December 10, 1926 [Bronenosets Potyomkin/Battleship Potemkin]

I was worried Eisenstein’s movie would not make it to the United States. But there it was, with Trotsky’s words hanging like a sign promising not shelter but turmoil: “The masses rushed forward like the ocean tide whipped by a storm.” I’ve read that, at its Moscow premiere, the film was unable to attract as many movie-goers as Fairbanks’ Robin Hood--but what a fitting situation: both films outraged by tyranny vicious as a cornered rat, brutish in its tortures and privations. And the oppressed respond with their own sharp teeth, grinning as they clamp down.

Robin Hood is victorious, and the King becomes a monument, not to absolute rule, but the partnership of brethren. It is Richard’s shield that saves Robin, but Robin’s revolution that saves England. In Russia, however, the Odessa steps run red, as the camera tracks each fallen woman and child, and jams itself into their stricken faces, drenched in blood, so that we can not mistake their fate.

Still, Potemkin ends with a promise--and yes, yes, dirty Reds, and so on--there: I’ve done my civic duty; but for a moment we are asked to see it all as an infant in peril, and must refuse politics to assert--demand, wrench into being--justice. I could not help but see the woman in Robin Hood, whipped only because she is poor, while her child cowers at her feet. In Potemkin the whip strikes all, and rouses the victim to reach out, some day, and grasp the whip--ah, to use it, of course, in rage and sorrow; but something in the film made me hope that someone will one day cast it down, and toss it in the harbor, so that neither Cossack nor Proletarian can retrieve it.

Comments

  1. It was short enough to be sweet, and there, I'd "done" it...would be more interesting if the point of view was not extinct...and yes,ofcourse, ahem, those steps...

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