make sense to the average viewer, but I found the film surprisingly accessible. Separated from the historical events, it's a fairly simple story of good vs. bad told with alot of passion, including a brilliant depiction of the storming of the Winter Palace. I find that remarkable considering most of the movie is disconnected from the actual people involved and instead focuses on a grand view of the events.

Postscript: The film did not fare well. Eisenstein was forced to edit certain parts of it (all references to Trotsky) and it never received the acclaim of Potemkin. It is currently held in high regard by film historians.

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