Being looked at today as the ‘Father of Montage’, Sergei M. Eisenstein was a Soviet Russian film director, film theorist, and student of the Kuleshov school of film-making. Eisenstein was born to a middle-class family in Riga, Latvia but his family moved frequently in his early years, as Eisenstein continued to do throughout his adult life. Eisenstein attended the Institute of Civil Engineering in Petrograd as a young man and with the fall of the Tsar in 1917, 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, structural issues and conditioned spontaneity. Eisenstein eventually began to work as a film theorist, writing “The Montage of Attractions” for a avant-garde journal called LEF. This article furthered Meyerhold’s theory with Eisenstein’s own ‘montage of attractions’— a sequence of pictures whose total emotion effect is greater than the sum of its parts. Eisenstein later theorized that this style of editing worked in a similar fashion to Marx’s dialectic, and with an intense use of symbolism and metaphors, wanted to begin making propaganda films for the common man. Strike (1925) was Eisenstein’s first full-length feature film but it wasn’t until the releases of The Battleship Potemkin (1925) and October (1928) when Eisenstein began to finally receive worldwide acclaim. Many film scholars believe Battleship Potemkin became the moment where Eisenstein brilliantly perfected his montage technique, most famously with the Odessa Staircase massacre sequence. Critics and audiences of the outside world praised Eisenstein’s work, but at home, Eisenstein was under fire from the Soviet film community. Because of such hostility, Eisenstein decided to leave the Soviet Union, taking a 10 year hiatus which led him to Europe, Mexico and the United States. It wasn’t until Joseph Stalin offered Eisenstein the assignment to direct a biopic of Alexander Nevsky in 1938 when Eisenstein finally decided to return. The result was a film critically received by both the Soviets and the West, winning Eisenstein the Order of Lenin and the Stalin Prize. The film was an obvious allegory and stern warning against the massing forces of Nazi Germany, well played and well made. Eisenstein’s next film, Ivan The Terrible, Part I, presenting Ivan IV of Russia as a national hero, also won Joseph Stalin’s approval (and a Stalin Prize), but the sequel, Ivan The Terrible, Part II was criticized by various authorities and would go unreleased until 1958. All footage from the still incomplete Ivan The Terrible, Part III was confiscated, and most of it was destroyed. Eisenstein’s health was also failing at this time as he was struck by a heart attack during the making of the picture, and soon died of another at the age of 50.
Sergei Eisenstein’s revolutionary propaganda film Battleship Potemkin is one of the fundamental landmarks in the history of the cinema. Critics, film scholars and movie directors over the years have endlessly quoted and referenced the film, that most younger viewers most likely have seen the parody before seeing the original. Upon its original release Battleship Potemkin was banned in it’s native […]
“The strength of the working class is organization. Without organization of the masses, the proletarian is nothing. Organized it is everything. Being organized means unity of action, unity of practical activity.” 1925’s Strike was legendary director Sergei Eisenstein’s first full-length feature film, and he would go on to make his masterpiece The Battleship Potemkin later that year. […]