Battleship Potemkin (1925) Review


A dramatized account of a great Russian naval mutiny and a resulting street demonstration which brought on a police massacre.-imdb.com

Battleship Potemkin is a technical masterpiece as it was an experiment in “montage” and its editing techniques remain influential to this day. As a propaganda film it exceeds expectations, presenting a story that’s deeply emotional even for a foreign audience. There is no question that Battleship Potemkin should be seen by every film student, but is it as mandatory for a more casual viewer?

Let’s face it; Battleship Potemkin is a propaganda film. It portrays the government as rats and does nothing to redeem them. However, this is no worse then the way The Empire is portrayed in Star Wars or Loki in The Avengers. There are no real characters to attach to, because this movie isn’t about characters. It’s about a general population and their struggle to have rights and that story is done incredibly well, both for a 1925 film and even for a film today. The story evolves and evolves taking you places you wouldn’t expect, and this makes the film actually a unique watch. For how old this movie is, its story isn’t that cliché and it’s really quite refreshing.

The solid story wouldn’t be nearly as strong if Sergei Eisenstein hadn’t been able to encapsulate the emotion like he did through editing and cinematography. The staircase scene, the fight on the battleship, and the ending scene are all monumentally tense and effective. The staircase sequence alone is shocking enough, especially if you go in with 1920s expectations. Going from a more basic movie like a Chaplin or Keaton work to this will make the film all the more effective. While those movies work just fine, Battleship Potemkin exceeds all expectations and destroys all comfort you may have. The violence used and the shocking portrayal of humanity being destroyed is something that wouldn’t be done today, let alone back then.

Where this film does fail is the uneven pacing. There are plenty of points in-between the more dramatic scenes where the movie just hits a brick wall. People are just standing around talking, or they’re just doing… stuff. Getting ready for war or protesting bad meat, all at a slow pace and with nothing particularly interesting to look at. The soundtrack helps a little as it’s generally very dramatic and nice to listen to, but that doesn’t completely rid you of the creeping sense of… boredom.

If you can make it through the movie, and odds are you will, there will be no doubt that what you watched was totally worth every moment and that you won’t forget it any time soon. Battleship Potemkin is a masterpiece of a movie. Not without the typical pacing problems of the time, it’s still a great watch and in my opinion something that even a more casual viewer can enjoy.

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