1917: The Real October
In 1917 St. Petersburg, the frontline of the global war moves closer every day, and the Russian people are hungry, worried, and angry. When the tsar is overthrown in February, the revolutionary poets, thinkers, and avant-gardists are euphoric — freedom at last! — but those hopes are dashed when, starting in October, the Bolsheviks rule by themselves. An inventive telling of the Russian Revolution that employs a combination of archival footage and cut-out animation, “1917: The Real October” offers a smart, complex, and playful version of history, focusing not on Lenin but on an array of Tsarist critics, including the bourgeois writer and critic Zinaida Gippius, the social-realist revolutionary Maxim Gorky, the art and culture preservationist Alexandre Benois, and the rebellious futurist artist Vladimir Mayakovsky. Using these individuals’ own words and writings, the film provides intriguing detail about the messiness of the insurgent process and the constant jockeying between different types of revolutionaries. Providing a welcome break from its dense, multifaceted history of Russia, filmmaker Katrin Rothe also self-reflexively incorporates the creation of her animation into the storyline, with the featured characters springing to life from the director’s piles of books.