If the quick and easy label is to call Sergei Eisenstein the Orson Welles of Soviet cinema, chronology notwithstanding, then "Strike" ("Stachka") is the great director's "Citizen Kane." This comparison would be dictated not by the greatness of this 1924 silent film, but rather by the fact "Strike" was Eisenstein's debut film. What the young Eisenstein clearly has in common with the young Welles is the reckless creativity of a kid with a brand new toy. The story is about the strike of factory workers in Czarist Russia in 1912, which ends with the rebellious comrades being brutally beaten down.
Eisenstein might be consumed with exploring the boundaries of cinematic technique, but he does evince some basic storytelling skills here. The climatic tragedy is set up initial comic element, which gain our sympathy for the workers on a human rather than an ideological level. Certainly a management that brings in spies and agents to infiltrate the oppressed workers cannot be supported. The strike begins after a factory worker, falsely accused of being a thief, hangs himself. The initial excitement over the prospects of success faded as the strike goes on and on. When the provocateurs hired by management finally bring things to a head, the tired and hungry workers are no match for the military troops that come to crush them. "Strike" features Grigori Aleksandrov as the Factory Foreman, Aleksandr Antonov as a Member of Strike Committee, Yudif Glizer as the Queen of Thieves, and I. Ivanov as the Chief of Police.
The more you know about Eisenstein's later works, the more you will recognize the raw cinematic techniques he displays in his first film as being refined in his later masterpieces. I know the obvious comparison is to look at "Battleship Potemkin" after screening "Strike," but I think the most profitable analog is with Alexander Dovzhenko's 1929 "Arsenal," which deals with a similar subject, namely a 1918 strike by Bolshevik works in Kiev. "Strike" runs 75 minutes and this Kino on Video edition has been digitally mastered from a mint 35mm print taken from the original negative. The presentation of this silent film is enhanced by a new score by the Alloy Orchestra.
on October 31, 2001
The most noticeable thing about this film is the extremely fast editing. This is fast compared with modern films, but by its contemporaries, it's lightning fast. Eisenstein advocated what he called 'montage', meaning more the juxtaposition of two different or similar images by intercutting or fading between the two to allow the viewer to draw comparisons between the two images. This is sometimes subtle, and at other times blunt (such as the scene with the crowd being slaughtered being intercut with cattle being slaughtered). Nevertheless it allows Eisenstein to make a point that we are treating humans as cattle and also avoids visceral depiction of the killing of the humans, whilst giving us a shocking image that tells us what we need to know. The film is somewhat difficult to follow, even with subtitles, and I felt there were no real points of identification. The humour in the depiction of the Bourgeoisie lightened the tone in places, but the film still seems more like a political manifesto for the Bolsheviks than representation of reality. Years ahead of its time technically, but dated in content.
on May 8, 2001
This is a brilliant early film by Eisenstein. It has the marks of a propaganda piece, but the photography is stunning and it is dramatically effective. The new musical accompaniment is very fitting.
There seems to be some problem with the encoding of this disk which makes its play very erratic, at least on a Macintosh DVD drive under OS 9. I have had two disks from Borders and two from Amazon, all of which had the same problem on two different Macs. Sometimes (rarely) the disk would play through. Most of the time, the DVD player would report "Scratched or damaged, or incorrect encoding" More rarely, the DVD player would report that it was missing a file it needed. I haven't had problems with other DVD's, including many from Image Entertainment, so this problem is frustrating and puzzling. I'd be interested to know if others have had problems with this disk. (Post experiences as reviews here)
on October 15, 2001
Every Sergei Eisenstein film is essential viewing for students of world cinema. "Strike" is no exception. But this version of "Strike"--with a wonderful score by the Alloy Orchestra and a beautifully restored print--is a fantastic purchase for anyone interested in cinema. Yes, "Strike" is not the epic that "Battleship Potempkin" is. But it's got an energy, a pulsing sense of excitement that has rarely been matched since. It is a real treasure.