The Arty Semite

Friday Film: Sergei Eisenstein's First Feature

By Matthew Rovner

  • Print
  • Share Share

On February 13, 1948, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency announced that film director Sergei Eisenstein, “the son of a Jewish merchant,” was dead at the age of 50. Eisenstein’s father was a prosperous German Jew and his mother Russian Orthodox. Eisenstein grew up highly assimilated, though he was aware of his Jewish heritage. He was friendly with Isaac Babel, and he learned to use Yiddish slang and humor. But Eisenstein’s Judaism had always been marginal to his work as an artist. In his first feature, “Strike,” a serious propaganda film, there is humor, although it is influenced more by Charlie Chaplin than Sholom Aleichem.

Strike has now been restored in a high quality DVD release.The film tells a straightforward tale of a factory strike during Czarist times, and the subsequent annihilation of the strikers by the Czar’s brutal police.

“Strike”’s reputation rests almost exclusively on its final moments. In the closing sequence, the Czar’s police massacre the workers. Intercut with this scene are images of the slaughter of a bull. Eisenstein is justly famous for his theory and practice of montage — the juxtaposition of two unrelated images that are joined in the act of editing to create a compelling synthesis or new meaning. But “Strike” is, unfortunately, rather dull. There is little in the film that lives up to the final sequence, and nothing as rousing as the celebrated “Odessa steps sequence” in Battleship Potemkin.

“Strike” possesses all the cliches of a communist propaganda film: oppressed workers, slimy class traitors, and obscenely fat capitalists smoking cigars. And there is little about the film’s style that transcends these propagandistic trappings. “Strike” is ultimately a film for Eisenstein completists. Anyone interested in his films would do better to watch “Potemkin,” “Alexander Nevsky,” or “Ivan The Terrible Parts I & II.”

Watch the first part of Sergei Eisenstein’s ‘Strike’:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Strike, Sergei Eisenstein, Matthew Rovner, Film

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.