The Battleship Potemkin

July 24, 2010
By TheGothicGunslinger ELITE, Lakeland, Florida
TheGothicGunslinger ELITE, Lakeland, Florida
177 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"To be great is to be misunderstood" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Battleship Potemkin is hailed as a landmark in cinematic history, and rightfully so. The film was vastly ahead of its time in all aspects and serves, to this day, as one of the most heavy-hitting and emotionally-responsive films ever created. Of course, this response is mostly due to the incredibly effective use of propaganda by the film. However, though the propaganda starts off as incredibly obvious, the film is able to instantly connect you with the rebellious sailors and citizens. Whether it's because of the overly simplistic "good-vs-evil" standpoint of the film or because of the powerful impact of the film's images, The Battleship Potemkin will more than likely have you rooting for the rebels before long.

The film actually doesn't follow a group of individuals, but rather large masses of rebellious citizens during the 1905 mutiny of the battleship Potemkin's crew against the officers of the Tsarist regime. Perhaps that's why the film is so effective in its propaganda, as we're being connected with thousands of angry citizens and revolutionaries whose energy and stamina easily transfer to the audience. What starts out as a small revolt of sailors quickly becomes a revolution, and the sheer display of emotion and invigoration makes for some very powerful filmmaking.

This isn't a film about characters, as the only character we ever get to know is more of a symbol than anything else. Instead, the film focuses on the outrage, rebellion, and hope of a people that wish to overthrow their oppressive government. Say what you will about how overly simplistic it is, but the manipulation of images and emotion certainly get a response out of the viewer. The Odessa Steps sequence, for example, has to be the most evocative scene in the entire film. As we watch soldiers shoot down mothers, trample children, and knock over baby strollers, it's hard to not react to what's being shown onscreen - whether it's true or not. Director Sergei Eisenstein, who directed this marvelous film, actually wasn't too concerned with bringing "brothers to the cause" with this film. Instead, Eisenstein would later state that this film was meant to test the theory of montage - that, when images and music are edited in the right way, it can manipulate people into reacting a certain way. Because of the overly simplistic "good-vs-evil" plot and the powerful images that are conjured up, it's easy to see that Eisenstein's 'experiment' was truly a success.

As if this weren't enough, the film's a visual masterpiece. Completely ahead of its time, the film is innovative and revolutionary in its techniques, even creating some camera shots that would later be recycled by dozens of films. Some of the battle preparation scenes, for instance, have been used in so many war films that the techniques used have become something of a cliche now. Speaking of cliche, this film even sports an antagonist that twirls his mustache in villainous glee. If that's not an example of trope-creating than I don't know what is. Regardless, the film's visually amazing and a definite treat for the eyes.

The film's score is of epic proportions. Though it does start out too blaring, the score quickly evens out and synchronizes with the rest of the film absolutely perfectly. The last few minutes of Battleship Potemkin are especially brilliant because of the music, as the music (and tension) begin to grow faster and tighter as the Potemkin approaches a row of battleship destroyers. This scene is so well-made and so nailbiting that few films could ever hope to match the thrill of watching it for the first time.

Propaganda withstanding, The Battleship Potemkin is a powerful, striking, and emotionally evocative film. With brilliant visuals and a near-perfect score, the film holds up to this day with its thrilling narrative and great cinematography.

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