Stachka (1925) Director: Sergei Eisenstein
Stachka (Strike) is the first feature film of the master Soviet propagandist, Sergei Eisenstein. The Battleship Potemkin, his masterpiece, was made later that year in 1924-1925. After production for Stachka was complete he wrote an influential essay called “Montage Of Attractions” that appeared in a Soviet journal. In it he argued for the montage style of film, which elicits emotional reactions in the audience, as shown in the closing scenes of the film when a strike is put down and the camera quickly cuts between scenes of workers being oppressed and animals being brought to the slaughter. It became a key and influential aspect of film theory, used by many later propaganda films. In doing so, Eisenstein attempted to harmonize the commodified “attraction” (a.k.a. the film) with Marxist dialectical thought. They key was the intense feelings of pity and sympathy the audience is intended to feel, thus grounding them in a revolutionary mindset.
At any rate, the film details a 1903 factory strike in pre-Leninist Russia. It has six parts. One worker is wrongly accused of theft, and in frustration with the greedy management of the factory, he kills himself. This ultimately sparks an uproar among the workers, as they revolt against the fat and greedy, cigar-smoking capitalist owners. The chaos of the revolution continues throughout the film, until ultimately the military is called in. They trample Russian commoners on their way to the factory as they chase all the workers out into the middle of a field and shoot them all, while scenes of a cow being slaughtered are displayed in a montage.
In the end, Eisenstein intended for the audience to sympathize strongly with the plight of the workers. They are the tragic heroes of the film. Eisenstein, himself, called the film awkward and somewhat amateur as his first foray into film-making. The Battleship Potemkin is clearly the superior film, but Strike is nevertheless a fascinating glimpse into Soviet collectivist and montage film theory.