A strike on the part of the factory workers in 1912 Russia is brutally suppressed by the authorities. Visual montage, caricature and disturbing slaughterhouse sequences highlight the brutality of the police, in Sergei Eisenstein's allegoric first feature film.
Sergei Eisenstein's debut film is more than a landmark of Soviet cinema; it's easily one of the most thrilling and inventive films to emerge from the silent era of Russian film making. Eisenstein was a theatre director and stage designer with some very specific ideas about the cinema, and he put them into practice telling the story of a worker's strike in pre-Revolution Russia, portraying the struggle not of leader against leader, but of the proletariat against the factory owners, enlivened by a conspiratorial subplot involving a quartet of insidious spies sent to infiltrate the ranks of the workers. The subject matter is at times didactic and the acting often hammy and overwrought, but the technique is vibrant and the images striking. Eisenstein's compositions reflect the graphic boldness of contemporary poster art, mixing poetic realism with grotesque expressionism in a gripping style, and his famous montage editing style (to be perfected in his next film, Battleship Potemkin
) is raw, experimental and energetic. Eisenstein's later films are more consistent and elegant, but none of them have the sheer cinematic invention and energy of this first film. The new score, composed and performed by the idiosyncratic Alloy Orchestra, combines a mix of martial and mood music on synthesiser with the driving percussion of drums, wood blocks, bells and wrecking yard of clanging metal objects--a dynamic soundtrack to one of the most auspicious directoral debuts ever. --Sean Axmaker