The End of St. Petersburg (1927)
Director: Vsevolod Pudovkin
Starring: Vsevolod Pudovkin, Nikolai Khmelyov
The film deals with a Russian peasant who moves to the city and engages in union work in the revolutionary/World War I period.
The three greatest Soviet directors are: Eisenstein, Pudovkin and Dovzhenko.
Spoiler Warning: below is a complete summary:
The people of Penza, Novgorod and of Tver Country are very poor. A mother dies in childbirth giving birth to a daughter, who is viewed negatively as just an extra mouth to feed. The rural people are so poor that the men have to travel to the city in order to earn a living.
The scene switches to St. Petersburg, capital of the Tsars: Alexander III, Nicholas I, Peter the Great. The people of the Pulitov, the Obokhov and Lebedev Factory are being abushed. A communist worker is upset by the working conditions for the laborers at Lebedev Factory. Many men feel as though they can't take any more. The people are bought and sold by the stock market. The boss of Lebedev Factory receives a big government contract and their stock goes way up.
Back in the rural area, many men are just waiting for the train to take them to work in St. Petersburg. The focus is on a large blonde man who goes to the city to get work. In St. Petersburg he looks up the communist from his village but he finds he and his family are poor and starving. At Lebedev Factory the communist is stirring up trouble. A strike is called. The blonde man gets to meet some of the leaders of the strike, including a very active fellow who happens to be bald.
Rural people are brought in as scabs to take over the work. They are resisted by the strikers. But, of course, the police come in on the side of the employer. Ownership wants to know who the trouble makers are. The blonde fellow indicates that he is willing to be an informer. He blames "baldy" and takes the police and the owners to the communist's apartment where they arrest all the leaders (except the communist himself who was some place else). The manager of the factory tells the blonde fellow that he will be given immediate work at the factory the next day. The manager also gives him a large coin for a reward. The blonde fellow almost immediately regrets his actions. He thinks that he must make things right.
The blonde fellow goes in to see the boss. He asks that they let the one fellow from his village go. No dice! The boss tells the manager: "Get him out of here, damn it!" But the big blonde roughs up the manager who tries to throw him out. A bunch of management guys jump the blonde but he throws them all off. He then assaults the boss. The police come in and grab the offender. The blonde is taken to Okhta District Police Station where he is beaten up and thrown into a jail cell.
War! World War I makes Lebedev very happy. There will not only be higher profits, but the war will prevent a revolution in Russia. The police force the blonde to enlist as an army volunteer. There is a big send-off for the troops. The scene switches to the combat zone. Rural people are brought onto the front lines. The poor people of Germany are also pushed onto the front lines. The war is a war between two capitalist nations only concerned with the interests of the owners in their respective countries.
The miseries of trench warfare are shown. The people of Russia are also suffering, while the owners and managers grow richer. The people are hungry, The lack of bread leads to bread riots.
Long live the coalition government! The Tsar is overthrown and a coalition government put in his place. The government promises to bring about a victory for Russia in the fighting. So the war goes on and the poverty goes on.
Soldiers come to arrest the communist, but again he is not home. They stay with the wife in the apartment waiting for him to return. But the wife is able to warn her husband and he escapes the arrest. Things are going badly for the coalition government. Troops are called back from the front to support the government.
The time for a real revolution is drawing near. The communist goes to see the army's regiment committee. With the help of the blonde soldier, he is able to get the support of the soldiers, who then fire on their officers, chasing them from the parade field.
The target of the revolution is the Tsar's Winter Palace. Revolutionary soldiers and citizens surround the Winter Palace and wait for a shot from Peter and Paul's tower to announce the start. The shot comes and the Winter Palace is taken. St. Petersburg is no more.
The blond man is wounded in the revolutionary struggle. He is patched up by the communist's wife who is looking for her husband. She gives the soldiers the few potatoes she has. Later she finds her husband. The film ends with "Long Live the City of Lenin!"
Good movie. This is a very quick summary of the main causes of the Russian Revolution. You get it all in a nice nutshell. The picture is drawn in stark black and white contrasts, the good and the evil, but it is mainly true. The conditions were terrible for workers and peasants in Russia. In most of the industrial countries, capitalism was tamed without a violent revolution. But the situation was worse in Russia. A considerably worse situation leads to the use of violence. But there is usually a big price to pay for violent revolution. The resulting chaos brings in the radicals who then go too far precisely because they are radicals. The violence of the French Revolution led to the Napoleon dictatorship and the Russian Revolution led to the dictatorship of the Soviets. Both violent revolutions ended in bad results.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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