Strike (Russian: “Стачка”) is a 1925 silent film made in the Soviet Union by Sergei Eisenstein. It was Eisenstein’s first full-length feature film, and it is the story of a strike by factory workers in the Tsarist Russia of 1912 and its brutal suppression. It was shot almost entirely on location so that it seems like a reconstruction of genuine events. It was acted by the Proletcult Theatre, and composed of six parts. It was in turn, intended to be one part of a seven-part series, entitled Towards Dictatorship (of the proletariat), and the project was left unfinished. Most probably The Battleship of Potemkin,- his mature work and more enduring as a film classic, was released later that year and it made such prepraratory work unnecessary. Like Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, Strike reveals the creative energy of an artist given its wings without pulling back.- and it is the liberty of a young film-maker to test the boundaries of film-making, and in Eisenstein it is shown in the way he has tested every rule in the book and rewrote it by adding some of his own. This is evident in Battleship Potemkin and October.
Most of the characteristics of Eisenstein’s film style can be seen in part derived from his early influences. Before he came into filmmaking he was attached to a military construction unit, and also note-worthy is that his father was an architect. He is probably the most architectural of directors, evidenced by his film sets in which architectural elements add to the dramatic tension. In part his style is derived from masters like Griffith and Chaplin. But with Strike he enlarged the vocabulary of cinema especially in the area of montage. His influential essay, Montage of Attractions was written between Strike’s production and premiere. (See also quote from Metalluk’s review -epinions.com)
The film opens with a quote from Vladimir Lenin.
На заводе всё спокойно / At the factory all is quiet
Using typography, the word “но” (but) is added to the title of the chapter, which then animates and disolves into an image of machinery in motion. The facory bosses have set their sights on the workers and they are seen reviewing a list of agents with vivid code names such as as The Monkey, The Fox, The Owl, Bulldog, and Fly-by-Night. The job of the spies is to infiltrate the union and ferret out the identities of the ringleaders.
Vignettes are shown of them. Conditions are tense with agitators and Bolsheviks planing a strike.
Повод к стачке / Reason to strike
A micrometer is stolen, with a value of 25 rubles or 3 weeks pay. A worker, Yakov, is accused of the theft and subsequently hangs himself. Fighting ensues and work stops. The workers leave the milling room running and resistance is met at the foundry. The strikers throw rocks and loose metal through the foundry windows. Then locked within the gates of the complex, the crowd confronts the office. They force open the gates and sieze a manager.
Завод замер / The factory dies down
The chapter begins with footage of ducklings, kittens, piglets, and geese. A child then wakes his father who is out of work and they have funtime. The factory is shown vacant and still with birds moving in. The children act out what their fathers had done, wheelbarrowing a goat in a mob. The shareholders discuss with the director and read the demands. They are dismissive on the workers demands. Meanwhile the police raid the workers, and they sit down to protest. At their meeting the shareholders use the demand letter as a rag to clean up a spill, and a lemon squeezer. It expresses howfar the shareholders are willing go.
Стачка затягивается / The strike draws out
Scenes are shown of a lines forming at a store, which is closed, and a baby needing food. A fight occurs at a home between a man and a woman, subsequently she leaves. Another man rummages through his home for goods to sell at a flea market, upsetting his family. A posted letter publicly shows the administrators rejection of the demands.
Провокация на разгром / Provocation and debacle
The scene opens with dead cats dangling from a structure. A new character is introduced, “King” whose throne is made of a derelict automobile amidst rubbish and he is instructed by Tsarist police to set fire, raze, and loot a liquor store. A crowd gathers at the fire and the alarm is sounded. The crowd leaves to avoid being provoked but are set upon by the firemen with their hoses regardless.
Ликвидация / Liquidation
The governor sends in the military. A child walks under the soldiers’ horses and his mother goes under to get him and is struck. Rioting commences, and the crowd is chased off through a series of gates and barriers heading to the forge, then their apartments. The crowd is chased and whipped on the balconies. A policeman raises and drops a child from the balcony, killing it. The workers are driven into a field by the army and shot en masse. This bloody scene is shown with alternating footage of the slaughtering of a cow. (ack:wikipedia)
Directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein
Produced by Boris Mikhin
Written by Grigori Aleksandrov
Sergei M. Eisenstein
Cinematography Eduard Tisse
Release date: April 28, 1925
Running time 82 min.
Language Silent film
‘Strike is a veritable catalog of technical innovations and wizardry. There are double exposures, an upside down puddle reflection, shots through windows, reflections in mirrors, fades and melds, side by side panels that then merge, shots of distorted reflections in a glass ball, low angle shots, film reversals, silhouette shots, and much, much more. There are some surreal elements introduced, such as a pair of midgets dancing on a table behind two policemen who are in the process of turning one of the strikers into a snitch. There are a host of out-of-context images, such as nervous eyes turned to the side, juxtaposed to add a sense of paranoia to the main sequences. There are back and forth cuts between a manager squeezing juice from an orange while the Cossacks, who have surrounded a group of workers in a wooded area, tighten the ring around them.
Eisenstein was most fortunate to acquire the services of Edward Tissé as his cameraman for Strike. Eisenstein, though teeming with brilliant ideas, was raw and inexperienced as a filmmaker in 1925, while Tissé was both experienced and talented as a cinematographer. Tissé was able to capture effectively Eisenstein’s conceptions on film. The professional relationship between the two men lasted through most of Eisenstein’s career.
While making Strike, Eisenstein effectively developed his notion of “intellectual montage.” He typically spent many more hours in the editing of a film than in the shooting. Eisenstein’s idea was to create a rapid succession of quick shots (which might be relatively meaningless taken alone) that would acquire meaning through the intellectual process of association. The secondary benefit is that rapid cuts can also add tempo and excitement to a film. To the Soviet authorities, Eisenstein’s editing techniques became known as “formalism,” which they railed against incessantly.
Many of the film’s frames are notable for the intricate detail of the mise-en-scene. Especially impressive are the shots in the factory interior (a labyrinth of wheels, ropes, aisles, and machinery) and the worker’s multistory tenement maze’.
“Eisenstein was supremely the master of film rhetoric.” – Orson Welles
‘The films do lack a certain humanity. Battleship Potemkin and October were masterpieces of technique, to which film-makers still bow today. Alexander Nevsky and the two parts of Ivan the Terrible were operatic and often grotesque, but classics too. Only Strike, his first feature, showed his basic humanity, and it is arguably his best because of it’.( Derek Malcolm-The Guardian, Oct 12, 2000)
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