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Thoughts on the works of Sergei M. Eisenstein Anonymous 09/02/2020 (Wed) 20:15:27 No.656
[JW22 ~ 09/03/2019] >Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein was a Soviet film director and film theorist, a pioneer in the theory and practice of montage. The son of an affluent architect, Eisenstein attended the Institute of Civil Engineering in Petrograd as a young man. With the fall of the tsar in 1917, he worked as an engineer for the Red Army. In the following years, Eisenstein joined up with the Moscow Proletkult Theater as a set designer and then director. The Proletkult's director, Vsevolod Meyerhold, became a big influence on Eisenstein, introducing him to the concept of biomechanics, or conditioned spontaneity. Eisenstein furthered Meyerhold's theory with his own "montage of attractions"--a sequence of pictures whose total emotion effect is greater than the sum of its parts. He later theorized that this style of editing worked in a similar fashion to Marx's dialectic. Though Eisenstein wanted to make films for the common man, his intense use of symbolism and metaphor in what he called "intellectual montage" sometimes lost his audience. Though he made only seven films in his career, he and his theoretical writings demonstrated how film could move beyond its nineteenth-century predecessor--Victorian theatre-- to create abstract concepts with concrete images. Eisenstein's completed feature films include: Strike (1925) Battleship Potemkin (1925) October: Ten Days That Shook the World (1928) The General Line (1929) Alexander Nevsky (1938) Ivan the Terrible, Part I (1944) Ivan the Terrible, Part II (1945) Incompleted films: ¡Que viva México! (A version was completed, edited, and released in 1979 by Eisenstein's co-director Grigori Aleksandrov) Bezhin Meadow (lost, only exists as a slideshow now) Ivan the Terrible, Part III (what was completed was destroyed) Short films: Glumov's Diary (1923) Romance Sentimentale (1930) El Desastre en Oaxaca (1931) I believe most people are introduced to Sergei Eisenstein through Battleship Potemkin, which remains one of the most popular works of the 1920s and continues to be shown in film schools and film appreciation courses. Some of these classes might not show the entirety of Battleship Potemkin, but what they always show students is the massacre on the Odessa steps as this sequence remains an effective application of the montage, with the cuts set to a machine-like tempo between the Cossacks and government cavalry and the fleeing crowd of unarmed civilians. It's designed to push emotional buttons more than anything else, and for this reason I think that's why Battleship Potemkin never resonated with me, even after watching it a few times. Many of Eisenstein's other works were much more advanced than Battleship Potemkin, which makes me wonder why schools only teach Battleship Potemkin and usually skim over his later films. Perhaps it's simply because Battleship Potemkin is easier to get into? Look at something like Strike, which released before Battleship Potemkin. The montage of the rioting workers at the end of the movie alternates with footage of a cow being slaughtered. You have these two seemingly unrelated scenes, but alternating between them gives the full sequence a whole new language and meaning, suggesting that the rioting workers are being slaughtered just like the helpless cow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWiDciPuSW4
After Battleship Potemkin, Eisenstein would make October, which has some of the most advanced use of intellectual montage I've seen. The God montage in October is fascinating because of how Soviets denied religion, and you can see that effectively in this sequence. It takes all these different idols from separate religions and diminishes them in a way that's distinctly Soviet to say that religion prevents revolution (the footage of the Tsar monument which was destroyed near the beginning of the movie is reversed, making the connection between Tsarist monarchy and religion). Perhaps this is abstract enough that others can find different meanings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cw2chy64m34 The General Line aka Old and New might be the ugliest movie of Eisentein's in terms of the manipulative one sided propaganda. Agrarian collectivization is promoted, which would eventually lead to dekulakization. How many millions of Soviet peasant farmers were killed off because Stalin thought it was a good idea to bring agriculture under state control? Farmers could never keep up with the high demands of urban industrialization in Soviet Russia, which made Stalin think the collectivized farmers were getting lazy, so he would deport them away, send them far north to Siberia, or kill them. Millions of people starved. When you move away from the political angle of The General Line, the editing technique and montage Eisenstein is