In the midst of the Russian Revolution of 1905, the crew of the battleship Potemkin mutiny against the brutal, tyrannical regime of the vessel's officers. The resulting street demonstration in Odessa brings on a police massacre.
Sergei M. Eisenstein
During 1st WW, two French officers are captured. Captain De Boeldieu is an aristocrat while Lieutenant Marechal was a mechanic in civilian life. They meet other prisoners from various backgrounds, as Rosenthal, son of wealthy Jewish bankers. They are separated from Rosenthal before managing to escape. A few months later, they meet again in a fortress commanded by the aristocrat Van Rauffenstein. De Boeldieu strikes up a friendship with him but Marechal and Rosenthal still want to escape...Written by
Just saw it again on TCM, and now I see things in the film that make me question my high regard and admiration for it. This classic film has a special glow of humanity, which makes it unique and instinctively accessible. One can understand why it was such a hit in 1937. At the same time, this is not a surrealist film or a satire as the title might suggest, but an interpretation of horrific events from the point view of a humanist, and in that sense you get the inspirational message which seeks to outweigh other issues, but if you stop and think about the whole thing you end up appalled by some of the conclusions you might end up with. If it had successfully advanced the theme that war is hell and that men seek to preserve their humanity under these conditions, fine. But that is not the end result: the balance between the anti-war message and the idea that WWI was a gentlemen's war and that it brought the best out of men somehow leans on screen towards the latter and lends the film to negative interpretations. Renoir refuses to openly condemn war nor show its ugly face but by implication. And you can't say that wasn't Renoir's style, given his in-your-face condemnation of the attitudes of French's aristocracy prior to WWII in The Rules of the Game. Renoir emphasizes the men being pals and patriotic, eating well, joking, and dancing, which is what Renoir as a humanist understands men wish to do instead of fight, but the lack of any substantial sense of horror and suffering makes for an unbalanced film. The suffering is almost all psychological (life away from home and wife, loneliness) but it is hardly felt, except in the part of the story with the German woman, which is very successfully told. The physical suffering is not exposed at all, except for von Stroheimm's ailments, which are discussed tangentially, and even that suffering is mentioned but not felt. Renoir seems to expect the audience to presuppose the horror and the suffering. Renoir's conclusions in this film are confusing, naive and might even be considered downright insulting, particularly in the historic period this film was made. The problem might not be in Renoir's point of view or intentions but in what he actually put on the screen. So all in all, I'm not sure what Renoir is saying in this film, and therefore can not regard it as highly as I once did. I also agree with other reviewers that Renoir's technique is extraordinary but that the script is a mess. All in all, if you trust Renoir and stay with the humanistic theme and try to avoid any other interpretation you will still feel this is a great film, if not, then you will have serious reservations. I for one now have doubts.
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