Week 3: Group A: Russia & Soviet Film in the 1910’s & 1920’s

Russia and Soviet film in the 1910s and 1920s


What kind of object / item is this?

  • Immoral Memories: An Autobiography is a book written by Sergei Eisenstein and was translated from Russian to English by Herbert Marshall in 1983. Eisenstein initially wrote these memoirs in 1946, after suffering a serious heart attack while filming Ivan the Terrible, Part ll. He would die two years later.


What can it tell us about Eisenstein and his place in film history? What can it tell us more broadly about soviet cinema in this period?

  • An Autobiography is a primary source, giving us a first-hand account of Sergei Eisensteins life and times making films in the Soviet Union. The book also contains information on his life before he was a filmmaker, in which he served as a volunteer for the Bolshevik army during the Russian Revolution. Eisenstein goes on to detail his life as a filmmaker starting with his first film in 1923 entitled Enough Simplicity in Every Wise Man. Throughout his career he made many influential motion pictures, including Strike (1925), Battleship Potemkin (1925), October: Ten Days That Shook the World (1927) and Ivan, The Terrible: Parts l and ll (Part l-1944, Part ll-1958).

This book provides us with an insight into who influenced his earliest films. He stressed the importance of the American director, D. W. Griffith, who was a major influence on his film Strike. The book can also give us further insight into montage theory and how Eisenstein used it in relation to each film. This can help us understand his reasoning for putting a certain nondiegetic shot into a scene.


  • The book also delves into his troubled relationship with the Soviet leader, Josef Stalin. While filming October Eisenstein was ‘forced by Stalin to cut out all shots and references to Trotsky’ and other political rivals. On another occasion Stalin called him ‘a deserter’ for overstaying his leave in Mexico, where he was trying to finish a film entitled Que Viva Mexico! This shows how state censorship played a massive role in restricting artists from presenting the truth on screen. Many filmmakers, such as Eisenstein and Vertov, disliked Stalin and the government restrictions. Much of this book compiles writings Eisenstein never thought would be published. In fact, these memoirs were only published 16 years after his death. As film historians we should be glad this book was published as it gives us a valuable and candid look at the opinions held by Eisenstein.


What are some of the limitations of the way it is presented on the catalogue? – what more do you want / need to know about this source?

  • Being an autobiography, the source was not hard to obtain as it is freely available both on the web and in stores. The catalogue could be improved by adding photographs of the artefacts and information regarding said artefact to the relevant pages. This would be especially useful for articles, especially when you’re looking for a specific one amongst hundreds all related to Sergei Eisenstein.



Ryan Collins & Ruaraidh McCusker-Stevenson — Group A

One thought on “Week 3: Group A: Russia & Soviet Film in the 1910’s & 1920’s

  1. This is a well-written and solidly structured blog post that is responsive to the task. Taking in Bordwell’s 5 criteria as the question asked would have enhanced things further as would the use of images and/or clips to supplement your argument.

    You have chosen an intriguing source, which you contextualise well (very interesting information about Stalin!). I also like how you probe the source’s reliability. The fact that it was published after Eisenstein’s death is telling and you do well to flag this.

    Fair point about images and the search engine: again, I think this probably relates to cost and the immense amount of work it would take (bear in mind that the museum does not have a huge staff by any means and as it is, it’s far ahead of comparable facilities in most universities).

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