Based on the culmination of centuries' growth of the spirit of self consciousness in the Russian people with the mutiny of the crew of the armored cruiser Prince Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein's "Potemkin," now showing at the Fine Arts Theatre, is a high-strung, example of the possibilities of the silent film. Director Eisenstein's masterful use of highly dramatical material, although artistically well done in parts, is marred by his overlooking some of the fundamentals of photography. While a large part of the greatness of this film rests on the clever use of unusual and striking pictorial effects, its greatest weakness lies in Edward Tisse's carelessness with his exposure meter in straight photography.
According to present standards, the acting is overdone; anger is portrayed by swelling of the bosom, stamping of the feet, and vigorous twirling of the moustache, which may be all right for the movies, but is strange to Harvard Square. In spite of that, however, Eisenstein's utilizing water scenes, like a mountain stream immediately after the breaking up of a log jam, the pounding of surf over a breakwater, or the moon rising through ships' rigging over the mist of motionless, oily seas, as symbolic of the feeling of the Russian peasantry, gives the picture an appeal not to be denied.
The tendency for propagandas, always present in Russian pictures, emerges in the over-zealous portrayal of the cruelty of the Cossacks and of the officers of the Potemkin. The inevitable conclusion is the unity of brotherhood of the Soviets building railroads and industrial plants.
For one not vitally interested in the reflexes and workings, dissections, and explanations in Russian, of the brains of children, frogs, idiots, or syphiletics, "Mechanics of the Brain" is at best boring. Pudovkin's film records of Professor Ivan Pavlov's physiology research work on the reflex action of the brain, now shown to the public for the first time, should henceforth only be exhibited in biological and psychological laboratories.