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Film: October
October is a 1928 silent film from the Soviet Union, directed by Sergei Eisenstein. In foreign markets it was given the longer title October: Ten Days That Shook the World, to tie in with the account of the Russian Revolution written by John Reed. It tells the story of the Russian Revolution of 1917, starting with the overthrow of the monarchy, continuing through the unrest of the July Days, and ending with Red October and the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks.

Unlike Eisenstein's previous film, The Battleship Potemkin, October was received relatively poorly both at home and abroad, but it has been Vindicated by History and is now regarded as one of his classics.


Tropes:

  • Amazon Brigade: The "Women's Battalion of Death", an all-female unit that was part of the doomed defense of the Winter Palace against the Bolsheviks. Truth in Television.
  • Ambiguously Gay: The women of the Women's Battalion of Death seem to be lesbians, seeing as how they walk around arm-in-arm after combat drills.
  • Anachronism Stew: That statue that is pulled down at the start of the film was in Moscow, not Petrograd, and it was pulled down in 1921.
  • Based on a True Story: As propaganda films go, it isn't too terribly inaccurate.
  • Call Back: The film suggests that Kerensky is trying to establish himself as dictator by replaying in reverse the toppling of the Alexander III statue, so that it reassembles itself.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In a meta sense, anyway. Someone who looks like Stalin is sitting at Lenin's council in October.
  • Contrast Montage: Russian Orthodox icons are contrasted against Buddhist statues, pagan carvings, and other religions icons in the "masks of the gods" sequence, to illustrate that all religions are the same.
  • The Coup: The successful Bolshevik takeover in Red October.
  • Demoted to Extra / Real Life Writes the Plot: Leon Trotsky lost the struggle for power and was exiled during the production of this film. Consequently, quite a bit of material related to Trotsky was deleted. He is only shown briefly in a couple of scenes, and only mentioned by name once, when he is said to be urging caution right before the Bolshevik seizure of power.
  • Dirty Coward: Kerensky abandons his cabinet, fleeing the capital in an American embassy car.
  • Eagleland: Eisenstein apparently had a Flavor 2 view, as he takes care to show that the car whisking Kerensky away is flying an American flag.
  • Ensemble Cast: Like Eisenstein's other propaganda films, October shows the revolution as a collective endeavor, with no protagist and little attempt at characterization for anyone save maybe the Big Bad, Kerensky. At the time of release the film attracted criticism from Soviets disappointed with the flat characterization of Lenin.
  • In Medias Res: Eisenstein wastes no time dramatizing the lead-up to revolution, but instead hits the ground running with the toppling of a statue of Alexander III and the overthrow of the monarchy in February.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: The film takes a dim view of the "Women's Battalion of Death". Two of the women soldiers are shown going through military drill, right in front of a statue of a mother and child.
  • Kubrick Stare: How Alexander Kerensky, leader of the Provisional Government and opponent of the Bolsheviks, is introduced.
  • Meet the New Boss: Kerensky and the rest of the Provisional Government are portrayed as wanting to be this. In the film Kerensky is shown to want to be dictator. He moves into the royal family's apartments in the Winter Palace. See Call Back above.
  • Montages: Eisenstein more or less invented these.
    • The most famous montage in this film is the scene where frames of a soldier firing a machine gun are intercut with closeups of the machine gun, spitting lead.
    • A rifle assembles itself from constituent parts, as the film exhorts the proletarians to defend the revolution.
  • Rebel Leader: See that bald guy, arriving at the Finland Station on April 3, 1917? He sure can give a speech.
  • Repeat Cut: Kerensky climbs the same flight of stairs over and over again as the various titles and offices he assumed in 1917 flash by the screen. This is part of the theme of Kerensky grasping for power and dictatorship.
  • That Russian Squat Dance: Seen when the Bolshevik operatives infiltrate Kornilov's army and make friends. This leads to the failure of Kornilov's coup.
  • We Are Struggling Together: Lot of arguing between the socialist left on how to proceed. The Mensheviks are portrayed as weak and vacillating, in contrast to the brave, decisive Bolsheviks. One gag features a Menshevik speaker getting up at a meeting and urging caution, while an audience member falls asleep, and angels play harps in the background.
  • You Shall Not Pass: "Kornilov shall not pass", say the workers defending the revolution against a coup attempt by monarchist General Kornilov.
Moscow Does Not Believe in TearsRussian FilmsProperty Of The Republic
The Man Who LaughsFilms of the 1920sThe Passion of Joan of Arc

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