Sergei Eisenstein (Russian, 1898–1948)

Eisenstein was a director, screenwriter, and film theorist who was known for the montage. His famous films include Strike, Battleship Potemkin, October, Alexander Nevsky, and Ivan the Terrible. He studied architecture and engineering at the Petrograd Institute of Civil Engineering, before joining the Red Army in the Russian Civil War. Eisenstein later went to America under a contract with Paramount Pictures, but couldn’t see eye-to-eye with the studio. Instead, he spent time with Charlie Chaplin and socialist author Upton Sinclair, who would collaborate with him to film in Mexico, which ultimately became a failed pursuit.

Einstein had a fraught relationship with the leader of the USSR, Joseph Stalin, who thought the film maker was deserting his country with his prolonged absence. Unlike the ruling regime of Stalin, the director envisioned a new society which would subsidize artists and give them total freedom. The artist returned to Russian film through his historic epics. His impact remains through his use of what he called “methods of montage”—a collision of shots presented collage-style to manipulate the emotions of the audience and highlight metaphors. Einstein’s narratives addressed broad social issues like class conflict, utilizing untrained actors from the appropriate classes.