Director: Grigori Alexandrov, Sergei Eisenstein.
Starring: Nikolay Popov (Kerenskiy), Vasili Nikandrov (V. I Lenin), Layaschenko (Konovalov), Boris Livanov (Terestsenko).
Black-and-white, silent movie.
Russian film recreating events of the Russian Revolution. Originally, the film was a silent one. Eisenstein's assistant, Grigori Aleksandrov, later added music.
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
The film was made in 1927 to honor the tenth anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Eisenstein was the head of a number of people who worked on the making of the film. Since it was only ten years after the 1917 events, St. Petersburg (Leningrad) still looked much like it did during those eventful days. Therefore, the film makes a good recreation of actual events. Remember, the following is the Soviet version of what happened.
Revolutionaries tie ropes around the statue of Tsar Alexander III and pull it down. They then storm the Tsar's Winter Palace. The shout goes up: "Long live the Provisional Government." German and Russian troops at the front during World War I celebrate the fall of the Tsar. They hope that peace has come between the two nations. The lull, however, does not last long because the Provisional Government has decided to continue to support the war effort. And soon there are shortages of bread.
April 13, 1917. Outside the Finland Railway Station. Lenin makes an appearance on his way back to Russia. He shouts: "Long live the Socialist Revolution!" Five months of Bourgeoisie government has resulted in no peace, no bread, and no land.
June, 1917. Days of the people's wrath. The crowd shouts "Down with the Provisional Government!"
Meetings take place at the building where the Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks is housed. A speaker pleads for calm and restraint. Scenes of Kronstadt soldiers follow.
A crowd appears at Nevsky Prospect, corner of Sadovaya Square, at the editorial offices of the reactionary Evening News. Russian soldiers fire on the crowd scattering it. The government raises the bridges to cut off the workers' districts from the city center. The 1st Machinegun Regiment calls for solidarity with the workers. The offices of the Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks is in ruins.
The hope of the nation: Alexander Kerensky, leader of the Provisional Government. The problem is that he cooperates too much with the Tsar and his circle.
July 6, 1917. Lenin directs the 6th Party Congress, which plans an armed uprising.
News arrives that General Kornilov is advancing. Now there are two would-be Napoleons: Kerensky and Kornilov. But the government is virtually powerless. The Bolsheviks are determined that Kornilov will not enter the city. The people are armed for the defense of the city. Defense headquarters for the Bolsheviks is the Smolyn. Reading the Bolshevik leaflet the Savage Division under Kornilov goes over to the Bolsheviks. Kornilov is arrested.
It is decided that now the Bolsheviks must seize power. The last decisive battle is coming.
October 10, 1917. The Central Committee of the Bolsheviks debates the question of an armed uprising. Some say they should wait, but Lenin says go and the majority support his position. Lenin is now situated in the Smolny.
Revolutionary Eve, October 24, 1917. Lenin takes over the direction of the uprising. The Menshevik Faction wants to seek a peaceful, bloodless course, but Lenin rejects this. The cruiser Aurora has sailed up the Neva River in support of the Bolsheviks. In the Winter Palace the Cossack Regiment is staying neutral. Kerensky travels to the front to assure the support of the troops for his government.
At the Second Soviet Congress the Mensheviks support the government, but the majority favor the Bolshevik position of revolution. The Red Guard form an iron ring around the Winter Palace. They send in an ultimatum: you have 20 minutes to surrender in order to avoid bloodshed. One by one the women in the Women's Death Battalion surrender.
In the Winter Palace there are 1,100 rooms. The Bolsheviks infiltrate into the Palace. Some of them talk to the Cossacks. A hold-out group is the Cadets who stand firm behind the government. The Twelfth Army supports the Soviets. The soldiers of the Cycle Battalion also come to their support. The Cossacks surrender and change sides to the Bolsheviks.
But there still is no reply from the government to the Bolshevik ultimatum. The Mensheviks talk on and on. But the time for words has past. They start the fight. They send up a signal and the Aurora opens fire on the Winter Palace. Guns of the Peter and Paul's Fort also open fire. The Bolsheviks fight their way into the Winter Palace. They swarm up the steps into the heart of the Palace. The remnant of the Kerensky government is arrested. Antonov-Ovseyenko says: "I declare the Provisional Government deposed." He then signs a document on behalf of the Military Revolutionary Committee declaring that fact.
Reforms are begun by the Bolsheviks: Peace, Bread and Land Reform.
It's hard to be too enthusiastic about a black-and-white silent film. But it was interesting to get the Soviet view of the Russian Revolution just ten years after it took place. If I wanted to study the Revolution in great detail, the many pictures of the buildings and streets would be invaluable. It's just too bad that the Revolution was followed by the "dictatorship of the proletariat" which really meant just totalitarian dictatorship.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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