October. 1927. USSR. Directed by Sergei Eisenstein. Screenplay by Eisenstein, Grigori Aleksandrov. With Nikolay Popov, Vasili Nikandrov. 35mm. Russian intertitles; English soft-titles. 103 min.
Eisenstein’s grandly orchestrated film of the Russian revolution, commissioned for its 10th anniversary, remains one of his most ambitious attempts to find a form for his theories of montage and their philosophical possibilities. A dramatic break from his earlier efforts, October (aka Ten Days That Shook the World) is one of the supreme examples of how an insurrectionary political will might be combined with an equally radical aesthetic program. Lincoln Kirstein considered it among those classics that theaters would continually hand down to history, year after year, like Shakespearean repertory. He even wrote a poem dedicated to Eisenstein, published in the Massachusetts Review. “Ten Days That Shook the World,” it concludes, “Still shake it; us on it, from Lenin’s earthquake,— / His battles in Eisenstein’s lens: Winter Palace attack: / Crowds tearing across squares, a rein on demoniac / Mobs, one mad rush, each step on its ordained track: / Power assayed, controlled, arrayed,—then hurled // At our bedazzled eyes,— / In live amazement now, / Since everywhere, wherever movies are shown, / Still Eisenstein lives his double lives in our history. / Cineastes often swear he used news-clips: mystery / Of double-imagery. Myth or allegory, / Founded in fact, for as fact his films are known.”