For a Spoonful of Bortsch: The Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Propaganda can be a good thing.  Casablanca is the shining example of this.  However, other countries also pushed propaganda through the medium of film, and Sergei Eisenstein was one such example.  Eisenstein's 1925 silent film The Battleship Potemkin doubles as propaganda and unfiltered artistic imagery.  The film is over the top, but such is expected of a silent film that uses theater actors as its source for characters.  Regardless of this it is enjoyable, well executed and at times awe-inspiring.

The film focuses on the revolutionary efforts of  a group of beleaguered sailors who have been subjugated to degrading living standards that range from cramped living spaces to being served rotten food.  Their lack of respect from higher-ups drives them to kill their superiors in a fit of revolution, which is shot with the same vigor and eye for intensity of the most contemporary action films.  The revolt results in the loss of their leader Vakulinchuk (Aleksandr Antonov) who is used to exalt the proletariat ideals, by serving as a martyred signifier for the effort.  In classic propagandistic fashion, the film not only focuses on the ideals of a group, but how they relate to an entire country.  As such, the film focuses on a revolt in Odessa, which involves images of unending peasants standing against militaristic oppression, using mothers and their children in sacrifice to the cause.  Ultimately, the members of the Potemkin and Odessa unite in a brotherhood of the working class desires as the film fades out into a Marxist driven future.

The film promotes classless ideals, but not genderless ones.  It promotes a notion that revolution is a masculine thing, despite involving blatant and literal sacrifices of women.  I have to accept that the film is set in 1925 ideology, yet I cannot dissuade the sexist rhetoric that ensues.  It serves as a serious reminder to how problematic even the most liberal of government plans can be.  It proves that even notions of classlessness do not by default ensure equality.

Sure, the film have problems and sure it is silent, but it is damn good and one of the best films ever made.  I recommend this as a must see film, as do so many scholars.  Not including a choice to add some color to some scenes, Kino Film has done a great job with the most recent restoration.

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