Centenary of Russian Revolution

In 1917, the Russian Revolution brought down the crumbling regime of the Tsar, envisioning a society […] Read more

In 1917, the Russian Revolution brought down the crumbling regime of the Tsar, envisioning a society built around new men and women who would change the world. While this meant rebirth across the arts, by 1925, Lenin himself noted that “of all the arts the most important for us is the cinema.” The promises of these early revolutionaries seem dimmer after a century of politics and wars that have betrayed early ideals, but time has not diminished the ardor with which an early generation of Soviet filmmakers sought to explain and promote this new order.

Combining innovative techniques with powerful and political stories, these men made silent film an arm of the revolution, its vision, its voice. Indeed, they saw films not only as a way of showing the world but also of changing it, changing man himself. Who is not caught up today in the powerful images of power and corruption in Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925), a world-shattering reconstruction of a 1905 rebellion by sailors considered one of cinema’s great masterpieces? Where would we be without Dziga Vertov who revolutionized documentary with real everyday events and perceptions, a heritage that flows from his classic Man With a Movie Camera (1929) to contemporary cinema vérité?

While showcasing major works by both Vertov and Eisenstein, this panorama highlights works of their contemporaries who have never gained such currency among film buffs. This brings in works by Lev Kuleshov, founder of the Moscow Film School, who theorized and used montage so brilliantly that his name is still applied to a technique of evocative juxtaposition; he is seen here using satire as a political tool. He is joined by the epic Vsevolod Pudovkin and the comic Boris Barnet. Completing the panorama is another monumental film, Arsenal by Aleksandr Dovzhenko, a masterful voice from Ukrainian revolutionary cinema. Together, these brilliant works allow us to appreciate the filmmakers, goals and impacts of the days that shook the world.

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