Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Eisenstein's "Strike"


CaveGirl
 Share

Recommended Posts

"Strike" [1925] is a visually striking film by Sergei Eisenstein, in his initial outing as a director. Known later for his use of innovative cutting effects, visual metaphors and even the conveyance of sound effects by other means during the silent days, this film has invigorating pacing, which compels one to keep watching. The film is a dynamic presentation shot by Eisenstein with the Proletkult Collective and was originally intended to show the revolutionary times that existed before 1917. As a first time director, Sergei spent months in preparation for filming,  while writing the script himself also. His concept of presenting a "montage of shocks" was based on techniques he had utilized during his time in the theatre, which in "Strike" were achieved via the the talents of cameraman, Edward Tisse, with whom Eisenstein continued to collaborate throughout his career.

The film is divided into chapters, with the actors representing collective types, more than individuals. As the story progresses, the workers slowly unite against the force representing management with some violent forays and skirmishes, all based on the end goal of a better life that they feel they deserve.

Critics in Soviet cinema circles in 1925 were impressed with its revolutionary style, but hinted at negative tendencies of formalism, which was described as uses of unapproved symbolism and exercises in rhythm and visual style. The public reaction was mostly desultory but abroad, Eisenstein was lauded as the new genius he truly was. Due to that praise, Sergei was commissioned to direct a supposed eight-part epic, but travails intervened and it finally boiled down to having only one episode produced, resulting in "The Battleship Potemkin". This film basically reinvented cinema in its rhythmic editing, and other surprisingly inventive tactics of production.

This giant of cinema was born in 1898 in Riga, Latvia, and originally prepared for a career in engineering and architecture at the Petrograd Institute, but in the wake of the revolution, when it was shut down, he enlisted in the Red Army. Fortunately after two years, his unit was stationed near a town with a theatrical company which prompted Sergei to form a troupe and begin directing play, having always been enamored of the theatre.
 
While still in the military, Sergei began studying Japanese and its culture, being already fluent in Russian, English, French and German. After learning the language, it is thought by some that the ideographic forms of Japanese were the basis for the structure of his theory of visual montage in films.

Moving on to work as a scenic designer for the Proletkult Theatre in Moscow, his belief with others about abandoning traditional theatre helped elevate him quickly to being assigned more important roles, like co-director of some projects. Later when he worked for the School for State Direction, Eisenstein was influenced by the FEX group and he also experimented with having stage productions depicted on multiple planes, and even put firecrackers under patrons' seat, showing a kinship with the later showman, William Castle!
 
As a cinephile from childhood, Eisenstein was moved by the cutting techniques of D.W. Griffith and in 1924 was able to utilize what he had learned when he was hired to recut Lang's "Mabuse der Spieler" [1922] for a Soviet government approved version.

After "Strike" Eisenstein went to America, and Paramount was considering having him do a treatment of Dreiser's "An American Tragedy" but this fell through. Next after meeting people like Robert Flaherty, Diego Rivera, and Chaplin, his connection to Upton Sinclair resulted in the attempt to film a production in Mexico, called "Que Viva Mexico" with four episodes, "Sandunga, Maguey, Fiesta and Soldadera", which like many projects ended in misery for Eisenstein due to insufficient funding and the lack of return of his already shot footage to him in Russian. Though some parts were used in other short films, like Sol Lesser's "Thunder Over Mexico" it was not until after Sergei's death that the film was finally released, with some missing footage.
 
Eisenstein, though always having to deal with the restrictive limits of the Stalinesque regime, was still able to create works of art, like "Alexander Nevsky"  and "Ivan the Terrible" in two parts, but was constantly criticized for not toeing the party line and being a Socialist Realist. His beliefs that "art is conflict" may have helped him move beyond these limitations though and theorize things like Dialectical Materialism, which believed that one shot in a film is its thesis, the adjoining shot its antithesis and the effect of the two, visually or intellectually, the synthesis. He believed that rhythm binds together the aspects of sense stimuli and creates on screen a synchronization of the senses, which can emotionally affect an audience. Ideas like this were verboten in the Soviet governance of films at the time, which is why Eisenstein was impeded so often by rules and regulations, as when Stalin disliked elements of the second part of "Ivan the Terrible". 

