When the officers of battleship Potemkin (pronounced: ‘Patyomkin’) serve the crew members rotten meat, they have had more than they can take. The captain threatens to execute some of the men, but he has miscalculated. The hatred against the ruthless Czarist regime is so great that the people of Odessa rise up to support the sailors and take to the streets. The Czar’s troops open fire.
Battleship Potemkin (1925) had been commissioned to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the – suppressed – Russian Revolution of 1905. The film became an international triumph because of Eisenstein’s dynamic-propagandist montage, which broke with the linear narrative structure of traditional drama. The sequence in which a pram bounces down the steps is still regarded as iconic and is taught at all film academies as a prime example of successful crosscutting. Eisenstein’s innovative approach was a fist in the face of conservative forces in art and redefined the course of film history.
A new score
Ezequiel Menalled wrote a new score to Battleship Potemkin for Ensemble Modelo62, one that sublimely responds to Eisenstein’s method of montage. In practice this means: looking for multiple layers that fit with the simultaneity of events, flashbacks and counterpoints. The ensemble performs live, using such classical instruments as the violin, clarinet and cello, but also creating electronic sounds and live sound effects based on Potemkin’s original soundtrack. Special attention is paid to the hand-tinted red flag that is featured in 108 frames.