October: 10 Days that Shook the World (1928)

Octyabr_posterIt’s curious that the first image October conjures up is a biblical nightmare from the book of Daniel. In that instance, the Babylonian king is frightened in his dream by a giant statue that comes tumbling to the ground. Of course, in that context, it had a lot of the same connotations, that his kingdom would come crashing to the ground with a resounding thud.

Obviously, there is an overarching narrative which holds importance, but Eisenstein always was a filmmaker of emotion elicited through moving images. So if I’m to be completely honest, the exact particulars of October don’t altogether interest me that much. Certainly, the Russian Revolution is an interesting and cataclysmic moment in 2oth century world history. However, all its crevices and nuances could just as easily be found in a textbook or piece of historical literature.

October is engaging visually, as not only a piece of historical documentation, but of propaganda, and artistic expression through a highly visual medium. Sergei Eisenstein is one of the forefathers of editing and even to this day how he decided to cut his films is fascinating. Part of this is his complete and utter break with the classical Hollywood style of editing that most of us have been born and bred on. Eisenstein is in complete juxtaposition with these normal sensibilities, and that gives his work a perplexing quality that carries a great deal of weight in its own right.

There are scurrying people, smiling faces strung together with montage and quick cutting. It’s grand chaos that is stirring even as it’s, at the same time, rather frightening to behold. The images are bursting forth with fervent energy and vigor for a cause still very much on the rise across the contemporary landscape.

The sheer mass of the mayhem is mind-boggling rather like Metropolis. Its frames are inhabited by seas of people, forests of guns, earthquake of feet hitting the pavement, constantly reverberating and repeating at different intervals. The grizzled yet ecstatic faces of the common man lend credence to Einsenstein’s unifying message waving the banner of the Communist nation.The palace being overrun by hoards is difficult to discount as is the spliced together images of varying religions. These are only a few of the eclectic pieces of the train that make up October. It is a document of a time and place that just happened to be St. Peterburg Moscow on October 27th, 1917. The clocks at the denouement suggest that it had a universal impact on the entire world. If the Cold War is any indication, then Eisenstein might be right.

4/5 Stars

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