|PANZERKREUZER POTEMKIN in Austria|
Following facts could be noticed:
Length of the film: 6 acts, 1600m
In Vienna the film was interdicted to young people.
Following facts could be noticed:
Length of the film: 5 acts, 1353m
Regarding the sound version of 1930 we have no information about any kind of restriction. The echo in the press 1930 was also much smaller than in 1926.
Ban of BATLLESHIP POTEMKIN in Vorarlberg
Protests and disturbances by national
On 28th June 1926 there was some tumult at the screening of the film
in the cinema „Burg-Kino“. At the beginning of the film about
40-50 national socialist made some sneering remarks. Other cinemagoers
told them to shout up. When the revolution scenes started and the „Marseillais“,
played the national socialist, started to cry „pooh“ and sang
„Deutschland, Deutschland über alles...!“. One of them
tried to deliver a speech, but was stopped by a policeman. The moviegoers
started to abuse each other.
The national socialist newspaper „Deutsch-österreichische Tageszeitung“ reported that the national socialist have been provoked by some Jews, who applauded at the end of the film. Thereupon the national socialists started to sing „Deutschland, Deutschland über alles“. Then the police indiscriminate arrested some people, but they had to set them free again. The Nazi paper said that the film „Potemkin“ glorifies revolution, but revolution nowadays in Austria can only be against the „Jewish Marxists“ (Judäa-Marxisten). The „Deutsch-österreichische Tageszeitung“refers to the policeman and asked them „Whom you are arresting?“ and gave the answer: „Your own German brothers“. The paper also reproachful asked „Why somebody is arrested in Austria, because he is singing the German national anthem?” and made a plea for „the national revolution“ (see Deutsch-österreichische Tageszeitung, 29.6.1926). The same newspaper reported about the prohibition of „Panzerkreuzer“ in Germany in July 1926 and called for banning the film also in Austria because of „endangering the public safety“.
On 29th June 1926 again happened some disturbances at the screening of
Potemkin in the cinemas „Burg-Kino“, „Tabor-Kino“,
„Zirkus Busch-Kino“, „Prater“, „Löwenkino“.
In Austria the film BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN was promoted by the distribution company „Philipp & Co“ with a large-scaled campaign. In the years before rarely a movie was announced by advertising in such vast extend. Slogans pronounced BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN as the „greatest film, the world has ever seen“ (Kino-Journal, 29.5.1926 and Der Filmbote, 29.5.1926) and the film reviewers gave commentaries of the same tenor. BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN was referred to as „the greatest and most impressive feature film of awesome effect“ (Der Filmbote, 29.5.1926). The journalists especially praised the „virtuoso direction of the mass in this monumental work of art“. (Paimann´s Filmlisten 4.6.1926 and Der Filmbote, 5.6.1926).
The paper „Die Arbeiter-Zeitung“ was convinced, that the film will outlast decades, because it was said to be „real, original art“ and to be a „revolutionary act“ (Arbeiter-Zeitung, 4.6.1926). The film and theatre journal „Die Bühne“ actually forecasted „This film will revolutionise the occidental film“. (Die Bühne, 17.6.1926).
Only seldom the film was criticised because of its aesthetic composition and even than the critic was addressed to some single elements. Just „Paimann´s Filmlisten“ (4.6.1926) objected to a too large number of crossheadings in the silent version, and rated the dubbing of the version of 1930 not very positively (Paimann´s Filmlisten 5.9.1930).
Other negative commentaries on BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN were apparently politically motivated. So the papers "Das Neue Wiener Tagblatt" (2.7.1926) and the national-socialist "Deutsch-österreichische Tageszeitung" (29.6.1926) accused the film-makers to appeal deliberately to the „most primitive human instincts“. At least the national socialist paper didn’t deny the artistic quality of the film.
Another aspect, which the Austrian film reviewers focused on, was the lifelike composition of the whole film. Especially the performers made an important contribution to the authentical presentation of the film. That’s because Eisenstein didn’t employ actors, but real dock workers and sailors. The press appreciative noted, that in this movie nobody is „playing“, that here the audience is not constrained to see „excessive gesture and mimic“ as it is known by other films. Generally the direction didn’t work with „cheap methods“, like „movable stereoscopic pictures, but with authentic dock settings“ (Die Bühne, 17.6.1926 and Der Filmbote, 5.6.1926).
