The Odessa Steps Sequence

The clip above is not only the most famous scene in The Battleship Potempkin, but it also sufficiently exemplifies the entire Soviet montage genre.  The Odessa Steps sequence perfectly embodies the main concepts of the genre, as it is known for its severe cuts and editing techniques.  As the chaos at Odessa Steps is emphasized by the dramatic editing that cuts from one shot to another quickly and without transitions (in order to evoke a particular response from the audience), the scene represents the editing of the Soviet montage genre.  Below is a shot breakdown of a series of shots in the middle of the scene.

Number…Abbreviation…Timing…Angle/Movement…Description

1. ECU…1 second…Static…Extreme close-up of a civilian’s face (person has wide eyes and looks very scared).

2. CU-ECU…2 seconds…Static (but subject moves toward the camera, filling the screen)… Civilian from previous shot walks toward the camera with his hands on his head, looking both distraught and disheveled.

3. WS…4 seconds…Static…Civilians are running down the Odessa Steps, looking frightened and freaking out.  Random people are shot by the Tsar’s men and fall down.

4. MS… 0.5 second…Static…Shot lasts for the blink of an eye as the editing of the Soviet Montage genre is showcased.  Shows women going up stairs.

5. MS… 5 seconds… Static…Women are running up the stairs in distress, but then turn around suddenly and start running back down.  An elderly woman paces herself going down the stairs.

6. MS… 1 second… Static, high angle shot… Man is shown covered with blood as he dies on the steps.

7. WS… 2 seconds… Static… The elderly woman is walking down the stairs again, as everyone around her runs.

8. EWS… 4 seconds… Static… Civilians are running down the steps and jumping over the dead bodies that are strewn across the stairs.

9. MWS… 4 seconds… Static… Woman carries a dead child in her arms as she walks up the stairs slowly, then turns around to face the camera.

10. EWS… 5 seconds… Static… Civilians are running down the steps as even more dead bodies are in their way.

11. WS… 2 seconds… Static… Civilians are hiding against a wall, one begins to stand up.

12.  MS… 1 second… Static… Clip shows the same civilian from the previous shot standing up again.

13.  CU…1.5 seconds…Static… The civilian adjusts her headpiece and yells something.

14.  MWS… 3 seconds… Static… Man carries an injured boy in his arms as he walks up the steps.  The boy’s limbs dangle awkwardly.

15.  MS… 3 seconds… Static… The woman with the headpiece waves her arms forward as she says something again.

Although the shots alternate in their type, the movement stays static throughout the scene, cutting from one static shot to the next.  As the subjects are depicted in their moments of distress, the quick change of shots reflects this to make the audience afraid for the civilians.

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