Stachka (1925) Director: Sergei Eisenstein
Stachka (Strike) is the first feature film of master Soviet propagandist, Sergei Eisenstein. After production for Stachka was complete, Eisenstein wrote an influential essay called “Montage Of Attractions” that appeared in a prominent Soviet journal defending the montage style of film-making, which serves as a kind of propaganda and elicits emotional reactions from audiences as shown in the closing scenes of Stachka. A strike is put down and the camera quickly cuts between scenes of workers attacked and oppressed inter-spliced with animals being brought to the slaughter. It offers an unmistakably Marxist suggestion. Montage became a key, influential style of film theory, used by many later propaganda films across the totalitarian world of the 20th century. In doing so, Eisenstein attempted to harmonize the commodified “attraction” (a.k.a. the film) with Marxist dialectical thought. The key to style concerned the intense feelings of pity and sympathy aroused in the audience, thus grounding viewers in a revolutionary mindset.
At any rate, “Strike” 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, and 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, comparing ordinary workers to slaughtered chattel.
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.
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