Sergei Eisenstein ~ Biography

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Sergei Eisenstein ~ Key Dates/Quotes

Occupations: Director, Screenwriter, Producer
Birth Name: Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein
Date of Birth: Jan 23, 1898
Place of Birth: Riga, Latvia

Date of Death: Feb 11, 1948
Place of Death: Moscow, Russia

'With Hair Like That He Must Be A Genius'
~ Me

'Now why should the cinema follow the forms of theater and painting rather than the methodology of language, which allows wholly new concepts of ideas to arise from the combination of two concrete denotations of two concrete objects?.'
~ Sergei Eisenstein

Sergei Eisenstein ~ Biography (1898 - 1948)

The father of montage, Russia's Sergei Eisenstein was one of the principal architects of the modern cinematic form. Extraordianry achievement when you consider he left only seven completed films, and they in turn suffered because of the inexorable intrusion of the communist state during those years. But few if any were more instrumental in taking motion picturesfrom their origins in 19th century Victorian theater and into a new arena of abstract thought and expression.

Critics have a wonderful thing called 'hindsight'. Some have criticized him for the strong currents of propaganda coursing through his work but in the environment in which he was making these films what else could he do. He was trading a tightrope and I for one am thankful that he got these films made no matter what the political connotations. What no-one can deny when you push the politics to one side is the fact that his films are a mastery of metaphor and allusion. The depth of power and complexity that he brought to his films was just not there before.

Sergei Eisenstein
Sergei Eisenstein, Sr. Petersburg, 1910s
The orginal Eraserhead
© Unknown

He was born Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein on the 23rd January, 1898, in Riga, Latvia, then part of the Russian Empire. His father was an affluent architect, and he studied at the Institute of Civil Engineering in Petrograd. By the time of the 1917 revolution he began working as an engineer for the Red Army. A few years later, he became the set designer of Vsevolod Meyerhold's Moscow Proletkult Theater, and graduated to the position of director. It was here where he learned the principles of "bio-mechanics".

His interest in film began when finding the work of D.W. Griffith. His editing style influenced him in the production of his first cinematic endeavor, the 1923 five-minute newsreel parody Dnevnik Glumova. He became fascinated by avant garde at around the same time as a stint with Lev Kuleshov's film workshop.

His feature debut came in 1924's with Stachka. "Montage" was born. Montage consisted of a sequence of conflicting images which served to abbreviate time spans and overlap symbolic meanings. The cumulative emotional effect was of a scene greater than the sum of its parts. Eisenstein sought to use the montage technique to make films for the common man. This is clear in the film's most memorable sequence of a group of factory workers shot down. The scenes of their deaths are intercut with the depiction of cattle at the slaughter - parallel images trading on the emotional impact of each other to heighten their combined impact.

The masterpiece was to follow, His second film, 1925's massively influential Battleship Potemkin, took the montage concept to new heights. The much-imitated but never surpassed "Odessa Steps" sequence (is there a more powerful sequence in the history of cinema?), in particular, proved so powerful that many audiences believed they were viewing actual newsreel footage, prompting a pleased Eisenstein to label himself an "illusionist."

Sergei Eisenstein
Sergei Eisenstein
© Unknown

He was commissioned to direct 1927's Oktiabr in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution. This film is probaly the most compromised artistically of his seven films, in my opinion. Communist officials were wary of the impact of his work on audiences, and forced Eisenstein to moderate his montage style. To Eisenstein's eternal credit, the film still clearly remains the product of his distinctive vision.

In 1929, his final silent film, Generalnaya Liniya, premiered.

1930 saw Eisenstein in Europe and the U.S. ostensibly to research the sound-film phenomenon. Already he was internationally known, and he was greeted and befriended by the likes of Albert Einstein, Abel Gance, Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, and his hero, the visionary that was D.W. Griffith. Documentary pioneer Robert Flaherty urged him to explore Latin America during his journey where he met artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and shot Que Viva Mexico in 1930 with the financial assistance of writer Upton Sinclair. Upon completing the principal photography, Eisenstein sent the completed footage to Russia, where it was intercepted by government officials and removed from the director's control.

In 1932, Eisenstein was named a scholar of the Moscow film school, where he wrote a number of essays about montage and motion picture direction which were later published in book form. In 1935 he began filming Bezhin Lug, but the screenplay's bitter political commentary brought the wrath of Party officials, who shut down production prior to the picture's completion. Only by submitting to a public apology was he allowed to begin work on 1938's Aleksandr Nevsky, an attack on Nazi Germany later withdrawn from distribution after Josef Stalin signed a 1939 non-aggression pact with Adolf Hitler.

In 1945, Ivan Grozny I, the first film in a projected trilogy documenting the life and times of the notorious 16th century czar, appeared to great acclaim within the Soviet Union; however, the second chapter's 1946 completion was met with the furor of Stalin, who so despised the picture that he effectively buried it until 1958. Ironically, Stalin nevertheless agreed to allow Eisenstein to film the trilogy's conclusion, but health problems forced the director off of the project before it could be completed.

Sergei Eisenstein died of a heart attack in Moscow on February 11, 1948.

...The best detailed biography of Eisenstein is: Sergei Eisenstein (Critical Lives) [Kindle Edition]

Base Source - All Movie Guide 2010

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Sergei Eisenstein: Biography >> Battleship Potemkin >> Ivan The Terrible >> October 1917

Sergei Eisenstein Wares: Sergei Eisenstein Battleship Potemkin c1925 Russian Soviet Union A3 Repro. Poster >> Alexander Rodchenko Vintage Russian Soviet Union Constructivism c.1926 Battleship Potemkin A3 Repro. Poster >> Alexander Rodchenko Vintage Russian Soviet Union Constructivism Battleship Potemkin c.1905 A3 Repro. Poster >> Vintage Russian Soviet Union Constructivism Battleship Potemkin Design by The Stenberg Brothers A3 Repro. Poster >> Soviet Posters

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Eisenstein Treasures


Battleship Potemkin (The Special Edition) [Dvd]
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Sergei Eisenstein: Double Feature (Battleship Potemkin & Strike) [Blu ray]
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