Coleridge said that seeing the fiery Edmund Kean act was “like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning”. Watching Sergei Eisenstein’s classic silent film October is like watching the Russian revolution the same way. It’s surreally lit up by stark images that sear your retina; gone the next second, to be replaced by others just as mysterious and disorientating. October is not a historical document, more a remembered dream. I sometimes wish we could see it without music, with just a deafening thunderbolt on each of its 3,200 cuts. A violent electrical storm of strangeness.
The film was commissioned in Stalin’s Soviet Russia for the 10th anniversary of the 1917 October revolution, as a suitably fervent propagandist celebration.