Strike (1925)

Still an astonishing debut by Eisenstein, this set the foundation for the Soviet director’s theorising and application of his montage ideas.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Review #304

Dir. Sergei Eisenstein
1925 | Soviet Union | Drama | 95 mins | 1.33:1 | Silent

Not rated – likely to be PG13 for some disturbing scenes

Cast: Grigoriy Aleksandrov, Ivan Klyukvin, Aleksandr Antonov
Plot: A group of oppressed factory workers go on strike in pre-revolutionary Russia.
Awards: –

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Class Struggle
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: DVD
First Published: 13 Jul 2008
Spoilers: Mild

Strike ranks as arguably the most remarkable cinematic debut in the early decades of cinema alongside Citizen Kane by Orson Welles. Written and directed by the great Sergei Eisenstein, the film is one of the best examples of a filmmaker who had completely mastered the art of his medium from the get-go.

Strike was conceived at a time when the Soviet Union was under the stranglehold of the Communist government. It was a forceful statement against capitalism, political greed, and the harsh treatment of labour, which were some of the major concerns of the 1920s.

In his films, Charles Chaplin made statements on social issues with visual slapstick humour and created The Tramp, an iconic figure in classic cinema, who was an observer and often victim of societies’ problems. For Eisenstein, he used stark images which with some clever editing and music accompaniment resulted in long, extended montage sequences.

Strike and, to a larger extent, his later works showcased Eisenstein as the leading theorist and practitioner of the ‘shock cutting’ technique – a type of metaphorical or intellectual montage that is visually powerful yet few filmmakers use it and is best described through two famous examples from the film.

“It will never get better for the people… We must strike!”

One, a government official uses a squeezer to squash a lemon to collect its juice. The next shot shows policemen on horses rounding up a large group of labourers on strike.

Two, a worker with a long, sharp knife cuts along the body of a cow in a slaughterhouse, forcing blood and guts out. The next cut shows the labourers on strike being shot to death.

Strike has one of the best music scores for a black-and-white picture. The digitally remastered version on DVD features strong driving, rhythmic and mostly percussive themes performed by the Alloy Orchestra.

After more than eighty years, Strike is still one of the finest films to emerge from the silent period, released in the same year as Eisenstein’s better-known and much more influential Battleship Potemkin.

Grade: A


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