Sophie Seydoux (Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé) e Naum Kleiman, creatore del Centro Ejzenštejn di Mosca
Musica composta da Arthur Honegger, diretta da Timothy Brock ed eseguita dalla Filarmonica del Teatro Comunale di Bologna (La Roue – Prologo).
Musica composta da Edmund Meisel, diretta da Helmut Imig ed eseguita dalla Filarmonica del Teatro Comunale di Bologna (Bronenosec Potëmkin).
Serata sostenuta da Ottica Garagnani
(In caso di pioggia, la proiezione si sposterà al Teatro Manzoni, Via Dè Monari, 1/2)
In spring of 1925 young Sergej Ejzenštejn, who had recently debuted as a director with Strike!, was hired to direct a film celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the 1905 Russian Revolution. The film was titled Bronenosec Potëmkin and was shot and edited in four months. Although formally limited to the 1905 episode – the mutiny of the crew of a military ship in the Black Sea – the film reflected the main themes of the Revolution: the cruelty of the autocratic regime and social unrest for freedom.
The first screening was held on December 21 at the Bolshoi Theatre during the jubilee festivities. Despite its triumphant success, the film commission decided to screen Potëmkin only in workers’ clubs after conferences and meetings: no one thought that film audiences would be interested in a movie without stars and without the usual adventure or love story. Legend has it that Futurist poet Vladimir Majakovskij threatened to use his heavy cane if the film was not distributed at large. When it was first screened in theaters, this movie ‘without individual heroes’ and ‘without a story of intrigue’ could compete with biggest Hollywood commercial success of that year, Robin Hood with Douglas Fairbanks.
In the spring of 1925 German censors tried to stop Potëmkin’s release, fearing that the film on the 1905 Revolution in Russia could provoke revolutionary sentiment in Germany with its emotional power. Social democrat deputies in the Reichstag won the battle against censorship demonstrating that the film was not ‘subversive’ in any way. Indeed, it was actually grounded in the democratic slogan of “fight against despotism and social inequality” but also the humanistic message of “stop reciprocal violence”. That said, the film was cut for censorship purposes, and in some areas of Germany the magnificent soundtrack composed by Edmund Meisel was banned.
In most of Europe, Asia and South America censors were no less short-sighted and fearful than their German colleagues, and Bronenosec Potëmkin was banned for a long time. It began to be redistributed only after World War II: with its soundtrack in theaters and without it at film archives and festivals. At the Brussels World Fair in 1958 it was at the top of the list of the twelve best films of all time, and ever since it has been considered an undisputed international masterpiece.
Thanks to the efforts of archives in Russia, Germany, Great Britain and the United States and the work of film historians, composers and directors, the original versions of Ejzenštejn’s film and Meisel’s score have been restored. Today Bronenosec Potëmkin appears just as alive and riveting as it did ninety years ago. And the film’s main theme hasn’t aged: that a sense of brotherhood, abandoning violence and recognizing the bond connecting all of us on earth are necessary for freedom and human equality.
Cast and Credits
Scen.: Nina Agadžanova-Šutko, Sergej Ejzenštejn. F.: Eduard Tissė. Scgf.: Vasilij Rachal’s. Mus.: Edmund Meisel. Int.: Aleksandr Antonov (marinaio Vakulinčuk), Vladimir Barskij (comandante Golikov), Grigorij Aleksandrov (ufficiale Giljarovskij), Aleksandr Levšin, Andrej Fajt, Marusov (ufficiali), Zavitok (medico di bordo Smirnov), Michail Gomorov (marinaio nel comizio), Ivan Bobrov (marinaio recluta). Prod.: Goskino. 35mm. L.: 1401 m. D.: 68’ a 18 f/s. Bn.
Red, red!… Red of the burning night, red of bloody war
Gaumont Palace program, February 16, 1923
In the second half of 1919, glowing with the success of J’accuse, Abel Gance started work on La Roue, “une tragédie des temps modernes”, which would become the longest, most expensive and last of his projects for Pathé. Filming began in November at the Saint-Roch train station where the crew could use a Pacific locomotive and build a set with a house among train tracks. The troupe then moved to Chamonix and Arcachon.
The prologue, the accident, is one of the few chapters of Pierre Hamp’s novel Le Rail (1912) that Gance kept. Gance gave the train a starring role, and its world takes shape with visual effects and surprisingly rich and fast-paced editing, creating a lyricism that would make a deep impact on his contemporaries.
On February 16, 1923 the film was released in ten theaters in Paris, with over ten thousand meters of footage (about eight hours) divided in a prologue and four acts. At Gaumont Palace it was accompanied by the score written by Arthur Honegger and Paul Fosse, who was the conductor at the Palace at that time. Choosing contemporary composers was a considerably bold decision. The originality of this complex restoration is using the music to reconstruct what was most likely the original 1923 version. In the absence of editing notes, the music can help explain the order of the scenes and identify which ones were cut. For example, the score composed by Honegger for the opening credits includes precise indications about the order of the shots.
Gance reworked La Roue until the end of the 1920s, thus some of his edits only exist in one print. As a result, different versions came one after another (four acts, six acts, the shortened version of 1924, etc.), but none ever established itself as the definitive version.
François Ede, Stéphanie Salmon
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dal romanzo Le Rail di Pierre Hamp. Scen.: Abel Gance. F.: Léonce Henry Burel, Marc Bujard, Maurice Duverger. Mus.: Arthur Honegger. Int.: Séverin-Mars (Sisif), Gabriel de Gravone (Élie), Ivy Close (Norma), Georges Térof (Machefer), Gil Clary (Dalilmah), Maxudian (il mineralogista), Louis Monfils (Papahan), Géo Dugast (il ferroviere Jacobin). Prod.: Films Abel Gance. DCP 4K. D.: 25’. Bn., B&W, stencil, tinted and toned. Original music by Arthur Honegger performed by Filarmonica del Teatro Comunale di Bologna directed by Timothy Brock
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