In documentary style, events in Petrograd are re-enacted from the end of the monarchy in February of 1917 to the end of the provisional government and the decrees of peace and of land in ... See full summary »
Sergei M. Eisenstein
Archive footage from Potemkin (1925), with English dialogue dubbed in by American actors, is combined with new footage to tie together the brave stand of Odessa Russian guerrilla bands of ... See full summary »
Sergei M. Eisenstein
In 1547, Ivan IV (1530-1584), archduke of Moscow, crowns himself Tsar of Russia and sets about reclaiming lost Russian territory. In scenes of his coronation, his wedding to Anastasia, his campaign against the Tartars in Kazan, his illness when all think he will die, recovery, campaigns in the Baltic and Crimea, self-imposed exile in Alexandrov, and the petition of Muscovites that he return, his enemies among the boyars threaten his success. Chief among them are his aunt, who wants to advance the fortunes of her son, a simpleton, and Kurbsky, a warrior prince who wants both power and the hand of Anastasia. Ivan deftly plays to the people to consolidate his power. Written by
Before I new much about him, when I used to see the box for Alexander Nevsky on the Foreign shelf at my local video store, I always misread Eisenstein's name, transforming it into Einstein. Well, Einstein suits him just as well, for what Albert Einstein was to science Sergei Eisenstein is to the cinema. Witness Battleship Potemkin, possibly the most rousing film ever made. Today, nearly 80 years after it was made, it still has the power to inspire revolution. Its amazing montage editing style may have died with silent cinema (although there are at least two directors today who are somewhat similar: Shinya Tsukamoto and Darren Aranofsky), but it will never be forgotten.
When Eisenstein moved to sound, he realized that rapid montage would not work in the new medium. He adapted his style, perfecting a new one. Alexander Nevsky and the two Ivan the Terrible films come off to many people as stale historical epics. To me, they come off as the very peak of that genre. Usually I do find historical epics stuffy, but the direction, acting, writing, cinematography, and music of these three films are exquisite, so far beyond anything that I've ever seen that these films stir me nearly as much as Potemkin does.
Ivan the Terrible I is a bit confusing in its plot to begin with, but you have to stick with it. First off, there are many, many characters. A great many are not mentioned by name, and most of the rest are only named on rare occasions. But Eisenstein familiarizes us with the characters' faces. These faces are perfectly chosen and lighted spectacularly. The light is so harsh that every crag in a person's face is clear, and noses cast foreboding shadows. The way time progresses in this film is without much warning, and one problem I encountered was identifying Ivan himself. I did not catch on at first when the first sequence ended and the second sequence began, and Ivan, in the second sequence, has a beard. Once you realize that, though, you're home free. That beard serves as a great identifier throughout the film (and is used in many ways by Eisenstein).
I was expecting to like this film, but I found myself obsessed with this utter masterpiece. 10/10
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