Review: Stachka (Strike, 1925)

strike

Stupid workers and their quests for right are always causing problems!

Written By: Grigori Aleksandrov, Sergei M. Eisenstein, Ilya Kravchunovsky, & Valerian Pletnev
Directed By: Sergei M. Eisenstein

I had some major problems with the possible instances of animal abuse in Stachka. In the research I did about the film I was unable to clarify whether the abuse was legitimate, but from what I saw on screen it looked very legitimate. As I grow older this is an issue that troubles me more and more. I’m all for artistic expression, but an innocent animal need not be harmed in one’s quest for artistic expression. So, the hanging of cats and killing/gutting of a cow were both hard to sit through and without much merit. I could see the connections Sergei M. Eisenstein was making with those visuals, but that doesn’t mean they were called for. Animal abuse is similar to blackface, it may have been acceptable at one point, but looking at it through a retro lens it never should have been acceptable.

Outside of the disturbing animal abuse Gospodin Eisenstein has done something brilliant with Stachka. He’s crafted a film that is Soviet on the outside but universal on the inside. Looked at superficially Stachka is a call for a collective way of thinking, the death of capitalism, and the rise of Communism. A deeper look into the film reveals a desire to question everything. The strike that takes place in the film isn’t a call for the proletariat, rather it is a call to question authority. The only way to get the best society is to question those in charge, as well as yourself, and to work together. That is a kind of group thinking, but it’s different than Communist thinking, or at least that’s what I believe Gospodin Eisenstein was aiming for.

Stachka features a lot of movement, and especially a lot of group movement. This is where Gospodin Eisenstein shines the brightest. He has a startling ability to film mass movement and make it more than simple chaos. His film is about the collective need to question, and the most powerful moments in Stachka feature collective movement. The final sequence is especially eye opening in terms of its construction and the effect it had on me as a viewer. The motion in the film could also be tied into the snowball effect of a group taking action. The film builds and builds momentum and at the same time it builds to a state of perpetual motion.

The wonderful filmmaking, allegory, and themes found in Stachka did help to alleviate the vexation I felt towards the animal abuse. Said abuse is still present, and it does very much anger me and give me pause. I respect the art on display in Stachka, and I loved digging into the layered themes of the film. I wish the animal abuse weren’t present (or that someone will point me to evidence that the animal abuse didn’t actually happen), because otherwise Stachka would be yet another master work out of the Soviet Union.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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3 responses to “Review: Stachka (Strike, 1925)

  1. Pingback: Postulating & Pontificating: Streaming Wasteland! | Bill's Movie Emporium

  2. I literally just finished watching Strike and stumbled across your review while looking for pictures. I’m doing it for my Blindspot Challenge (http://hitchcocksworld.blogspot.ca/p/2015-blindspot-challenge.html). If you’ve never heard of that it’s basically an exercise in which you compile a list of twelve movies you haven’t seen, and then each month you watch one and write about it. In my case I decided to start by looking at Strike.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know anything more about the way animals were treated than you do. I presume the hanging cats weren’t real, those could have been props, but I have no idea about the cows. One thing I can say about those scenes is I do wonder if Francis Ford Coppola took some inspiration from this film when he made Apocalypse Now, specifically when the climax similarly cut between a brutal murder and the slaughter of a water buffalo.

  3. I think you can see little bits of Eisenstein in a lot of Coppola’s work.

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