One of the most groundbreaking and influential films in history.
First and foremost this is a propaganda film directed and written by Sergei Eisenstein and released in 1925. It is based on the actual mutiny of the obviously named battleship Potemkin in 1905. The mutiny was heavily influenced by Russia losing war to Japan. They had sent most of their experienced officers to the Pacific to fight the Japanese leaving in experience men and officers behind in the Russian fleets of the Black Sea, and after the news of the devastating defeat of the Russian fleet by the Japanese moral sunk really low. It didn't help things that the meat the sailors were getting was rotten. Things sparked when I believe the second in command officer brought the men on to deck to punish them. Whether he planned on executing the men who complained or not who knows, but the men thought that was going to happen and rose up killing many of the officers and arresting the rest. A few other ships join the Potemkin outside Odessa, but isn't successful and eventually the Potemkin is forced to surrender to the Russian navy. I could go more detail because it is interesting, but if you want to learn more you can very easily look it up online. For the purpose of this review it's enough. The uprising had little to do with socialism or communism. It had more to do with moral, working conditions and the treatment the men got. Many people have the misconception the majority of Russians wanted revolution or a so sort of socialist government. Sure they didn't like the Russian Tsar and the oppressive government, but all they really wanted were better working conditions and wages and the people had very little or almost nothing to do with the Russian revolution of 1917. It was all Lenin basically ceasing power for himself even betraying his fellow socialists who wanted some sort of democratic socialist government. That is what makes this film so good. The communist government did a great job with this film. It portrayed the mutiny of Potemkin very accurately, just adding socialist influence. Oh and also managed to bash Christianity and religion along the way. In Odessa they stretched the truth here. There was some sort of uprising, but was it as massive as the film portrays who knows if. Also the famous scene on the steps that lead down to the dock didn't happen. The massacre of the citizens by the Russian army happened somewhere else, and the extent of the killing is debated. Did the army kill unarmed civilians yes, but no one knows the total number killed. The film ends with the single battleship Potemkin facing off with an entire squadron or a fleet of Russian ships, and then miraculously all the ships raise the red flag and the sailors cheer for joy and the film comes to an end.
This film is a great propaganda film just not the way I think Eisenstein intended. You would think seeing the people being treated badly by the evil Russian Empire and the upper-class while praising the hard work and corporation and unity of the people would be affective, but it wasn't as affective in Russia as I'm sure Eisenstein and the Russian government would have hoped, and they certainly made their feelings for religion and the Jews clear. Did the film help convert the Russian people to communism no. As I said they people just wanted food, better working wages and a better way of life. I'm sure many did think they could get that from the Lenin and the communist government. Anything was better than the Tsar. From what I can tell the film had a greater influence outside of Russian with American for other reasons than the theme of the film, and in particular the Joseph Goebbels and the Nazi party. I have no doubt he used the film for influence for his own propaganda in Germany and of course we all know where that leads.
I think the bigger impact the film had was in film making its self. From what I've read it was the most violent or one of the most violent films of its time. I have hardly seen any films from the 1920's to compare it to, but from what I seen and the films from the 1930's it was a very violent film for its time. I believe it got banned in many countries including France and England for both it's violence and communist message. For some reason it wasn't banned in the United States, and people were able to view the film and brought its influence to Hollywood. One of those influences was editing which from what I read the first time it was done in a way to influence the audience to get the biggest emotional impact. Of course I didn't need to read to see the huge influence the scene on the steps with the baby carriage had on Hollywood. The really good film The Untouchables used the scene as a big influence for one of their best scenes in its film. The iconic scene was used by others. I know it was used such great films as The Godfather, Brazil and many others.
The Battleship Potemkin is a one of the best films ever for many reasons. Its riveting story that is compelling. Then there is the historic reason. The film is pretty historically accurate. Does Eisenstein take some leeway with history yes with the socialist movement, the events in Odessa and on the battleship yes, but these are little things. It did happen and much of what happens in the film actually happened. It was a very interesting time in Russia. Next is the propaganda part of the film. I've seen quite a few old propaganda films mainly from Nazi Germany and I know some in the United States say many of the films that come out and are military oriented are nothing, but propaganda films, but they don't hold a candle to this film. Again for history reasons this is a great film. Finally there is the influence the film had its self on Hollywood with editing and influencing directors and writers for decades to come. There are certain films that any true film lover has to see. There is Seven Samurai, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Casablanca, Rashomon, Lawrence of Arabia, Citizen Kane, Schindler's List, Paths of Glory, All Quiet on the Western Front and Battleship Potemkin. There are some I haven't seen like The Birth of a Nation, Nosferatu and Triumph of the Will to name a few, but if you are a true film lover you need to see the films I've listed above. I highly recommend The Battleship Potemkin whether you're a historian buff, a film buff or just enjoy great films. You won't be disappointed with one of the best films of all time.