The October Revolution. In Sarajevo.

“Tarzan’s Testicles” has been screened last night at the Pravo Ljudski Festival in Sarajevo. It was screened after Eisenstein’s “October”, in its beautiful remastered version with Edmund Meisel’s music. A daring and wise programming has put together the Revolution’s avant-garde monumental representation and the ruins of the same Revolution, as seen in Abkhazia 100 years after. The Soviet and post-Soviet worlds met on screen in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, another country ravaged by a post-communist ethnic clash in the same years. The Bosnian war took place in 1992-1995; the Abkhaz war lasted less, between 1992-1993. The people here in Sarajevo talk – like their Abkhaz counterparts – about the trauma that keeps people’s minds in a cage, more than 20 years after. Wounded. Captive. Paralyzed in time and space.

And these are not the only parallels that come to mind. What my memory had previously retained from “October” was the choreography of the masses. But what struck me yesterday was the impressive gallery of primates’ portraits that Eisenstein displays in his film. Be it bourgeois or proletarian, aristocratic or peasant, he treats them equally. Eisenstein’s figures laugh, frown, yawn or attack each other in a grotesque manner, filmed in Eduard Tissé’s harsh light. It’s not only about the different speed of silent cinema that makes people move frantically. His famous editing technique, the repetition of these brutal expressions on their faces, the wild rhythm of their gestures reminded me of the drawings in Darwin’s book on “The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals”. I had the impression Eisenstein watches all humanity with the same eye. No wonder Stalin didn’t like the film.

P.S. These days, Ratko Mladic is on trial in The Hague. 22 years have passed since the Srebrenica massacre and 103 years since Gavrilo Princip shot Franz Ferdinand in the Bosnian capital. One thing I know: the next World War will not start in Sarajevo.

October_film_Lenin
Lenin, a capture from Eisenstein’s “October”

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