Anatomy of a Shot.
Battleship Potemkin (Bronenosets Potemkin, 1925).
Dir. Sergei Eisenstein.
The Odessa Steps Massacre•
The massacre on the Odessa steps from Battleship Potemkin is one of the most celebrated sequences from film history and is said to have had a resounding impact on visualizations of sequences and film editing.
Deploying his peculiar form of the Montage method, Eisenstein gives a ‘spectacle of violence’ drawn from a ‘montage of conflicts’. Unlike the seamless editing of Griffith, Eisenstein - based on Hegelian principles of the thesis, antithesis and synthesis interactivity of all matter - employs a series of shots in constant dynamic flux with each other.
This particular shot is the low angle shot from the sequence is that of a mother holding her massacred boy and walking up to the Czarist soldiers, cursing them for their ruthlessness.
Covered in blood and strewn with bodies, the Odessa steps transform into a hellish nightmarish continuum of space and time where violence ruptures the very seam of history, humanity and hope.
Conflict shots of mother vs soldiers, variations in spatial leveling, diagonal matching of angles, typically vulnerable characters with murderous assailants — they all come to near upon the Odessa stairs, transforming it into a monument of violence.
Such is the impact of the sequence in cinephilic memory, that the fictitious massacre (which draws its inspiration from similar moments of violence in Soviet Russia) is considered to be a real historical event.
The raw, dynamic and shocking use of Montage is a classic lesson in the potential of the cinematic medium in restructuring reality for the screen and creating an exhortative spectacle.
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