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Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin is first shown in London by the Film Society

"…with unusual clarity, brilliance and audacity, this work revealed stunningly new, powerful and truly hard-hitting methods…A new cinema language is emerging that has borrowed nothing from anyone or anybody and impresses its audience, not because it reminds them of familiar literary or theatrical methods, but because the specific characteristics exclusive to cinema immediately captivate anyone watching the screen…" Vsevolod Pudovkin

Made in 1925 but officially banned in the UK until 1954, Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin was first screened to a shocked audience at the London Film Society in 1928. The film recreates the story of the mutiny on the battleship Potemkin and the ensuing brutal uprising of 1905 in which hundreds of protestors and civilians were massacred by the Csar's Cossaks. Structured in five episodes, the film's sequence showing the slaughter on the Odessa Steps has been heralded as one of the most famous in cinematic history. Eisenstein's use of rapid editing and jump cuts, combined with close-ups of those being killed and wide shots of the crowd fleeing in disarray, alongside dehumanised, regimented images of the guards, creates a montage of terror and anguish that reveals the power of cinema to induce emotion through editing. The use of the collective protagonist, in favour of a single central character emphasizes Eisenstein's association with the masses and imbues the film with a sense of communal pain.

Eisenstein himself said that Battleship Potemkin was made in the style of a 'kino-fist' – a moving visual metaphor of solidarity, strength and power, which introduced Eisenstein to a world stage and made him one of the most famous directors of the Soviet era.

Lara Thompson

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Still from Battleship Potemkin

Public Domain
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