Archive for May 17th, 2008

Cicero, Marcus Tullius(106-43 B.C) Orator


Even as a child he won fame among his school fellows and Masters alike for his excellent wit and quick capacity to learn. It is said that the fathers of other boys used to come to school to see the boy who carried such an excellent report.


He left for Rhodes to study Rhetoric under Appolonius. His tutor who was not so proficient in latin tongue, wanted Cicero to declaim certain passages in Greek. He took up the task hoping thereby his faults,if any, would be corrected. His tutor kept a deadpan expression throughout to observe in the end,”As for me Cicero I not only praise thee but more than that I wonder at thee: and yet I am sorry for Greece to see that learning and eloquence( which were the only two gifts and honor left to us)are by thee carried unto the Romans”.


When he got into active politics he took the trouble of knowing the names of citizens with whom he came into contact as well as those who were influential.

He was very vain and loved to hear his own praise. After a long absence from Rome when he returned to the city he asked his friend what the Romans said of him. His friend asked,”You mean you have been

away?”It made him shut up. ( Plutarch’s Lives- Thomas North’s version. ) 



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 Director: Grigori Aleksandrov

Starring: Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barsky


Bronenosec  Potjomkin -Sergei Eisenstein’s revolutionary sophomore feature has so long stood as a textbook example of montage editing and with it the Russian film- maker changed the shape of cinema into a new direction. ( Previously the accent was on staging best exemplified by Weiner’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and the Russian master gave in its place a purely cinematic idiom of montage.)  Another feature of this film is that thin and treacherous line that often trips up a film maker who is bent on making a propaganda film. It is to the credit of Eisenstein that he didn’t fall a victim. Eisenstein of course was working under the dictates of the party bosses and had to keep true to the Marxian ideology from their position. What made it a celluloid epic despite of their interference?

In order to understand this conundrum we have to grasp the fundamentals of film. (First of all let me make it clear as with music  knowledge of grammar is unnecessary in order to enjoy film).

A film is synthesis of several arts. In visual terms a film maker might make a political statement from any historical event. In the Battleship of Potemkin, Eisenstein is narrating a crucial event of the 1905 revolution. He can play with time as in the famous  scene on the steps of St. Petersburg. The action itself, the people running up the steps into the guns of the Tsarist soldiers actually takes place in a few minutes. The detail shots of falling bodies, feet, faces, guns are all props to give an illusion of time in the viewer’s mind. If with time he can also shift points of view back and forth. The art of film being such there is no place for dogmatic statements. It is cerebral experience as well as vicarious. It was the genius of Eisenstein that he could fine tune his control on his viewer by means of montage. Like a wizard he made the experience of the protagonist as that of you and me. Montage makes it possible to shift from objective to subjective and vice versa. Thus the Russian master didn’t narrate history of the revolution as it happened but in the context of a few characters that figure in the film. Lo and behold their situation has for the moment become yours and you have become part of the experience of the protagonist!

In order to reinforce that a film maker could create the right mood as in the case of the corpse of the murdered sailor. How can a viewer be not affected by the environment,- and the rising misty dawn over the hapless sailor simply puts the viewer receptive to what is to follow. Eisenstein portrays the revolt in microcosm with a dramatization of the real-life mutiny aboard the battleship Potemkin. His genius transcended politics and created a timeless classic.

 The story tells a familiar party-line message of the oppressed working class (in this case the enlisted sailors) banding together to overthrow their oppressors (the ship’s officers), led by proto-revolutionary Vakulinchuk. When he dies in the shipboard struggle the crew lays his body to rest on the pier, a moody, moving scene where the citizens of Odessa slowly emerge from the fog to pay their respects. As the crowd grows Eisenstein turns the tenor from mourning a fallen comrade to celebrating the collective achievement. The government responds by sending soldiers and ships to deal with the mutinous crew and the supportive townspeople, which climaxes in the justly famous (and often imitated and parodied) Odessa Steps massacre. Eisenstein edits carefully orchestrated motions within the frame to create broad swaths of movement, shots of varying length to build the rhythm, close-ups for perspective and shock effect, and symbolic imagery for commentary, all to create one of the most cinematically exciting sequences in film history. Eisenstein’s film is Marxist propaganda to be sure, but as I said earlier polemics do not stand a chance against a creative genius who is in control of his medium. Naturally it is the secret of this masterpiece.

(ack:Sean Axmaker)

Similar Movies

         October  (1927, Grigory Alexandrov, Sergei Eisenstein)

         Arsenal  (1929, Alexander Dovzhenko)

         Storm over Asia  (1928, Vsevolod Pudovkin)

         Strike  (1924, Sergei Eisenstein)

         Tabu  (1931, Robert Flaherty, F.W. Murnau)

Movies with the Same Personnel

         Alexander Nevsky  (1938, Sergei Eisenstein)

         Qué Viva México  (1932, Grigory Alexandrov, Sergei Eisenstein)

         Vesna  (1947, Grigory Alexandrov)

         Strike  (1924, Sergei Eisenstein)

         October  (1927, Grigory Alexandrov, Sergei Eisenstein)

         Ivan the Terrible, Part 1  (1944, Sergei Eisenstein)

         Ivan the Terrible: Part 2  (1946, Sergei Eisenstein)

         Our Daily Bread  (1934, King Vidor)

Other Related Movies

 is featured in:           Seeds of Freedom  (1943, Hans Burger)

 is related to:           Reds  (1981, Warren Beatty)

           Black Sea Mutiny  (1931, Arnold Kordyum)

 has been re-edited into:           Seeds of Freedom  (1943, Hans Burger)

 is related to:           Blue Moon  (2002, Andrea Maria Dusl)

           Sergei Eisenstein: Mexican Fantasy  (1998, Oleg Kovalov






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