Anthony's Film Review
Battleship Potemkin (1925)
In the era of silent films, this work of political propaganda manages to be quite effective...
Battleship Potemkin represents my first step into watching silent films and old Soviet Union films. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect, but I have heard that this film falls in the category of classic, so it had to be significant in some way. After seeing it, I must say that I'm impressed. Even as a moviegoer of the late 20th century and the early 21st century, I found myself engaged in the format of silent film as if I were living in the early 20th century. Battleship Potemkin does effectively deliver a message about revolution, just like any well-polished film would.
The film was released in 1925 and is based on actual events in 1905. On a Soviet battleship, the subordinate sailors are working under unpleasant conditions. Interestingly, this part of the story focuses on a situation I initially didn't anticipate: the sailors being told to eat the meat on board, even if it has become rotten with maggots. Later, the sailors refuse to eat borscht, and the commanding officers decide to punish those who refuse to comply. In a rather suspenseful series of shots, the offending officers are about to be executed by a firing squad on board, but not before the whole ship erupts into chaos, the superiors are thrown overboard, and the sailors take over the ship.
Sadly, the sailor who leads the mutiny, named Vakulinchuk, is killed. He is taken to the city of Odessa and put in a tent, after which a number of people gather to pay their respects. Then more people arrive until the crowd at Odessa becomes monumentally huge. It becomes clear that the battleship revolt is only a seed for a much greater revolution by all oppressed workers. After all, a Tsarist regime had been in power in the early 20th century, so the events of this film are understandable.
I did enjoy this part of the film. What struck me even more was the sudden appearance of the government militia, marching down the steps of Odessa with guns in hand. The crowd runs, but not without casualties from the guns being fired. What's really sad is that these officers will shoot anyone. That includes a young boy, the boy's mother, and a woman with a baby carriage, which proceeds to roll down the steps after the woman dies (a scene copied in later films, such as the 1987 film The Untouchables). All of this leads to the finale in which the battleship from earlier is being approached by a naval squadron out to stop these rebels. What happens at the end is quite a surprise.
For a movie that is only just above an hour in length, I found it engaging. Like I said, I was willing to put myself back in time and experience it like people did originally. I enjoyed reading the text captions between camera shots and imagining the actual sounds of the scenes, as there was only music as audio. Regarding the music, it was well done, because it captured the right moments, whether it was somber for the crowd gathering scene or suspenseful for the final segment with the battleship and the squadron. Overall, the director of Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein, did a great job. For anyone who enjoys silent films, political films, and propaganda films, I would suggest Battleship Potemkin for anyone's list of movies to see.
For more information about Battleship Potemkin, visit the Internet Movie Database.