Home > Films > B > Bronenosets Potyomkin (Battleship Potemkin)

Friday December 2nd 2022

Bronenosets Potyomkin (Battleship Potemkin) | 1925

Battleship Potemkin location: Odessa, Ukraine
Battleship Potemkin location: the massacre on the steps: Odessa, Ukraine | Photograph: wikipedia / Masha Kovalchuk

Sergei Eisenstein’s silent classic is a fictionalised account of the 1905 revolutionary uprising in the Black Sea port of Odessa. The massacre on the steps (an episode invented by Eisenstein) is one of cinema’s most innovatory sequences, and probably runs second only to Psycho’s shower murder as the most parodied of movie images – just watch those prams bouncing down steps in movies as diverse as Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or Brian de Palma’s The Untouchables.

Odessa is a charming Ukranian resort on the northern shore of the Black Sea, though as the area gets more industrialised, the sea is becoming increasingly polluted.

Officially known today as the Primorsky Stairs – originally the Richelieu Steps, named for Odessa’s first governor, the Duke of Richelieu, whose statue stands at the top of them – they were built between 1837 and 1841, and designed in perspective, reducing from 21 metres wide at the base to 13 at the top, to look more imposing from below.

They run from the grand 19th century buildings of Primorsky Bulvar (Primorsky Boulevard) to the now-busy road of ulitsa Suvorova along the seafront. If you can’t manage the steps, there’s now a funicular railway running alongside, though I’ve yet to hear of it featuring in a movie.

Odessa is about two hours by air from Moscow, or twenty-four hours by express train.