Film History part II
written by J.A.Bohr
continued from Page Three
The Battleship Potemkin comes to the rescue of the citizens, though, by firing shells into the government palace. Here we are entertained by the shot of a stone lion, who through the use of three shots of three different stone lions, rises as the palace is bombed.
After helping defend Odessa, the Potemkin must go back out to sea, to eventually meet its squadron fleet. Every character we have been introduced to is now dead. We see the sailors as they prepare their ship for battle. Even as the fleet approaches and the men hurriedly prepare for the worst, we are not introduced to any new "martyrs", which gives the impression that they will not have to battle the fleet. This would have been done to exemplify the unity of the men in the revolution over their individuality. There are some nicely composed shots of the ship and the men preparing the armament, but no dramatic circular edits occur after the Odessa Steps sequence. As the Potemkin arrives close enough to the fleet to fire, they realise that the other ships in the fleet are wanting to greet them, not return fire, and the film ends with the feeling that the mutiny was justified to these abused sailors.
Part Five lacks the power of two or four, and lacks the personal nature of one and three. The ending, even though Eisenstein tries to make the moments before the fleet communicates tense, is quite undramatic in retrospect.
It is important to note that this was a silent movie with an actual musical score. This is of importance because it was the music that helped pull me through the slower moments of the film (I am a violin fan, and would always chose to hear a violin over a piano). The dramatic Russian composition is strikingly more expressive than the "silent film music" used in American dribble attempted at this time. The score helps the images flow tighter and with more resolution than if accompanied by a simple piano performance of overplayed action music, showing how properly composed music written to a scene has power (try viewing this to "Chaplin-esque" music - it feels too wrong for words).
As a whole, the movie was too people orientated, despite the lack of individuality in the survivors, for my taste. But the manner at which Eisenstein would approach a scene is amazing. Rapid, rhythmical editing between three triangular points of view on a scene brings out the fullest effect, when drama is required. I can see myself attempting this camera set-up for years to come before I am pleased with it. But as this paper comes to a close there is something I must state. I couldn't stand the storyline. Now the problem here is that too many people on the internet say this is one of the best ten films - ever! Many sites can be found in French, German, and Russian with pages of information, but I have yet to be proficient in any of these languages-so the following does not pertain to them. It is all the useless sites in English which disturb me most. I can understand why someone would be impressed in the direction, but not the NARRATION (especially how many "Americans" write a paragraph on how "great" this film is). I actually wonder how many of them have seen the film, considering that they write statements which seem almost completely wrong and center on the narrative (how little there is), instead of noting the wondrous montage editing and how it impacted the storyline across. They ignore how these editing visionaries of early Russian Montage have influenced modern filmmaking. As the Internet Movie Database writes, "The film is full of such symbols, probably too many for a 1990s audience, but back then it was new and it left a deep impression on its contemporaries and it proved to be highly influential on filmmakers."11
(Needham Heights: Simon & Schuster, 1996), p. 179.
Bronenosets Potyomkin, 1998.
Bruce F. Kawin and Gerald Mast, A Short History of the Movies, 6th ed.
Needham Heights: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
Face of Russia: Timeline