The Battleship Potemkin, filmed in 1925 by Sergei Eisenstein, is a Russian propaganda film based on the mutiny of the crew of the Battleship Potemkin in 1905. It dramatises the rebellion against the cruel and oppressive Tsarist officers, as well as the aftermath and the beginning of the Russian Revolution.
The film was made in five parts or chapters, the names of which are;
“Men and Maggots” – in which the sailors protest at having to eat rotten meat;
“Drama at the Harbour” – in which the sailors mutiny and their leader, Vakulinchuk, is killed;
“A Dead Man Calls for Justice” – in which Vakulinchuk’s body is mourned over by the people of Odessa;
“The Odessa Staircase”- in which Tsarist soldiers massacre the Odessans;
“The Rendez-Vous with a Squadron” – in which the squadron tasked with stopping the Potemkin instead declines to engage, and its sailors cheer on the rebellious battleship.
The most famous of these is possibly the Odessa Steps sequence, in which the Tsars order the death of hundreds of Odessans. This is done by the army marching through Odessa, shooting men, women and children as they go.
These soldiers are quite clearly shown as the villains, shooting a child in the back and the child’s mother in the face, while she holds the body of her child. The film is easily shown for what it is, a piece of propaganda depicting the newly revolutionised government as being the saviour of the populous, who where to be trodden on by the cruel Tsarist rule.
As well as the Tsars, Eisenstein attacks the church in this film, depicting the Potemkins priest as crazy and a coward, trying to control the ships crew with fear, until eventually being vanquished along with the officers.
I can’t say that the attack on the church hurts my delicate sensibilities.
This video shows the Odessa Steps scene, in all its glory.