One of the true poet-philosophers of the cinema Sergei Eisenstein set out to provoke the audience with content and jolt them with his montage editing style. He wanted to shake the masses out of their complacency with his agitprop messages about the struggles of workers and civilians against authority. Because of this he was the perfect director to represent the Communist Party in Russia and his film STRIKE is considered one of the most important films ever made.Even by today’s standards STRIKE (made in 1925) moves quickly and is engaging while entertaining. But the film’s mastery lies in the way Eisenstein powerfully combines form with political content to get his message across. Today we would call this method propaganda or heavy handed and no doubt Eisenstein knew how to over do a scene for effect.
STRIKE is about workers who go on a strike when a fellow worker commits suicide after being wrongfully accused of stealing a piece of equipment. Told in six parts, STRIKE emphasizes the workers' lives, crossed with that of the caricaturized fat cat factory owners who chomp on cigars, drink cocktails and contemplate how to resolve a problem they are clueless about. They resolve it by hiring spies to find the ring leader, single him out, then send in the cops and the cavalry to break up the strike and ultimately kill everyone who is considered a troublemaker: which is to say "everyone."
Eisenstein was a supreme stylist emphasizing what he called "montage" editing, which juxtaposed multiple images (beautifully shot by Edouard Tisse) to get across a specific meaning. Yet, if you don’t get the meaning, his films are still very enjoyable to watch. With the use of magnificent motifs, poetic interludes, amazing expressionistic angles, super-imposition, constructivist compositions, and numerous multi-level shots -- that fill the frame with movement -- STRIKE is one of the most dynamically shot and edited films in the silent era.
The print was restored a couple years ago and looks terrific and the DVD by Image Entertainment gives STRIKE the proper treatment. The DVD contains a great score by the Alloy Orchestra, who add modern touches and -- to be honest -- make the film more accessible to today’s audience. Also included is an audio commentary by Russian film historian Yuri Tsivian who gives a thorough historical addendum that adds a lot of background to the film.The old adage "if he had only directed this one film he would have still been considered a master" applies to STRIKE, which was Eisenstein’s first film. Cinema wouldn’t have been the same without Eisenstein’s brilliance. If you are interested in film history and you love silent film, then your collection wouldn’t be complete without STRIKE.-- Matt Langdon