Strike is a 1925 film from the Soviet Union, directed by Sergei Eisenstein. This film is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, a dramatic story of a strike at a factory, set not long before the revolution of 1905.
The factory is tense, with workers seething with resentment, management spying on them, and Bolsheviks in the factory plotting a strike. Tensions boil over and the workers storm out after one worker, unjustly accused by management of stealing a micrometer, hangs himself in the middle of the factory rather than bear the shame of being called a thief. The workers present management with a fairly reasonable set of demands, such as an eight-hour day, but management is contemptuous of the workers, and plots a violent response to the strike.
Strike was the debut feature of Eisenstein, who would revolutionize film with his theories on montage and editing. It was planned as the first of a seven-film series about the Russian Revolution. No more films in the series were made but elements of Eisenstein's original concept were made into the films The Battleship Potemkin and October.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: All the bosses and investors, who are shown eating rich dinners and living in mansions, while exploiting and oppressing the factory workers.
- Capitalism Is Bad: It's really, really bad. Fight the plutocrats! Workers of the world, unite!
- Children Are Innocent: As the cavalry comes storming through the workers' neighborhood, two children up above street level are shown playing with dolls.
- Contrast Montage:
- The workers' meal—families eating simple peasant food, enjoying each others' company—is intercut with the factory director, eating a fancy meal and drinking wine, but eating alone and angry.
- The four male and one female worker talking about what to do are contrasted with the four homeless "rabble" and one whore.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: The evil corporate bosses and investors, who oppress the workers and unleash a violent response to the strike.
- Creepy Crows: A raven parks itself atop a silent factory smokestack after the workers go on strike.
- Death of a Child: A Cossack picks up a little girl in the strikers' neighborhood and drops her from a catwalk to her death.
- Dissolve: Used to show that a ragged beggar is actually another management spy.
- Downer Ending: The film ends with the workers being massacred by the army.
- Driven to Suicide: A worker hangs himself after being wrongly accused of stealing a micrometer. This triggers the strike.
- Dutch Angle: Taken to an extreme in a shot where the factory smokestacks are shown upside down. Then a foot comes splashing into a shot, and it's revealed to be a reflection in a puddle.
- Ensemble Cast: There is no protagonist, and no characters take up much more screen time than other characters.
- Eye Open: After a title card announcing "searching for subversives", the film cuts to an extreme close-up of a spy's eye.
- False Flag Operation: The homeless "rabble" infiltrate and mix among the striking workers, then riot, looting and setting fire to a liquor store, thus giving the bosses an excuse to send the army against the strikers.
- Fun with Subtitles: A title announces that "all at the factory is quiet", then the Russian word "HO" ("but") appears. The letters then split apart and fade into the spokes and wheels of the factory.
- Half-Empty Two-Shot: An unusual use of this effect occurs when a spy is shown running down a sidewalk, with the left side of the screen blacked out, like an unfinished wipe. The wipe is finally completed, revealing the men who are chasing him in the left side of the frame.
- Idle Rich: All the bosses and investors sit around drinking wine and gorging themselves. Most of them are fat.
- King of the Homeless: There actually is such a character, actually referred to as a "king" ("my kingdom is limitless"), who sleeps in an abandoned car, and commands the loyalties of a bunch of homeless vagrants living in rainbarrels. Said vagrants are co-opted by management to infiltrate the striking workers and make trouble.
- Little People Are Surreal: The Evil Aristocrats decided that what would really top off their fancy dinner is a pair of midgets dancing on top of the table. When the bosses leave, the little people start scarfing down the leftover food.
- Match Cut:
- The spies apparently operate out of a pet shop. They have animal code names, like "Monkey" and "Owl", and are matched with their animals. The spy called "Monkey" is introduced munching on food, after a match cut from an actual monkey, munching on food.
- The belts in the machinery, to the belt that the worker hangs himself with.
- Montage: Sergei Eisenstein made a name for himself by exploring the use of montages and how they could be used to get ideas across.
- One scene shows a boss signing a document, and then superimposes the closeup of the boss's hand over a shot of the workers in the factory, signifying management's control over labor.
- A montage of phone calls going up the chain of command after unrest breaks out at the factory dramatizes the layers of Tsarist bureaucracy.
- The most famous shot in the movie intercuts a scene of the workers getting massacred by the army with a shot of a cow being killed and butchered, complete with a closeup of the cow's throat being cut.
- Nameless Narrative: No names are given, in accordance with the film's idea to portray a dramatic situation, rather than focus on individual characters. The sole exception is Jacob Strongnine, the worker who kills himself.
- Organ Grinder: This one with a dancing bear rather than a monkey. He's one of the spies management has sent to watch the workers.
- Sarcasm Mode: A title says "Management, having given the workers' demands serious consideration..." is followed by one of the shareholders literally wiping his shoes with the list of demands.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: The police captain approaches a leader of the workers, who he arrested, with an offer to work for them. The worker hits him and demands to be taken back to his cell.
- Sinister Surveillance: The bosses send out spies to monitor the workers. One spy has a camera hidden in a watch, which he uses to snap a photo of one of the strikers. The striker is later arrested.
- Split Screen: In one scene, a page of mugshot photos comes to life in a split screen effect.