Battleship Potemkin – the greatest film ever made?

Battleship Potemkin will be screened, in full, at the University’s Chichester Campus, in the Showroom on 25 June (was to be 5 March) at 7:30pm with a short introduction by Crispin Ward. The orchestral soundtrack uses a virtual orchestra of computer samples.

In 1925 Sergei Eisenstein was commissioned to produce a film celebrating the 20 years anniversary of the 1905 pre-revolution in Russia. His masterpiece, Battleship Potemkin, has become a cinematographic icon and remains one of the most influential films ever made.

The story follows the sailors of the Battleship Potemkin and their mutiny against the cruel captain and his sadistic officers. One of the most famous scenes, the massacre in Odesa, during which the baby carriage tumbles down the steps, has been much quoted by subsequent film-makers.

Eisenstein developed his theories of montage during the shooting of Potemkin, which are still to be seen in film making technique today. The quick-moving shots create a rhythm and tension that catapult the action forward and even today the exhilaration and excitement can be felt despite the fact it is shot in black and white, with no sound.

Crispin Ward, Senior Lecturer in Orchestral Studies at the University of Chichester Conservatoire, has had an obsession with the film for 30 years. He suggested a screening as part of the 1996 Southwark Festival on HMS Belfast. Even then he wanted a new musical score to be produced. Eisenstein himself had suggested that a new score might be produced every 20 years or so to keep the film fresh. “I have never been satisfied with the music put to Potemkin. The premier, at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, was shown to Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.”
For the Berlin premiere in 1926 a bespoke score for small orchestra was commissioned and Edmund Meisel wrote an ambitious and effective accompaniment. Later offerings by various other composers, including a patchwork of the music of Shostakovich, have had varying degrees of success.

Over the past 25 years, Crispin has built a strong musical relationship with Eastern Europe, conducting in Russia, Ukraine and Moldova on many occasions. He believes that his in-depth knowledge of East European orchestral music puts him in a strong position to understand what is needed in the composition of a new and innovative score for this masterpiece.

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