Watching Battleship Potemkin

On this past Wednesday night, I went and watched the Russian film “Battleship Potemkin”. To be quite honest, I had no idea what to expect- I’ve never watched many black and white films, let alone silent films about Russian history. However, as my first true experience with silent films, I was extremely intrigued and enjoyed the experience.

The film “Battleship Potemkin” describes a sensationalized account of the mutiny┬áthat happened in 1905 when the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin rebelled against their officers of the Tsarist regime, as well as the subsequent protests and massacre. The film, even without the aid of modern day effects, was extremely provocative. It was clearly a propaganda film, portrayed in clear-cut terms, making it obvious who the director wanted his audience to sympathize with.

Upon further research regarding the film, I found however that the reason this film was deemed so controversial was not for the reasons I expected. Instead of being controversial because of the subject matter, the film’s use of violence, which was deemed graphic at the time, was what shocked most people. I found that interesting because I figured that at the time the film came out in 1925 that the Russian government would not want a film being shown that emphasized insubordination and revolution. However, not surprisingly the most graphic images are the ones that resonate with the general population, and as a result, “Battleship Potemkin” has been deemed a highly influential film.

I think the scene that I found the most memorable was where the crowd and the row of armed soldiers marching down the steps conflicted and the soldiers began shooting into the crowd. The director clearly wanted to paint the soldiers, and subsequently the Tsarist regime as evil and cold hearted, incapable of mercy or feelings of remorse. The director’s use of a baby to symbolize the tragic nature of this event was extremely effective in invoking an emotional response from his audience. I could very easily see how watching this could instigate feelings of outrage towards a domineering government. What I also found interesting was the effective use of music throughout the entire film to emphasize the mood of a particular scene. I’ve always believed wholeheartedly that a movie’s success depends a lot on the soundtrack, but this is especially the case in silent films. In short, watching this film, and realizing the powerful and loaded meaning behind it, as well as observing the effective use of music, were both extremely interesting, and I look forward to watching more Russian films in the future.

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