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on 19 January 2010
Although it is now something of a cliché, where dave.simpson finishes his review with the words 'watch and enjoy', I believe that one has to be very clear about what one means by 'enjoy', and it must be said that to enjoy Eisenstein's film 'Strike' is an immensely different thing from enjoying, say, 'The Sound of Music'. This is because, for those who do not know, 'Strike' isn't a 'ripping good yarn', but is a historical document which requires understanding both in terms of why it was produced, and the times and the country in which it came into being. The synopsis provided by Amazon is good, but Jacques Coulardeau must be thanked for putting together a very thorough and thoughtful framework of ideas on this. There will be those who think that oppression is oppression the world over: the same for all countries, and all periods in history. Well, whatever Eisenstein's personal feelings about his commission, 'Strike' carries a very large content of propaganda, underpinned by much of the dominant ideology of the time, to an extent reinforcing and perpetuating that ideology: in essence reminding the masses, in a thinly-veiled way, of the injustices surrounding their former lives under the Tsarist regime, and flattering their sense of morality, purpose, and achievement, perhaps with a vague underlying reminder of 'how much better off you are now'.
The disadvantage of silent film as a medium is that, literally, it cannot 'say' enough within its system of subtitles. Whilst there are those who think that imagery, particularly the impressive and imaginative variety of an Eisenstein, can make up for this deficiency, I think they are wrong. Indeed, even modern film with all its subtleties, can fail remarkably in something such as the adaptation of a Jane Austen novel, where a character cannot possibly be given the degree of complexity to which the author has devoted pages in the original text. In this we come back to the relationship which has to be established between the director and the audience, and the assumptions which have to be made, and more importantly, understood, if a film is to be 'enjoyed'. So, for those wondering whether to buy the film or not, I believe the film is interesting, but only if one is personally able to contribute a considerable amount to it through an awareness of the times. I think it requires a fairly high degree of intellectual independence not to be led astray by the 'black and white' ideological concepts which lurch towards one from the distance, like a drunken man, as they say. To enjoy the film one has to be able to see, for example, what might be a simplistic, Victorian melodramatic, representation of all 'bosses' being essentially corrupt and wrong, and all 'workers' being essentially good and right, and yet keep it in the perspective appropriate to its place as an intentional, and unintentional, testament to the political objectives of the times.
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on 8 March 2009
This title is bad. It should be THE strike, but they translated word for word and in Russian they do not have articles. It gives to the title an abstract look or feel that is not at all what the film is about. In fact the film is just the contrary. It is purely concrete, pragmatic, in no way reflexive or trying to analyze and understand that brutality in the repression of a strike that started before even having an objective or a reason. This brutality is in many ways typical of some periods in the history of the industrialization of our countries, Russia, the USA or Western Europe. It stopped or became more limited when the leaders and managers, both politicians and economic bosses, understood that this violence was menacing the establishment in the long run far more than some compromises along the way. What is surprising is how Eisenstein in 1924, at the end of the war communism of the civil war and at the beginning of the New Economic Policy of Lenin who was on the brink of dying, some kind of delayed assassination, painted a world that was cut in two, and nothing else but these two. And far away from Mayakovski or the other poets of that time, all of them militants and committed to the revolution, he depicts a situation in which there is no culture, no mind, no humanism, no nothing, especially not any thinking. All is shown as being primary, physical, at the simple level of instincts and senses, on both sides. The workers go on strike because they feel dissatisfied but they don't know why. It is an urge in them to do it and any reason is good enough to start and then to force everyone, and I insist on this "force", to get into the strike with violence of course and that working class violence is natural, isn't it? On the side of the bosses it is not better, but it is not worse either. It is just pure refusal because their instinct is to say no. They are in no way different from their workers. The police and army are even worse because they enjoy using violence. They have no humaneness, no sense that they are from the people, no patriotism that would mean some feeling, some sentiment, or some recollection that they were born from the people, among the people, in the people, as members of the people. That vision is so extreme that we do not feel any sympathy or compassion for that kind of discourse. But yet, and the first part seems to go that way, I just wonder if Eisenstein did not make it all a charade, a grotesque farce, or even a monstrous carnival. He uses his camera so well that he is able to concentrate on masses of people instead of individuals or faces. Few close-up shots but a lot of moving, running crowds, his specialty, and it is that focusing on these movements that make the discourse funny, unreal, surreal, surrealistic even. Was Eisenstein already seeing the new master of the USSR coming up to take over? Was Stalin a haunting ghost in this film? Was Eisenstein making that caricature of history in order to make people think? I doubt it very much. He used all his genial art and competence with a camera and an editing bench to fascinate the crowds who were discovering the cinema, the magic of electricity and the new media in order to make them politically supportive of the revolution. He could not even be considered as naïve since he shows very well that all starts from a minority that manages to push along or force the working class into action. Then the rest is nothing but stubbornness and there is only one resistance to the hardships of such a period and it comes from women, and men are obliged to force them down into obedience to their will. All I say there is going against the grain of that Soviet revolution, and that is why I say Eisenstein was doing what he had to do but at the same time was keeping a tongue in his cheek. What happen to that tongue had to come later, but he did not forget to put one of his Solomon's numbers in the film with six geese strutting around in that factory.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines, CEGID
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on 22 July 2000
Strike is a film from highly-influential director Sergei Eisenstein, who was part of the early Soviet Cinema movement. Starring the Proletkult Workers theatre it's about a worker who is wrongfully accused of stealing a micrometer and therefore commits suicide out of humiliation. The workers organise a strike and a committee is set up to organise the strike, which sadly leads to deadly consequences. The story is set in 1912 under the Czarist dictatorship.
One of Eisensteins ideas he put to film was to abolish art because of it's uselessness and based his other ideas for film towards socialist ideas which he succeeded.
The film soundtrack makes the film all the more powerful combining class struggle with a classical score and the final scenes of chapter's 5 & 6 become more disturbing and frought the more you watch them. The film ends with the armed calvalry firing indiscriminatly at the striking workers and ends with "never forget....workers".
Eisenstein's vision of film also influenced modern day director's like Martin Scorcese and his use of visual effects are quite stunning and revolutionary. He died in 1945 after a row with Stalin.
Strike, along with Battleship Potemkin and October have become cult classics on student campuses, especially when Marxist ideas were gaining popularity during the 1970's (socialist ideas are gaining an interest, especially Karl Marx).
So to sum up, Strike is a film of striking genius, Visually arresting and definetly worth watching. Watch and enjoy.
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