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Film / October

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Tell 'em Ilich!

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.


  • 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.
    • Rule of Drama: Except for the huge battle to take the Winter Palace, which vastly exaggerated the event. In real life after the palace was shelled, a small group of Red Guards entered via an back staircase and wandered the palace until they found the ministers in an unguarded room.
  • Black-and-White Morality: The Bolsheviks are good. Everyone else is either too tyrannical or too vacillating. It is a propaganda film, after all.
  • 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 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.
  • Ensemble Cast: Like Eisenstein's other propaganda films, October shows the revolution as a collective endeavor, with no protagonist 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.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: 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.
  • Godwin's Law: The movie spends some time comparing Kerensky to NapolĂ©on Bonaparte, evidently the pre-Hitler version of this trope.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Shown Their Work: Eisenstein takes care to show the American flag flying from Kerensky's car. Kerensky did in fact flee Petrograd in a car stolen from the American embassy.
  • Stock Footage: This movie is the source for Russian Revolution stock footage. You know that footage you've seen countless times of Bolshevik revolutionaries dramatically storming in through the gates of the Winter Palace? That's from this movie. Whenever the Russian Revolution comes up in a film, especially a documentary, you can expect it to be visualized with scenes from October. Ironically, this includes some anti-communist propaganda films. October is old enough that its scenes look like they're from the time (sometimes, documentaries will simply let October footage blend in with actual 1917 footage) and it helps that it's in the Public Domain.
  • 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.
  • Toppled Statue: The film starts with the toppling of a statue of Tsar Alexander III, demonstrating that it is March 1917 and the monarchy has been overthrown.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: There's a 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. This is actually propaganda though-the Bolsheviks dragged their feet prior to both revolutions, aside from Lenin. If he hadn't urged them forward, it's likely their revolution wouldn't have even happened.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: "Kornilov shall not pass", say the workers defending the revolution against a coup attempt by monarchist General Kornilov.