known for seems as basic as Potemkin. The creamer scene has a decent rhythm but it's made to be emotionally manipulative like the Odessa steps massacre in Potemkin. There's another scene where a large bull is superimposed over a field of cattle, and the field is seminated, suggesting growth, but this is much more basic than the God montage in October or the slaughtering of the bull and the crowd in Strike. I also found Alexander Nevsky to be disappointing. The action in this is not up to par with the standard that October set. You can see that Eisenstein was influenced by D.W. Griffith's Way Down East for the battle on the lake ice in Alexander Nevsky, but the painted backdrops and the styrofoam lake ice in Alexander Nevsky take me out of the action. Alexander Nevsky is too staged and doesn't have the clever intellectual montage that made me attracted to films like Strike or October. The score by Sergei Prokofiev is excellent, at least. What are your thoughts on Eisenstein? He is among one of the more influential and important directors of the film industry. It makes me sad to see that people tend to pass up or ignore his works outside of Battleship Potemkin. I think every aspiring filmmaker should study his films, especially October. It seems "founding father" directors like Eisenstein and Griffith are becoming more forgotten as time goes on, and people favor the New Hollywood directors these days such as Martin Scorsese or Stanley Kubrick while remaining ignorant of those who came before. Perhaps I am preaching to the choir here. Unfortunately I have not yet seen Ivan the Terrible, but when it comes to Eisenstein, my personal preference is October: Ten Days That Shook the World > ¡Que viva México! > Romance Sentimentale > Strike > Battleship Potemkin > Alexander Nevsky > The General Line
I have not explored Eisenstein's filmography as much as you have, so my general assessment is probably not unique. For me the biggest problem is that his propaganda is too blatant. Whenever a director tries to hammer a message into your head, you'll notice what is happening and you can easily dismiss it. A more effective technique is to nudge the viewer in a certain direction to let them think they are drawing their own conclusion. Nevsky was the first Eisenstein I watched, and yes it was a bit disappointing due to some of the clumsy messaging and the poor production quality. However it's interesting to see a film depicting the Soviet fear of a Nazi invasion, which is of course what happened a short time later. I haven't seen Way Down East yet, I remember it as one of the first DW Griffith films available in HD, but now you've got me interested to watch it and see the similarities.
Monoskop has pdfs of many of his writings https://monoskop.org/Sergej_M._Eisenstein
>>657 >Agrarian collectivization is promoted, which would eventually lead to dekulakization. I'm wondering how long was collectivization a Soviet propaganda priority? I've seen collective farming praised in a couple films made nearly three decades after Eisenstein's The General Line. For such a lingering topic, I have to assume the Soviet authorities had difficulty selling the policy to the public. The 1958 Dovzhenko/Solntseva filmPoem of the Sea begins as a story of a man's return to his birthplace in Ukraine. The village is preparing to be demolished and relocated to make way for a large public works project -- a manmade lake. Eventually, out of nowhere, characters discuss the wonders of collective farming. Another character has a throwaway line "Famine is forgotten." I was surprised to see this topic mentioned at all. Furthermore, downplaying the Holodomor seems at odds with Dovzhenko's blood and soil Ukrainian identity that's evident in his stories.
I just watched his short El desastre en Oaxaca (1931) which captures the aftermath of an earthquake. https://uloz.to/file/EPTv5KO2iTP9/ The documentary was shot and screened in just two days, so it's quite interesting to see the approach of a skilled director under such circumstances. The most memorable aspect is the way in which Eisenstein highlights the egalitarianism of natural disasters. I was also a little surprised to see his favorable depiction of Oaxacan Catholics compared to how poorly religion is portrayed in other Eisenstein films.
One of my greatest favs in history of cinema. Most of his work is sublime, but the absurd quality of Ivan The Terrible and Alexander Nevsky pretty much ascended cinema and other artistic levels. In my opinion the loss of Bezhin Meadow was one of the worst events in history of cinema. Also in his writing he shits on his early movies for bullshit revolutionarism (THROUGH THEATHER TO CINEMA). Of course, a lot of credit must be given to Prokofiev and Tisse as they allowed him for creation of these sublime works, and there are soviet directors who do individual aspects of his work better, but I am yet to somebody who does overall shit better than him.
