A Cine-Fist to the Solar Plexus

David Trotter

  • Beyond the Stars, Vol.1: The Boy from Riga by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by William Powell
    Seagull, 558 pp, £16.99, June 2018, ISBN 978 0 85742 488 4
  • On the Detective Story by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch
    Seagull, 229 pp, £16.99, November 2017, ISBN 978 0 85742 490 7
  • On Disney by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch
    Seagull, 208 pp, £16.99, November 2017, ISBN 978 0 85742 491 4
  • The Short-Fiction Scenario by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch
    Seagull, 115 pp, £16.99, November 2017, ISBN 978 0 85742 489 1
  • Movement, Action, Image, Montage: Sergei Eisenstein and the Cinema in Crisis by Luka Arsenjuk
    Minnesota, 249 pp, £19.99, February 2018, ISBN 978 1 5179 0320 6

‘But where does the Potemkin go?’ That, according to Sergei Eisenstein, was what the people who had just seen his most famous film really wanted to know. At the climax of the film, the battleship’s mutinous crew, having got rid of all its officers and intervened decisively in the first stirrings of revolt in the Black Sea town of Odessa, head out of harbour to confront the rest of the imperial fleet, which has assembled to block their escape. Engines throb, guns swivel, lookouts peer into the blackness. And then, just as it seems that all hell is about to break loose, the opposition folds. The Potemkin glides unharmed through the fleet, to the accompaniment of rousing huzzahs and declarations of eternal brotherhood. The rapturous welcome received by the mutineers confirms that already, in June 1905, momentum was starting to build towards the triumph of October 1917. But where did the Potemkin go? To the neutral Romanian port of Constanza. There, after several futile attempts to refuel and resupply the ship, the crew surrendered to the authorities. Whatever, was Eisenstein’s feeling about that ignominious endgame. He said he had lost all interest in the ‘wandering ship’ the minute it ceased to be a revolutionary ‘asset’. Battleship Potemkin does not play by the narrative rules.

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