The Film Club at Grand River North West projected the 1925 film “Strike” as part of marking 100 years since the Russian Revolution. The film was shown as the second part of a double-event, the first part being the launch of Ram Seegobin’s book August 79 Strike: The Principles that Govern Strikes as they Unfurl.
The film was shown in a special Film Club version, lovingly produced with a Russian sound-track of unusual intensity linked to the finest restoration of the film itself, and with subtitles in both English and French.
It is a credit to the film that its different genres have so influenced cinema that the film is very contemporary. It is realist – tilting without intrusion into magical realism from time to time, as when Tsarist spies are shown as a bear, a monkey, an owl, etc. – expressionist with its linking of events to architectural reality, and at times symbolic with the inter-splicing, for example, of the slaughter of an ox as the bosses and the State crush the workers’ strike. Throughout the film one is aware of the bold and yet acute perspectives and the precision of the montage. The black-and-white of course permits quicker changes than colour does – this is for the technical reason that colour has an after-image in human perception that prevents the use of quick changes of scene in colour filming – making for the speed of events the watcher feels, as if we are in them. The division into five sections is also interesting, and it reflected part of the title of Ram Seegobin’s booklet launched earlier – “Strikes as They Unfurl”.
What is interesting is that, at age 25, and only 7 years after the Revolution itself, Eisenstein chose to make a film on a strike 5 years before the Revolution, a strike that ended in total apparent defeat. But which as we watch it, we know it was part of the experience that workers were gaining: how to meet up to prepare demands, how to avoid provocation by the bosses and the State, how to recognize spies, and how to prepare beforehand for the inevitable consequences of a long strike. This experience would contribute to the ability of the first taking of power by the working class after the Paris Commune of 1871.
The film had a very real feel to it – for those of us who had just listened to the talks by Ram Seegobin and Jean-Claude Bibi about the August 79 strike in Mauritius.