Thursday, January 12, 2006

Day 46: "October"

Directors: Sergei Eisenstein, Grigori Alexsandrov 1927
Commissioned by the Russian government to mark the 10th anniversary of the Revolution, Eisenstein—and it’s definitely his movie—was given a free hand in recreating the events leading up to the Bolshevik victory, particularly the ten days in October, 1917 when the proletariat vanquished the provisional government headed by Alexander Kerensky. The film opens with a stunning sequence in which the Bolsheviks tear down a huge statue of Czar Alexander lll—and there are many brilliantly edited sequences and memorable images, no surprise since Eisenstein was a master of montage. He was also a master of propaganda, which is what this movie is all about. The peasants, workers, soldiers and sailors who revolt are presented in the noblest ways, while Kerensky and his minions are cartoons. Trotsky, out of favor by 1927, is portrayed as a conciliator, a weakling. Eisenstein did such a good job in recreating the Revolution that clips from “October” often appear in documentaries on the subject, as if they were culled from newsreels. There’s no denying the stirring nature of “October,” which is aided by the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (the music and sound effects were added later). But there is sadness too, in light of what followed: the oppression, the show trials, the murders of millions. Look hard enough at “October” and you see that Flaubert was right when he said (apropos of an earlier revolution): “In every revolutionary there is hidden a gendarme.”


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