Sergei Eisenstein and Censorship in Cinema Timeline

Film as a New Leisure Activity

Based on the way The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari was set up, European cinema was establishing itself as the new form of art. Comparing it to Battleship Potemkin which came a few years after Dr. Caligari, there is a noticeable difference in the quality (and probably the budgets) when put side by side. Potemkin shows high quality film and excellent lighting; however it was backed by the state and most likely had a much higher budget than Dr. Caligari because of its designation as state propaganda.

Dr. Caligari however, was building itself like a novel, photograph or any other work of art, using technique and style to create a masterpiece. Because the film is suppose to be the founding of expressionism-which is clearly shown based on the amount of closeups used to convey emotion-it delivers emotion rather than story. Using the various lighting techniques, this movie paves the way for future work such as Triumph of Will and other important films in European Cinema.

As a whole, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari serves not only as a benchmark in film history, it serves as a guiding light for understanding European culture in the 20’s. The idea that man’s reality is controlled by a “state”- in this case the actual psychiatrist- really seemed to click with Germans and Europeans as a whole, leading to this film’s success and laying the groundwork for film makers like Eisenstein.  

Mazower’s Dark Continent compared to Eisenstein’s October

                                                               Martin Zahariev

Throughout the human history there were revolutions which affected the political climate, brought progress and changes- positive, and negative. One of the most important of them, which broke out in the 20th century was the October revolution. The movie October: Ten Days That Shook the World (1928) by Sergei Eisenstein, and the Mark Mazower’s Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century present this event in two different ways.

                The first one is a Russian propaganda movie created by Eisenstein for a specific audience- the people from the Soviet Union. Its focus is narrow-the struggle of the poor, and the oppressed against the Provisional Government. In the beginning of the movie we see the destruction of the statue of Alexander III. It is clear that Russians want change, wish to be treated like people, to change their lifestyles, to get out of the misery. However are they really fighting for the creation of the Soviet Union? Eisenstein tries to convince his audience in that false direction. The movie is like a twisted reality of the events of 1917. It is obvious that the author omits certain events, and facts. His purpose is clear- to make people believe in the greatness of the newly established political regime.

                Mazower’s book Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century is not a propaganda work, but a detailed, objective and deep analysis of the events that led to the Bolsheviks coming to power. Unlike Eisenstein his focus is not narrowed, and his purpose is to depict the real events rather than manipulate his readers. He tells us how Lenin managed to gain his power, thanks to his political acuteness, and to the blunders his political rivals made. The author does not express any political preferences.

                Mazower’s book Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century and Eisenstein’s movie October,  created with different purposes, clearly look at the Russian Revolution under two different angles.

October and the Dark Continent

Matthew Goldstein                                                   Inter War History

The film October: Ten Days that Shook the World by Sergei Eisenstein was another in the series of grand Soviet Propaganda films produced by the director Eisenstein. It’s highly dramatized portrayal of the November Revolution, is in stark contrast to the straight forward writings of Mazower in the Dark Continent.

The title to the film and its background were taken from Jack Reed’s highly popular novel Ten Days that Shook the World, which gives a first hand account to the happenings of the Russian Revolution in St. Petersburg during that faithful Revolutionary period. Reed’s sympathy with the Communist revolutionaries makes it impossible to call his book a straight forward honest portrayal of the events in St. Petersburg. Its a exciting work that makes you feel as if all of Russia was behind the communist pusch, with stories of soldiers revolts and the great bravery of common supporters of the Soviet against the bourgeois officers and aristocrats that supported the Provisional government. Eisenstein’s film fills you with this same emotion. His grand scenes of the supporters storming the Winter Place make you feel as if all of Russia was there on the faithful night. Eisenstein’s movie was created as a propaganda film, and it’s purpose was to prop up men like Stalin who was taking control of Russia at this time and ruin the reputation of men like Trotsky who had fallen out of favor with the leadership. As a result this film has little validity to a student of the actual occurrences of the Revolution.

Mazower’s passage on the Russian Revolution is in a totally different vein then the film. It isn’t slanted so heavily to the side of the Revolutionaries, like Ten Days that Shook the World and October are. Mazower looks back to the period before the Revolution and the politics involved in the entire arch of time. This examination puts a different spin on the Revolution. Instead of being strictly a spontaneous uprising of the people, we see that the actions of the Communists were planned much further in advance and that their success was a much more calculated move. The Communist party “gained under one forth of the total votes cast”. (Mazower p.10) The Communist party did not have the rousing support shown in the movie but it was smart enough to seize power when it could. That is abundantly clear in The Dark Continent. Although October and Ten Days that Shook the World vary greatly from The Dark Continent, both works are able to give you a perspective and insight into the Russian Revolution.