On February 10, 2012, the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival will present the premiere of the reconstructed version of October (Oktjabr, USSR 1928, directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein) at the Friedrichstadt-Palast. Conducted by Frank Strobel, the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra will perform the original score as composed by Edmund Meisel. The screening is a Berlinale Special presentation and part of this year’s Retrospective, “The Red Dream Factory”.
“October is a prime example of the revolution films that strongly shaped the perception of Soviet cinema during this period. Especially in conjunction with Meisel’s ideally matched music it promises to be a great experience,” remarks Rainer Rother, head of the Retrospective and Artistic Director of the Deutsche Kinemathek.
October traces historical developments from the February Revolution until October 1917, and comments on events using montage sequences full of emotion and irony. The film was commissioned by the Executive Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution. Shot at original locations, Eisenstein commemorates the fight of Petrograd’s population and Lenin’s former comrades-in-arms, who fell out of favour as of 1928. This shift in the political climate led to the film’s censorship and its complete disappearance from cinemas after premiering at the Bolshoi Theatre on March 14, 1928.
In the 1960s, Naum Kleiman worked at Gosfilmofond, the state film archive in Moscow, on the first well-researched reconstruction of October. The new HD restoration produced by the Munich Film Museum, which acquired a print from Gosfilmofond in the 1970s, is based on Kleiman’s version. For the Berlinale presentation, the print from Munich has been enhanced with earlier footage of better quality from EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam and the (German) Federal Archives/Department Film in Berlin.
The great rediscovery of this presentation is Edmund Meisel’s film music, which has been adjusted to fit the reconstructed version. As with Battleship Potemkin, the music was originally commissioned for the German version of October by the German distributor Prometheus. Meisel planned his music “using a notational system that was intended to heighten the story as it progressed”. The outcome is a very innovative film music that seems with its “noisy” sounds and strong rhythms like a forerunner of punk and techno, and was thus highly controversial at the time.
As a composer of groundbreaking film scores, Edmund Meisel (1894 - 1930) influenced film history significantly. He experimented with new technologies of musical accompaniment for the stage and the screen, wrote 14 theatre scores and ten compositions for silent and sound films; he conducted orchestras, wrote radio plays, made records and worked on studio productions. When he died in 1930, the film world lost one of its most productive composers.
Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick is delighted about the premiere: “October is a masterpiece of film history. It’s fantastic we’ll be able to show the audience the restored version – especially with the accompaniment of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. I’m sure viewers today will also find the film fascinating.”
The presentation of October in its restored version is an initiative of ZDF/ARTE, realized in co-production with Deutschlandradio Kultur, the Munich Film Museum, roc berlin and the Russian State Archive for Literature and Art (RGALI), Moscow. In honour of this Berlinale premiere, ARTE television channel will broadcast a recording of this presentation of October on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 11:00 pm.
by Sergei M. Eisenstein
with Vasili Nikandrov, Nikolai Popov, Boris Livanov, Nikolai Podvoisky
January 17, 2012