on Jan 23, 1898 in Riga, Latvia, Sergei Mikhaylovich Eisenstein
was to become one of the most world-renowned filmmakers of the first
half of the 20th century. Eisenstein was of Jewish descent through
his paternal grandparents. His father worked in shipbuilding, until
1910, when the family moved to St. Petersburg, where his training
as an architect and engineer had a great influence on his future
along with A. Tisse, G. Alexandrov,
& M. Shatrauka, pose for a group photo
while shooting "Old and New," 1929.
The architect in Eisenstein was inspired by Renaissance conceptions
of space. He studied Leonardo da Vinci's work and was influenced
by Freud's interpretation of da Vinci. Trying to bridge the gap
in what he felt was the distorted space induced by technology, Eisenstein
pushed the outer envelope of filmmaking. He attempted to understand
how the sensations of the machine age could be incorporated in the
grand style of the Renaissance and how the meaning of Marxist humanism
might be traced back to the spirit of the Quattrocento.
the insurgent crowds during the 1917 October revolution bearing
down on the Winter Palace of the Tsars in St. Petersburg, Eisenstein
foresaw his future. He enlisted in the Red Army and helped organize
and construct defenses and, as his first step in his career, produce
entertainment for the troops. Having decided that a military life
was not for him, in 1920 he entered the Proletkult Theater (the
Theater of the People) in Moscow as an assistant stage designer,
where he quickly became a co-director. But in whatever he sought
to do, Eisenstein never forgot his political agenda and was to become
the most noted filmmaker of the communist regime.
first film, the revolutionary "Strike," was produced in 1924, following
the publishing of his first article on theories of editing in the
review Lef, edited by the great poet, Mayakovsky. He proposed a
new editing form, the "montage of attractions" -- in which arbitrarily
chosen images, independent from the action, would be presented not
in chronological sequence but in whatever way would create the maximum
directing actor Boris Zakhava
as Gerasim in the film "Bezhin Meadow"
the filmmaker should aim to establish in the consciousness of the
spectators the elements that would lead them to the idea he wants
to communicate. He should attempt to place them in the spiritual
state or the psychological situation that would give birth to that
idea. He theorized that cinema was a synthesis of art and science.
These principles guided Eisenstein's entire career, and had a major
impact on filmmakers to this day for its stark contrast to "American-style"
"Strike", which recounts the repression of a strike by the soldiers
of the tsar, Eisenstein juxtaposed shots of workers being mowed
down by machine guns with shots of cattle being butchered in a slaughterhouse.
The effect was striking, but the objective reality was falsified.
1925, in order to commemorate the Revolution of 1905, the Communist
Party commissioned the renowned film "Potemkin" (also called " battleship
Potemkin"). The film was made in the Black Sea port of Odessa. In
1958 it was voted the best film ever made, by an international poll
next film was the two hour film, "October" or "Ten Days That Shook
the World", dealing with the shifts of power between the 1917 February
and October revolutions, Lenin's entering the scene and the struggle
of the Bolsheviks with their opponents.
sets his camera for the kind of unconventional angle that made him
a great director. "Old and New"
some other controversial works, like "Old and New" ("The General
Line"), "Romance Sentimentale" and "Thunder over Mexico", Eisenstein
was able to make a film recounting the medieval epic of "Alexander
Nevsky", in accordance with Stalin's policy of glorifying Russian
heroes. Made in 1938 the film represented the triumph of collectivism.
With a score written by famed Russian composer Prokofiev, the film
combined images and music into a single rhythmic unity.
seeking to expand the filmmaking craft, Eisenstein drew upon his
early interest in Japanese Kabuki theatre and Noh drama and their
use of masks in his last film "Ivan the Terrible". During World
War II, Eisenstein began work on this epic film about the 16th-century
Tsar Ivan IV, whom Stalin admired. Before he could finish the third
part of the film, Eisenstein died, a few days after his 50th birthday,
on February 11, 1948. His political agendas may not have been fulfilled,
but his revolutionary advances in film theory and montage will not
be long forgotten.
The Gallery > Sergei Eisenstein