>>662 wow, what a shame. I hadn't heard about that before but it looks great. fantastic beards.
>Battleship Potemki Terribly nauseating, insipid piece of Soviet propaganda. Maybe it influenced all the other nauseating, insipid propaganda films, who knows? In that case, I despise it even more. Battleship Potemkin is so caricatured, overblown, and heavy-handed as to be comical. Hardly the intended effect, I think... Am I supposed to be impressed with the editing, when what I came to see, namely the story and the actual shots, are uninspiring garbage? Sorry, but I am a viewer of movies, not a filmmaker, and I like to be entertained when possible. Technical breakthrough alone is not enough. Unless you're an avowed communist (lol) or a wannabe "revolutionary", this film holds little merit. Personally, all I could think about was the farce of Soviet ideals when fattened sailors are willing to die a glorious death for "tastier borsch." Not a decade after this film, millions died in Ukraine (much of the action here takes place in Odessa) during the Holodomor famine, shriveled in the streets with nothing to eat thanks to Soviet ideals... You know, actual starvation, instead of discontent with military rations and disrespect from superior officers (i.e. the story of every soldier ever). Now THAT is a story which could and probably should be told with revolutionary intent. There are dozens of better silent films out there, some earlier and some later. Only two years later we have Metropolis, which intelligently addresses issues like economic inequality, and definitively puts this Bolshevik travesty to shame. The Swedes, yes, even the tiny nation of Sweden, had already progressed far beyond this. They combined technical progress with subtlety of atmosphere and storytelling. It's unfortunate, because the Soviets produced many beautiful, iconic films. This just isn't one of them. It's not even Sergei Eisenstein's best film, because I watched Ivan the Terrible, and that film is powerful, emotionally captivating and inspiring.
>>663 >written by Izaak Babel >music by Prokofiev fam it would be crazy good >>664 I recommend reading the essay I have mentioned as it shows how Eisenstein was unsatisfied with his all early Leninist propaganda films and how collective heroes and anti-theatre idea in that early soviet 'avant-garde'. Also kind of kudos to Stalin for ending the 'avant-garde' and accepting the ideas from western 'bourgeois' cinema.
Montage in of itself isn't bad but this kike ruined cinema of the past's future (inadvertently), and while Battleship Potemkin isn't a bad move it's overrated and a fictional propaganda film which is a subversive thing to do on top of that.
>>666 I'm not fond of Eisenstein's almost cult of personality but he had his merits (along with Griffith) but to call him a jew is going past it, ironically i read about his father before him and the guy was a good architect from Riga. He had a jewish name in one of the most pozzed cities in terms of jewish antics (one of the ex-capitals of the Teutons that fell into decadence) but he was one of the few christians in the city with a good job, somewhat of a bourgeois and went with the monarchists when the revolution came about, which Sergei didn't like a lot and set him aside like a true snake (his pop was a single father who pampered him if his riches are valid evidence). Man went to Germany and died there soon after. Now that i think of it Sergei's best work is a piece fully against the teutons, the ones who build his home town, not to mention his dad seems to have an appreciation for them (spoke german, studied germanic/austrian architects like Loos' functionalism and Wagner's Viennese Secession school, retired there after the civil war) Reading some info to check if i didn't screw up it seems some guy in a university said he was born a jew. Yet he converted to orthodox, practiced, married a christian and was buried in christian grounds. Going crypto is normal for a rat but it doesn't make sense for me to go at such lengths and not play the cards when the big moment came about (bolshevik uprising), he was already respected in the higher strata and in one of the most kosher cities around, his conversion doesn't seem to have granted any kind of interests IF it happened anyways, university investigations regarding personal details are very often hear-say and jews convert anyone if they want to brag about him, and Mikhail's work was very fine in its day. The more i read about Sergei, the more i dislike him. Polite sage for somewhat off-topic.
[End of Dump JW22 ~ 01/06/2020]

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