Posted at 5:16 PM on January 27, 2008
by Euan Kerr
Watching "Battleship Potemkin" last night at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis it was impossible to avoid the irony within ironies. First of all there was a packed house filled with paying customers who bought tickets at prices several times the usual price of admission for a movie. This happened on the edge of the business district of downtown Minneapolis, a place dedicated to the pursuit of capitalism.
The crowd was there to watch a film made by a Russian nine decades ago to celebrate revolutionary communist ideals. The film was later to become a symbol within Russia of another struggle, that against Stalinism. Meanwhile the music last night was composed by Dmitri Shostakovich who spent much of his life at odds with the Russian authorities because of his opposition to Stalin.
On top of all that is the fact that the story told in the film is not entirely accurate.
While there was rebellion on the real Battleship Potemkin, there was no massacre on the Odessa steps, (although there was a general strike and violent confrontations between government soldiers and citizens) and the sailors did not quite escape in the victorious way portrayed by Sergei Eisenstein.
While the Black Sea Fleet did allow the Potemkin to pass unscathed, the men surrendered to Romanian authorities 11 days later. Some of the men who returned to Russia later were executed. Others sought out new lives, and one man Ivan Beshoff lived until he was 102, running a fish and chip shop in Dublin.
Still, it was an amazing performance, and all the more amazing one you consider the circles within the circles.