Visual Metaphors for the People: Unpacking Sergei Eisenstein’s Pedagogy of the Russian Revolution Through Film

  • Ashley Prescott Brown Boston College
Keywords: history, russian cinema, film, film theory, battleship potemkin, sergei eisenstein, russian revolution

Abstract

This paper attempts to understand how the celebrated and controversial figure of Sergei Eisenstein understood and contributed to the formation of the Soviet Union through his films of the 1920s.  The lens of visual metaphors offer a specific insight into how artistic choices of the director were informed by his own pedagogy for the Russian Revolution.  The paper asks the questions: Did Eisenstein's films reflect the official party rhetoric?  How did they inform or motivate the public toward the communist ideology of the early Soviet Union?  The primary sources used in this paper are from the films Strike (1925), Battleship Potemkin (1926), October (1928), and The General Line (1929).  Eisenstein created visual metaphors through the juxtaposition of images in his films which alluded to higher concepts.  A shot of a worker followed by the shot of gears turning created the concept of industry in the minds of the audience.  Through visual metaphors, it is possible to understand the motives of Eisenstein and the Communist party.  It is also possible, with the aid of secondary sources, to see how those motives differed.

References

The Battleship Potemkin. Directed by Sergei Eisenstein. Performed by Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barksy, Grigori Aleksandrov. USSR: Goskino, 1925. February 23, 2012.

Eisenstein, Sergei. "A Dialectical Approach to Film Form." Film Form, 1949.

The General Line aka "Old and New". Directed by Sergei Eisenstein and Grigoriĭ Vasilʹevich Aleksandrov. By Ė. Tisse. Performed by Martha Lapkina, M. Ivanin, Konstantin Vasilyev. Soviet Union: Sovkino, 1929. August 26, 2011.

October: Ten Days that Shook the World. Directed by Sergei Eisenstein and Grigoriĭ Vasilʹevich Aleksandrov. By Ė. Tisse. Performed by Ė. Tisse. Soviet Union: Mosflim, 1928. April 21, 2011.

Strike. Directed by Sergei Eisenstein. Performed by Maksim Shtraukh, Grigori Aleksandrov, Mikhail Gomorov. USSR: Goskino, 1925. September 11, 2010.

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Cook, David A., and Robert Sklar. History of the Motion Picture: The Silent Years. “https://www.britannica.com/art/history-of-the-motion-picture". Encyclopaedia Britannica. July 26, 2017. Accessed October 22, 2017.

Fitzpatrick, Sheila. The Russian Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

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Seton, Marie. Sergei M. Eisenstein: A Biography. London: Dobson, 1987.

Taylor, Richard. The Politics of the Soviet Cinema, 1917-1929. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

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Published
2018-09-23
How to Cite
Brown, A. P. (2018). Visual Metaphors for the People: Unpacking Sergei Eisenstein’s Pedagogy of the Russian Revolution Through Film. Elements, 14(1). Retrieved from https://ejournals.bc.edu/index.php/elements/article/view/10327
Section
Articles