Stachka (1925) Director: Sergei Eisenstein
Stachka (Strike) is the first feature film of master Soviet propagandist, Sergei Eisenstein. The Battleship Potemkin, his masterpiece, was made later that year in 1924-1925. After production for Stachka was complete, Eisenstein wrote an influential essay called “Montage Of Attractions” that appeared in a Soviet journal. In the essay, he argued for the montage style of film, which elicits emotional reactions from audiences as shown in the closing scenes of this film as a strike is put down and the camera quickly cuts between scenes of workers being oppressed inter-spliced with animals being brought to the slaughter. Montage became a key and influential style 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. 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.