Odessa Steps Sequence Essay
The soviet montage style of film came around with the 1917 Russian Revolution. Before this time most films had been made copying the narrative films of other countries. Russians believed that cinema was a true art that could be used to aid their cause. The problem was that they lacked film and equipment because of war torn Europe (Mast and Kawin 120). This is where montage truly began because each shot had to have meaning and impact. The film makers could not waste what little film they did have. One Russian director during this time period was Sergei M. Eisenstein.
One of his most famous films is Battleship Potemkin filmed in 1925. This film is about the uprising of the working class in the 1905 revolution, mainly the revolt on the Potemkin and the attack on the citizens of Odessa. One of the most powerful scenes in this film is the Odessa Steps Sequence. Eisenstein casted the people in this film based on their physical appearance, not their experience. He put out an advertisement looking for three types of people: Jewish Women, men who look good natured, and men who have squinty eyes and a rude facial expression (Taylor 6).
These characteristics were important because they helped convey what he was trying to say with each quick shot. The Jewish women and good natured looking men represent the working class of Russia. The other men represent the government soldiers. The Odessa Steps Sequence shows a massacre of the working class carried out by these soldiers. The camera cuts quickly from the faces of the victims to the mass hysteria to the unchanging faces and movements of the soldiers.
Eisenstein’s technique creates a feeling of helpless terror that runs through the entire scene. It allows the viewer to feel the despair and fear of the working class. Eisenstein uses different camera angles during these cuts. Not only does he quickly change the picture on the screen he also changes the view point. Most of the cuts in this scene do not keep the same perspective. One shot will be from the bottom of the steps, then it will cut to a shot from the side of the steps, then again it will cut to a shot from a characters perspective.
This adds to the feeling of chaos and hysteria that the viewer experiences. There are also a few specific characters on the steps that help make this scene hit home. The mother with her shot son, the baby in the carriage and its mother, and the old woman in the glasses. Each of these characters is a part of the mass hysteria that ensues in this scene but they also pierce through the chaos. Eisenstein follows their specific story during the massacre while combining everything. The mix of fast cuts features these characters whole stories.
The viewer sees how each of these characters meets their misfortunes and then their reactions. These fast images are not just horrific to look at; they also bring forth emotions in the viewer. These shots bring this scene to a whole new level for the audience. This scene is a great example of how the soviets perfected their film technique during this time period. Each shot in this scene is full of meaning and emotion, nothing is wasted or useless. Each cut builds the feeling of hysteria that runs throughout the scene.
They also help to evoke the exact emotions that Eisenstein wanted his audience to feel. The use of montage while following individual characters also helps to create the emotions that Eisenstein wished to evoke in his audience. This scene shows how Eisenstein used montage to his advantage and how he perfected it in his own way. Works Cited Taylor, Richard. The Battleship Potemkin: The Film Companion. New York: I. B. Tauris, 2001. Print Mast, Gerald, and Bruce Kawin. A Short History of the Movies. Pearson,2012. Print