Silent Cinema: The Eisenstein Behind It


Battleship Potemkin

Many of you may not be aware, but film after the revolution were well, revolutionary. As Gregory Freeze notes in his text, “The Bolsheviks were cultural revolutionaries, particularly in their feverish attempt to construct a new symbolic world… to bestow legitimacy on the new order” (305). The Bolsheviks loved modern technology and film and as Lenin declared, was the most important medium for education the masses in the means and ways of communism. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds however, because although film was starting to become a big thing, as Freeze puts it, the people ” continued to prefer escapist American and German adventure films to those designated for their edification” (338).

220px-Sergei_Eisenstein_01 Along came Sergei Eisenstein who was often considered to be “The Father of Montage”. One of his first films created was Battleship Potemkin which was a dramatized version of a mutiny that occurred in 1905. It was proclaimed as one of the most influential propaganda films of all time (where the picture above is taken from). This film was so widely acclaimed because many believed that it could turn a Bolshevik non-believer into one after watching this film.

It’s easy to see how a film with that much popularity could be turned into a massive influential tool like Lenin (and later Stalin) both proclaimed. As Freeze states, “It was no coincidence that in a country battling against illiteracy, the Bolsheviks placed special emphasis on the visual arts” (338). Cinema was just beginning to become a popular outlet for citizen looking for something new, and I think it was widely understated in the importance it had on the people and how the Bolsheviks used it to gain popularity and support.



8 comments for “Silent Cinema: The Eisenstein Behind It

  1. leahw93
    23 September, 2013 at 4:53 am

    I like the quote from Freeze about constructing a new symbolic world to bestow legitimacy on the new order. Lenin and the Bolsheviks were so smart to use culture to gain authority because it was basically what the common people related to most. Without culture, it would have been hard to reach them and gain their full attention.

  2. amy925
    23 September, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Your blogpost topic was a really good choice. Taking the topic of cinema and analyzing it is incredibly informative in addition to entertaining. I agree with Leah’s comment about how the Bolsheviks were quite smart to try to gain support through a method that was widely available to the masses. Good job on your post!

  3. Ben Midas
    23 September, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    This was a great post. Early Soviet cinema is an incredibly rich and interesting topic. Lenin did acknowledge the power that cinema had as a way to reach the masses, but beyond that, there was a wealth of ideas about what kind of film was best to reach the masses. Some film makers wanted to make and show films that documented the success of the Bolsheviks in a dry, documentary fashion. Others wanted to create more entertaining films that had Bolshevik messages in them. Future blog posts on cinema could be very interesting.

    Also, everyone go watch Battleship Potemkin.

  4. 23 September, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Yes, everybody please go watch Battleship Potemkin! Very engaging post. This ties nicely into Leah’s discussion of cultural politics here:

  5. Connor Balzer
    23 September, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    This is a really great post. It is easy to get caught up in all the violent revolution and political decrees that go along with the revolutions in Russia, but there is a lot more that goes on than just protests and political reform, as you highlighted here. The Bolsheviks realized that in order to really gain control of a population that exhibits as much unrest and the Russian people during this era they need to penetrate all aspects of life and revamp the countries entire culture. This post does a great job of explaining one aspect of that cultural revitalization.

  6. Hannah Martin
    24 September, 2013 at 1:51 am

    I really enjoyed your choice of topic for this week’s post! Having taken Dr. Nelson’s course on the history of Russian culture, Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin was one of the most interesting pieces of culture that we studied. I think it’s important that the Bolshevik’s used the medium of visual arts, like film, to get their point across because it’s universally understood (even in 21st century America!) and powerful across all kinds of cultural boundaries.

  7. rkw15
    24 September, 2013 at 2:50 am

    I really enjoyed your post! I especially like the quote from freeze about the Bolsheviks being culturally revolutionary as well. It is amazing to see the Soviet Union’s dedication to perfecting the arts, not just cinema but the ballet, gymnastics, music, and literature. It’s also important to note that Soviet art was not only used as propaganda for within the Union but also as propaganda to the western nations.

  8. Annemarie Lucernoni
    24 September, 2013 at 6:28 am

    This was a really interesting post topic! I hadn’t really considered the implications of illiteracy on the use of propaganda, so it was cool to read about how the Bolsheviks were able to use cinema as a tool for spreading their message.

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