Back stage

'Ten days that shook the world'

October 1917 (1928) a.k.a Oktyabr is on today only, at the Gaborone Film Society, 7 pm at the A/V Centre at Maru a Pula School. At 6:30 pm before the film starts there will be a reception by the Russian Embassy. It will be followed by "Earth" on April 12, and on the April 19, the Maitisong Festival film, Le Concert (a joint French, Russian and Romanian movie). The fourth film in the festival is Ashik Kerib on April 26.

Sergei M. Eisenstein's third film, that is also known as Ten days that shook the world, is on eight months of the Bolshevik Revolution in Petrograd from February through October 1917.

The October Revolution Jubilee Committee commissioned it. It was made in 1927 for the 10th anniversary, but not released until 1928 - the inclusion of Leon Trotsky, Josef Stalin's adversary, in the film had caused problems.

They also had problems with aspects of Eisenstein's formalistic style. The result was re-editing to reduce Trotsky's role, which resulted in a film that we see now that is three-quarters of its original length.

A silent and experimental film it later had the music you will hear by Dmitri Shostakovich added to it, taken from his 11th and 12th symphonies, 1905 and Leningrad.

These events followed the Old Russian Julian calendar, so in that context they started on October 25, (while in the Gregorian or Western calendar it was already November 7, 1917). The events that took place throughout 1917 are covered in great intensity by Eisenstein who filmed at the various locations in Petrograd (then Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg).

October 1917 is very innovative in its symbolism, montage techniques and aesthetics.

We see more of the Menshevik leader Aleksandr Kerensky (acted by Vladimir Popov) than we do of Vladimir I.Lenin (played by Vasili Nikandrov), though he is there to announce, "We have the right to be proud that to us fell the good fortune of beginning the building of the Soviet State and by doing so, opening a new chapter in the history of the world". Lenin was abroad and returned to Russia on the February 17, 1917.

The thousands of actors in this movie were the proletariat, all citizens of Leningrad.

Many of them, a decade earlier, had participated in the October Revolution. Little had changed in Leningrad over 10 years. They wanted a propaganda film to show to the people across the Soviet Union, which was only five years old in 1927, so they would not forget.

The revolution brought to an end in February 1917 the Czar. A provisional government was established. By July 1917 there were confrontations between the Communists and counter-revolutionaries. The Provisional Government ordered that Lenin be arrested. He went underground until the uprising.

The armed uprising was planned at the 6th Communist Party Congress. Only by late October 1917 were the Bolsheviks ready to overthrow the Provisional Government.

This became the Ten days that shook the world. A small force was able to invade the Winter Palace while the Mensheviks vacillated. Aleksandr Kerensky, "The Royal Democrat", vacated and fled. Lenin had been in hiding for four months.

The role of the Cossack Army in these events was to prove critical.

Eisenstein's film starts with the symbolic disposal of the Czar by the destruction of a statute of Alexander the Second, Emperor of Russia.

The Communist Party slogan, to reach the masses, was "Bread, Peace, Land, and Brotherhood". After five months of the Provisional Government people realise there is "no peace, no bread, and no land".

We are treated to meetings of the Committee of Bolsheviks (before the October Revolution it was the majority faction of the Russian Social Democratic Party).

In the meeting we see Leon Trotsky arguing that action would be premature. The battle of Nevsky Prospect follows.

There are some dramatic scenes when the Provincial Government orders the bridges across the river raised. Soldiers of the First Machine Gun Regiment are arrested.

Following a complicated interplay of events finally Lenin proclaims the revolution with, "Long live the revolutionary soldiers and workers who have overthrown the Monarchy! It took five more years of civil war before the Soviet Union was established in 1922.

October 1917 is one hour and 44 minutes long.

It is in Russian with English subtitles. It is rated PG. The directors are Sergei M. Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov. The two directors also wrote the script, based on the famous book Ten Days That Shook the World by John Reed.

The cinematographers are Eduard Tisse, Vladimir Nilsen, and Vladimir Popov who also played Kerensky. The art direction is by Vasili Kovrigin. The music is by Dmitri Shostakovich.  [email protected]

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