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October (Ten Days That Shook the World)

USSR 1928. Dirs: Sergei Eisenstein, Grigori Aleksandrov. 90 min. 16mm

Commissioned by the Soviet government to honour the tenth anniversary of the 1917 Revolution, Eisenstein’s third feature is a sweeping historical epic re-creating the events that brought the Bolsheviks to power. It is also a magnificent showcase for the director’s use of intellectual montage — the juxtaposition of two disparate images to convey an idea or concept not inherent in either image alone. Celebrated examples of the technique include a baroque figure of Christ reduced, through successive images, to a primitive idol; and Kerensky, head of the pre-Revolutionary provisional government, compared to a preening mechanical peacock. Such metaphorical experiments met with official disapproval; the authorities complained that October was unintelligible to the masses, and Eisenstein was attacked, for neither the first nor last time, for “formalism”. The work remains a remarkable testament to Eisenstein’s artistry and genius.


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