An epic feature film debut by filmmaker and film theorist Sergei Eisenstein. A precursor to the violence and large scale fights shown in his later films, "Strike" will continue to resonate strongly with cinema fans, especially for its famous final sequence.
The great Russian director Sergei Eisenstein, known for films such as the 1938 "Alexander Nevsky" and the 1944-1946 films "Ivan the Terrible" and a filmmaker who will be remembered for is his 1925 masterpiece "The Battleship Potemkin".
But a year before "Battleship Potemkin", "Stachka" aka "Strike" was created in 1925 and in Eisenstein's polemic cinematic style featured a theme of collectivism versus individualism and also featured the talent of the Proletcult Theatre.
"Strike" is a film that takes place during the Czarist rule and showcases workers of a Russian factory. The morale of the workers are low and while these workers work very long hours for little pay, the owners and higher up of the factory are shown as porkly characters that could care less about the employees but are more concerned of making money, eating and drinking well and getting rich.
Featured in six parts, the film begins with the following quote by Vladimir Lenin:
The strength of the working class is organization. Without organization of the masses, the proletarian is nothing. Organized it is everything. Being organized means unity of action, unity of practical activity.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
"Strike" is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1) and is presented in Linear PCM 2.0 Stereo (music performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra). The edition featured on Blu-ray of "Strike" is a version mastered in HD from a 35 mm film element restored by the Cinematheque de Toulouse.
While it is is expected to see white specks and a little film damage, the picture quality is magnificent. If you have seen this film before and have seen versions that get to the point where the visuals keep fading to black, no problem whatsoever in the picture quality of this film on Blu-ray.
The clarity is well-done, especially the closeups of the various individuals. Tonal gradation, black levels and contrast is also magnificent and this is the best looking version of the film to date. I detected no softness, no artifacts, no excessive degradation of the original film elements (There are a few scenes which show this slight whiteness but it's for a second or two and doesn't disturb your viewing of the film.
The overall look of the film compliments Eisenstein's direction and the cinematography by Vasili Khvatov, Vladimir Popov and Eduard Tisse.
Also, the music by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra was well-done and complimented the film extremely well!
"Strike" comes with the following special features:
GLUMOV'S DIARY - (4:43) For years considered lost, Eisenstein's first film "Glumov's Diary" (1924) is a playful experimental short made for his stage production of Alexander Ostrovsky's Enough Stupidity in Every Wise Man.
EISENSTEIN AND THE REVOLUTIONARY SPIRIT - (37:10) Film historian Natacha Laurent places Eisenstein's work in the context of the Communist revolution and contemporary Soviet filmmaking.
Battleship Potemkin Trailer - (1:32) Theatrical trailer for Kino's "Battleship Potemkin".
"Strike" comes with a slipcase cover.
A magnificent, groundbreaking film that still has relevance today!
Sergei Eisenstein's "Strike" is a straightforward film. Workers are mistreated, higher-ups are the ones who receive the benefits and when workers want to be treated well, their employers turn on them and the results are tragic.
Of course, in the United States, although strikes do happen and mediation between companies work hard to solve the issues, what we see in "Strike" still happens today in other countries (especially in China where several employee strikes in 2001 have turned violent due to worker's working very long hours and receiving unfair wages).
And in cinema, America has had its share of strike films with "The Grapes of Wrath", "Bound for Glory", "Norma Rae" to name a few. But what makes Eisenstein's "Strike" so amazing is what was accomplished back in 1925 visually. For one, Eisenstein is a filmmaker who knows how to incorporate large masses of people and capture the realism of that era. In this case, workers on strike in 1903 (note: There was a South Russian strike of 1903 in Odessa but violence was minimal and led to an independent labor movement but I have read that the film is actually was intended to be part of a series that led to the 1917 Revolution which ended Tsarist Autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union).
It's Eisenstein's focus on collectivism that comes forefront as American cinema tends to focus on the individual who may have led the strike or had a big part in it. No one actor becomes the protagonist. Strikers are a collective, the management and shareholders work as a collective.
And that is where Eisenstein shows his strength as a filmmaker, the utilization of composition and structure that achieves the film's efficacy.
Once again, the collective is the keyword to this film. Where many films would show a hero either being incarcerated, killed or simply being held on the pedestal for their achievement, its a banality that is often seen to well in cinema today and Eisenstein knew at the time that it's the collective that that should be featured and not one person goes down, all will suffer together.
Although I do not like to talk about the ending sequences of a film, "Strike" is one of those films where the majority of discussion of this film is primarily of its final scene. It's the most violent scene but also cinematography-wise, it's the most beautiful part of the film is seeing how Eisenstein used the visual aspects of the film to make it artistic but at the same time, no doubt, stirring up emotions of the Soviet people in the 1920's who watched the film.
If you do not want to be spoiled by my comments on the ending, please stop here and revisit after you watched the film.
"Strike" is well-known for its violent final scenes towards the collective mass interwoven with realistic scenery of a live cow being slaughtered are images that stick in your head. Without having to show hundreds of people marching to their demise, it was a well-executed plan to use the cow during that time, to be a symbol of the slaughter of humans. To show how people of the same blood but not of the same social status are looked down upon.
A mother tries to rescue her daughter who runs towards the military soldiers in their horses. These soldiers could care less and start beating on the mother and possibly the most disturbing scene, aside from the cow scene, was a soldier grabbing a baby and literally dropping the baby many levels below to its crashing death. While we see the workers tormented and running for their lives, it's a sickening juxtaposition of the exaggerated capitalist, laughing, fat and non-caring of their workers.
The bourgeoisie, the management, higher ups, shareholders, governor, police chiefs...they are the antagonist, the workers, the proletariat are the protagonists, the heroes of the film.
These scenes are quite haunting and although Eisenstein had created even more significant films after his filmmaking debut with "Strike", It is amazing to see the filmmaker create this aural effect through visual means.
Interesting enough, Eisenstein actually had a conceived a more violent film according to a record made of the completed final sequence which involved the decapitation of the cows heads, skinning of the cows and ending with a closeup of the cow's eyeball in order to correlate with the massacre of the workers.
As for the Blu-ray release, having owned the DVD, this film features the restoration courtesy of the Cinematheque de Toulouse and a newly-recorded score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra who did a magnificent job. It's also great to have the "lost" short film "Glumov's Diary" included in this Blu-ray release but for fans of Eisenstein, the included "Eisenstein and the Revolutionary Spirit" was a wonderful addition to this release.
There are not many filmmakers who have had the freedom to create films with a large mass of people and also to use his films to have this polemic and propagandist tone. It's a groundbreaking film for its time that a cinemaeaste must experience as it is quite different than "Battleship Potemkin" and Eisenstein's other well-known works.
Overall, "Strike" on Blu-ray is highly recommended!