Feature Film Showcase – The Battleship Potemkin (1925)

“Movies… For Free!”, showcasing classic movies that have fallen out of copyright and are available freely from the public domain. This week…

The Battleship Potemkin poster
Bronyenosyets Potyomkin (English: The Battleship Potemkin), 1925.

Directed by Sergei Eisenstein.
Starring Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barsky and Grigori Alexsandrov.

The Battleship Potemkin is a revolutionary propagandist film from Russian director Sergei Eisenstein, with the respected film theorist using the production to experiment with his pioneering ideas on montage and film editing. The resulting work stands not only as one of the most important features of the silent era but as a true landmark in the history of film, with Eisenstein’s techniques now universally regarded as essential to the craft.

Dramatising the 1905 mutiny of the Potemkin’s crew against the oppressive Tsarist government, The Battleship Potemkin is split across five sections and includes the famous Odessa Steps sequence, where Eisenstein presents a master class in montage as Russian Cossacks massacre a crowd of civilians. Although fictional the elaborate scene is extremely powerful and well-executed, to the extent that Roger Ebert suggests “today the bloodshed on the Odessa steps is often referred to as if it really happened.”

Given its revolutionist ideology Potemkin’s release was met with a wave of controversy and the film was subsequently banned in a number of countries. The film did not receive a British release until 1954 (carrying an X certificate) while heavy cuts were enforced by German censors. Although banned in Nazi Germany, Minister for Propaganda Joseph Goebbels described it as “without equal in the cinema”, and was impressed by the film’s impact and ability to influence its audience.

Despite its age, The Battleship Potemkin remains a highly evocative film and fundamental viewing for cinephiles.

Embed courtesy of Internet Archive.

Click here to view all entries in our Movies… For Free! collection.