Psychology was important to Eisenstein in his montages. One his goals in this film appears to be to link images to create a meaning. Two shots that are completely unrelated can be put in succession to make a point. In some cases, it is easy to miss the meaning of a particular set of shots. In other cases, it's a little more obvious. Eisenstein seems to enjoy the use of symbolism. In the beginning of the film, shots of the Potemkin's cannons seem to represent power and authority. The dark shot of the priest on board shows contempt and hatred from the authority figures toward the mass of people as a whole. In the Odessa steps sequence, there is a cut from the horrible massacre to a statue of a lion. This seems to represent the anger and power of the soldiers who are mercilessly slaying their prey. The soldiers, who walk perfectly in sync, are quite statue-like. The shots of only their boots, rifles, and/or shadows seem to suggest that soldiers are inhuman. Their faces are rarely shown. They are more of an advancing killing machine than a group of people. Cuts between these soldiers and the fleeing civilians contrast the innocent civilians between the violent soldiers. Also, the shots from a civilian's point of view are typically looking upward from below, while the soldiers look down from above. This contrasts the power and control of the soldiers to the fear and helplessness of the civilians. During the massacre, there is a shot of a woman screaming followed by a cut to a baby carriage about to roll down the steps. This is a simple, obvious example of Eisenstein's use of psychology in his montages. These two unrelated images are linked together through juxtaposition. On the Potemkin, when the captain makes an order for some of the sailors to be hanged, there are a series of shots of the reactions of the sailors. This is followed by a shot of where they will be hanged. The crewmembers look up and see their deaths. Their only choice left is mutiny.

One of Eisenstien's methods of emphasizing the importance of a scene is by lengthening the time frame in which an event occurs. This is seen rarely in Hollywood today, which is why it can be confusing. With closer observation, it is easier to see that expanding time can add suspense and/or tension to a scene. Eisenstein uses this technique a handful of times in Battleship Potemkin. The first example was previously mentioned. One of the sailors on the Potemkin is washing dishes and becomes frustrated over the crew's treatment and decides to smash a plate. This act is drawn out to add emphasis to the scene. In this case, as well as many of the others, the filmed act takes longer than the act itself. The scene is divided into 11 separate shots(Mast, pg.170) which differ in terms of position and scope. The editing of this shot is aggressive to match the anger of the sailor's act. Two examples occur on the Odessa steps. Firstly, the entire Odessa steps sequence is drawn out to an extreme. By drawing out this scene, it makes an already terrifying scene more terrible. Since time was not an issue, Eistenstein was able to show all of the horrible acts that occur on the steps, such as a boy being trampled and a woman being shot in the eye. Time is once again drawn out in the steps scene when a woman notices a baby carriage about to roll down the steps. There are cuts from the mother who has just been shot to the baby carriage rolling slightly, then away and back again. By drawing out this scene, a large a mount of suspense is added. The anxiety created in watching the baby carriage roll back and forth over a long period of time makes the final act of it rolling down the steps almost a relief.

Although the themes of social revolution in Battleship Potemkin may not be as relevant as they were 80 years ago, the depiction of oppression can be easily understood today. Though the film can and should be appreciated for its narrative, what should be genuinely celebrated is the film's use of editing, which enhances the narrative. Instead of merely making a film for entertainment purposes, Eistenstein created a piece of historical artwork. The sequence and rhythm of each shot is close to perfection for this time period. Eistenstein's ability to use juxtaposition as a means of conveying a particular emotion must have been well honed by the making of this film. In particular, the Odessa steps sequence should be well known for its violently layered imagery which creates a truly horrifying scene. Though Eisenstein's original intent was to create a piece of propaganda, today the film is not remembered for this. Instead, it is known as an editing masterpiece.


Sources:
Kwain, Bruce F. and Gerald Mast.A Short History of the Movies. Needham Heights: 2000

The Russian Revolution of 1905 was the final loss of innocence for the Russian people, the confirmation of what all must have dreaded: the myth and cult of the Good Tzar was exactly that, a myth. When his troops fired on his people in their peaceful demonstrations in St. Petersburg two irreconcilable worlds clashed, and the path to destruction for one of them was begun. Meanwhile, in the Black Sea, the events of 1905 were played out in microcosm.

It all started when the ship's doctor on the Potemkin declared a piece of maggoty meat fit to eat. The crew were understandably irked and complained to the ship's captain, who had their spokesman shot. The crew rebelled, killed eight officers and took control of the ship. They hoisted the red flag and sailed to Odessa for June 15th. When they arrived, they placed the body of their martyred revolutionary friend on the steps of the harbour and people brought food and wreaths of flowers for the sailors. The city had been a virtual warzone between revolutionaries and the Tzarist authorities for two weeks, and the latter sent in troops to quell the uprising on the harbour steps.

As they did all across the Russian Empire, the troops fired indiscriminantly into the crowds of citizens. 2,000 people died in the hail of bullets overnight, and a further 3,000 were wounded. The Potemkin upped anchor and left Odessa, but the revolutionary spirit had failed to lift the rest of the fleet. Eventually they were forced to exchange the ship for safe refuge.

The mutiny on a single battleship was never a massive problem for the Russian Empire, but it highlighted the problem of trying to conduct a foreign war with insurgency at home. Most of the armed forces were of peasant stock (and even the elite Cossacks were not free from dissent) and they sympathised massively with the revolutionaries. The Army especially resented being used to put down peasant uprisings and its discipline broke down accordingly in 1905. The atrocious management of the war in Manchuria only added to the seditious thoughts of the armed forces, and the naval defeat at Tsushima in May 1905 was a great humiliation. As in all other spheres of the Empire's life, the Tzar was losing loyalty and respect. The mutiny of the Potemkin was a sign to other nations that the armed forces of Russia were faltering, which was surely a sign of weakness no nation can afford to display.

The event was later immortalized in a silent film that has been hailed as revolutionary, The Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein in 1925. He was asked to produce a piece of propaganda to commemerate the failed Revolution of 1905, and this is what he came out with. It was hailed as a visual masterpiece and was well-received by Soviet audiences and around the world. It was banned in many countries in Western Europe because the effect it might have was feared. Eisenstein was a member of the Kuleshov school of Russian film-making which sought to create a series of visual barrages rather than focusing on main protagonists (such as the famous scene on the Odessa steps).

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