The bottom line was, that in Russia, it was thought by governing bodies that art should be judged on the theory that is must be understood by the masses, or it did not qualify as art to be shown to the public. For Eisenstein's amazingly creative mind and cinematic icon status, this theory proved to be his undoing, but luckily we still have much of his genius on film to view for our eternal benefit. Ideas like his concept for a seven part film, called possibly "Spectrum" with each segment representing one color of the rainbow, were sadly never completed. Once any of his films are seen though by modern audiences, his idiosyncratic and creative styles are never forgotten!
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Eisenstein has had a much greater influence on the filmmaking outside of the socialist world.  This can be taken as evidence of his inherent reactionary tendencies, rightly recognized by his soviet peers.  The directors who properly realized the socialist ideal in their work have naturally faded from memory.  And Eisenstein remains ranked with the greatest of directors for his power, innovation, and imagery.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Eisentein briefly spent time in Hollywood, as extraordinary as it sounds, and I think primarily the short-sightedness of the American studio system prohibited him from ever making a film there. It would have been cool if one of the studio heads had actually been visionary enough to let him complete a project. Anyway, you can read about it here:

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Sergei_Eisenstein

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 minutes ago, sewhite2000 said:

Eisentein briefly spent time in Hollywood, as extraordinary as it sounds, and I think primarily the short-sightedness of the American studio system prohibited him from ever making a film there. It would have been cool if one of the studio heads had actually been visionary enough to let him complete a project. Anyway, you can read about it here:

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Sergei_Eisenstein

Yeah, Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov were sent to Hollywood in the early 30s and when they came back Aleksandrov made the classic Soviet musical comedy the Jolly Fellows.

 

Also iirc Eisenstein was originally supposed to make a documentary in Mexico but he got in legal trouble and had to come back to Russia.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 7/26/2018 at 6:22 PM, Gershwin fan said:

I also saw the film when it was on yesterday. The cutting techniques were very ahead of the time. Shame that some of Eisenstein's other works like Bezhin Lug are lost to history. :( 

Thanks, Gershwin Fan!

I had seen it before but only once, and really wanted to see his initial film as a director and it was impressive. Yes, isn't it sad that other works like that are lost.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 7/27/2018 at 12:11 AM, slaytonf said:

Eisenstein has had a much greater influence on the filmmaking outside of the socialist world.  This can be taken as evidence of his inherent reactionary tendencies, rightly recognized by his soviet peers.  The directors who properly realized the socialist ideal in their work have naturally faded from memory.  And Eisenstein remains ranked with the greatest of directors for his power, innovation, and imagery.

You are so right, Slayton. What's that old maxim, something like "A prophet is never acclaimed in his own country" or something like that? Thanks for your as always sage post.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

12 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

Eisentein briefly spent time in Hollywood, as extraordinary as it sounds, and I think primarily the short-sightedness of the American studio system prohibited him from ever making a film there. It would have been cool if one of the studio heads had actually been visionary enough to let him complete a project. Anyway, you can read about it here:

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Sergei_Eisenstein

True and sad, ain't it? I consulted my three books on Eisenstein to make sure of dates and facts and the spelling of some Russian words, but am always into anything new to read on good old, Sir Gay [which he gave as his pen name in his early days!] so would love to read this site you have kindly offered. Thanks!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

12 hours ago, Gershwin fan said:

Yeah, Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov were sent to Hollywood in the early 30s and when they came back Aleksandrov made the classic Soviet musical comedy the Jolly Fellows.

 

Also iirc Eisenstein was originally supposed to make a documentary in Mexico but he got in legal trouble and had to come back to Russia.

Supposedly Upton Sinclair's wealthy wife, was financing the project, with Upton dealing with Sergei. As filming proceeded, Eisenstein kept finding more that he felt was essential, but the costs were mounting. The sad story of him not only losing the chance to finish the film, when Sinclair would not extend him any more months of time or money, is heartbreaking as is the fact he wanted his footage back, but it was never released to him in Russia. It would have been so wonderful to see how he would have cut things and reassembled them, but I guess we are lucky to be seeing any of "Que Viva Mexico" considering everything that went on, GF.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

© 2023 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...