Classic Film: "Battleship Potemkin"

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Classic Film: "Battleship Potemkin"
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Memphis Brooks Museum of Art says
One of the most influential silent films of all time, Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 masterpiece presents a dramatized version of the 1905 mutiny aboard a Russian battleship. Eisenstein wrote the film as a tool for revolutionary propaganda, editing the film to produce an emotional response so that viewers would feel sympathetic towards the rebellious sailors. Battleship Potemkin proved shocking to international audiences for its use of graphic violence, and was banned in several countries, including, at times, the U.S.

Throughout Battleship Potemkin, Eisenstein tests his theories on film editing, most famously in the scenes depicting the massacre of civilians on the Odessa steps. In reality, the massacre never took place; inserted for dramatic effect, it has become the most influential scenes in the history of cinema, inspiring homages by Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather), Brian De Palma (The Untouchables), Laurel and Hardy (The Music Box), and many more. Painter Francis Bacon was also profoundly influenced by Eisenstein’s images, particularly the shot of the nurse wearing broken glasses, captured in open-mouthed scream. The image has appeared in many of Bacon’s paintings, including Abstraction from the Human Form and Fragment of a Crucifixion.

Director: Sergei Eisenstein | Soviet Union | 1925 | 75 minutes
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By: Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

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