As well the film was stated to have documentary meaning (Der Filmbote, 29.5.1926). The press emphasised that the incidents shown in BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN are documentary proved. The film was told to have an accurate historic plot and to present „the whole documentary truth“ (Paimann´s Filmlisten 4.6.1926 and Die Bühne, 17.6.1926 and Der Filmbote, 5.6.1926).
Completly different interpreted the paper „Reichspost“, which was associated with the Austrian Christian-Social party, the „alleged real background“. The bourgeois organ tried to make the film ridiculous. The whole plot should be presented as exaggerating and absolutely unreal by criticising single scenes. So the author disbelieved that there was ever seen wormy meat on the ship „Potemkin“, because all fleets always paid attention to good victuals for the crew. Moreover in the author´s memory especially the Russian sailors looked at all times „particularly well fed“. Also it seems to him „very implausible – even by the Russians – that people are provoked to hang their supervisors, only because of one single complaint (maggoty meat)“. Additionally the author noted that „sailors lying in their hammock are always very peaceful and would never ever have the idea to threat with their fists while such a relaxation“ (Reichspost, 18.6.1926). This article does obviously only concentrate on single, negligible aspects, but does not at all take any notice of the social and political background of the film. However, the journalists were very conscious about the political components of the film.
Even though some of them asked if a political discussion about the film
would be appropriate. Was BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN a propaganda film at all?
The film journal „Paimann´s Filmlisten“ denied this
question. According to it the film shows only how in people, suffering
under repression and violence, occurs resistance. So the topic of the
film is „an absolutely native human reaction on oppression and enslaving
– the revolt“. Therefore it’s entirely wrong to interpret
BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN as a political statement. (Paimann´s
A much more definite comment gave the journal „Die Bühne“:
„BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN is the much unheard propaganda film anyone
can imagine. All the more it´s an evidence of incapacity for the
occident, that here nobody so far has recognised, to what extend the film
may serve for propagandistic purposes. (Die
The bourgeois press, in contrast, reflected in its evaluation the line of argument of Vorarlberg´s federal government. The newspapers „Die Reichspost“ (18.6.1926) and the „Das Neue Wiener Tagblatt" (2.7.1926) denounced in a hard way the „glorification of mutiny“ and the „demonstration of Russian methods, which evoke in every civilised European disgust and antipathy“.
For the left press on the other hand, the mutiny on the ship „Potemkin“ was „the starting point for the release of the Russian people“ (Der Filmbote, 29.5.1926). In their opinion the film tells „the story of all revolutions“ and shows „an elemental war of revenge led by the sailors against their tantalisers“. (Arbeiter-Zeitung, 4.6.1926). The socialist press even tried to use the mutiny on the ship „Potemkin“for its own political movement and declared the mutiny of 1905 as an „episode of the struggle for freedom of the Russian social democracy“. And also the national socialist paper knew how to reinterpret „the revolution on the ship Potemkin“ in their sense. The organ presaged „the true revolution“, which will come true, when „Austria is going to take sides with Germany“ (Deutsch-österreichische Tageszeitung, 29.6.1926).
The political dispute also takes place in the cinemas: while one part of the audience jubilated, applauded and was deeply moved, the other part interfered the film by whistles, interjections, national socialist songs and stink bombs. Dr. Otto Friedländer wrote in the „Neues Wiener Tagblatt“ that the film initiated a kind of „psychosis“. He asked „how else can that be explained, that mentally hale people applauded, when an outnumbered group lynches a minor number of barely armed people“. „How is it possible, that the audience cheers, when a chaplain, confronting the sailors with a crucifix in order to avoid anymore bloodletting, is beaten down“. ("Das Neue Wiener Tagblatt" (2.7.1926).
However the audience finally reacted to the film - BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN was a smash hit. The screenings were sold out for many days and the film was even shown in cinemas, where mostly bourgeois audience was expected. The question is: Why this film was so successful? Everybody had another explanation: The film reviewers referred to the authentic presentation of the documentary provable incidents. The socialists interpreted the film as a demonstration of the revolutionary class struggle of the socialistic working class. And the national socialists supposed POTEMKIN, to be a metaphor for Austria and its capital Vienna (Deutsch-österreichische Tageszeitung, 29.6.1926). Vienna was called „Potemkinsches Dorf“. That is to say that outwards, Vienna shows pompous facades and pretends prosperity, but behind it, is hidden terrible poverty and direful misery. Therefore, the paper said, in Austria „the true German revolution will break out and result in an annexation to the Third Reich“. As history has shown, this last prophecy came true 12 years later.
by Karin Moser