In the 1920s and 30s, Soviet propaganda films profoundly influenced the emerging luminaries of British documentary filmmaking, shaping their ideas about film as an art form. Eisenstein's ground-breaking Battleship Potemkin (1925) wasn't seen in the UK until 1929 when it was double-billed with Grierson's Drifters (1929). On 5th November 2012 the films will be brought together again in a Dual Format Edition featuring a new restoration of Battleship Potemkin and the High Definition debut of Drifters.
The London Film Society's screening of Battleship Potemkin and Drifters on Sunday 10th November 1929, at the Tivoli cinema in the Strand, is the most celebrated double-bill in film history. The BBFC had banned Battleship Potemkin and did not officially classify it (with an 'X' certificate) until 1954, almost 30 years after it was made.
Drifters heralded the birth of a movement that dominated British film culture for decades. Commissioned by the Empire Marketing Board, the film followed a herring drifter from departure in Scotland to market in East Anglia. John Grierson had previously overseen an English language version of Battleship Potemkin for its American release and Eisenstein's influence is clearly shown, both in his own film and in many of those that followed under his watchful eye at the GPO Film Unit.
The restoration of Battleship Potemkin is presented with the 1926 Edmund Meisel score. For Drifters, the BFI commissioned the innovative British composer/performer Jason Singh. All of the sounds and textures in this evocative new score have been created vocally by Singh and manipulated using effects, hardware samplers and software. He comments:
"It was a real challenge to create a sound and music score to a silent film that already felt complete in every way. After much thought (and fear) I decided to watch and absorb the narrative and respond creatively when it felt right to do so. What transpired was the feeling to mimic and draw out the natural and abstract melodies and rhythms of the everyday routine and also create sounds that would enhance the emotion, fear and struggle for survival underwater. In all cases I was mindful not to take away from the magnificence of the original silent film but to complement it using innovation and sensitivity."
Battleship Potempkin and The Drifters will be released on UK dual format (Blu-ray and DVD) on 5th November 2012 by the BFI at the RRP of £19.99.
Battleship Potemkin presented in a new restoration by Film Museum Berlin and partners, accompanied by the 1926 Edmund Merisel score. Drifters presented in new HD transfer, tinted and toned as originally intended, with a score by Jason Singh.
The extra features are:
Grantor Trawler (John Grierson, 1934, 11 mines): Grierson's follow up to Drifters, one of the GPO Film Unit's first experiments with sound
Trade Tattoo (Len Lye, 1937, 6 mins): celebratory animation made from off-cuts of EMB and GPO Film Unit films, including Drifters and Night Mail
North Sea (Harry Watt, 1938, 32 mins): dramatic reconstruction of sea farers' battle with the elements, produced by the GPO Film Unit
Illustrated booklet with extensive film and restoration credits and essays by Henry K Miller, Patrick Russell and Michael Brooke.
A screening of Drifters with live score performed by Jason Singh will take place at BFI Southbank on Monday 5th November. Tickets are £10.00, concessionary £6.75 (Members pay £1.50 less). Tickets available from box office Tel: 020 7928 3232 or online at www.bfi.org.uk