Having revolutionized film editing through such masterworks of montage as Potemkin and Strike, Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein emigrated west in hopes of testing the capabilities of the American film industry.
Sergei M. Eisenstein
His wife dead from poisoning and his chief warrior, Kurbsky, defected to the Poles, Ivan is lonely as he pursues a unified Russia with no foreign occupiers. Needing friendship, he brings to court Kolychev, now Philip the monk, and makes him metropolitan bishop of Moscow. Philip, however, takes his cues from the boyars and tries to bend Ivan to the will of the church. Ivan faces down Philip and lets loose his private force, the Oprichniks, on the boyars. Led by the Tsar's aunt, Euphrosyne, the boyers plot to assassinate Ivan and enthrone her son, Vladimir. At a banquet, Ivan mockingly crowns Vladimir and sends him in royal robes into the cathedral where the assassin awaits. Written by
This film was withheld by Soviet authorities by order of Joseph Stalin, since this film, dealing with Ivan's slide into madness and the tyranny of the Oprichnina, did not properly mythologize Ivan IV Grozny to Stalin's satisfaction. It was not finally released until 10 years after the deaths of director Sergei M. Eisenstein and Stalin. See more »
Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible films are two hugely underrated masterpieces
There is not a single criticism I could make for either Ivan the Terrible Film. They are perfect films, original, effective, and affecting. Perhaps the two best films ever made. If not, they're to be included on my list of totally invaluable films, with not a doubt in my mind.
II begins exactly where I ends. Ivan has consolidated his power in Moscow, at least with the people (though not with the nobles, or "boyars"). In fact, what power he has inspires jealousy and fear in the boyars.
Ivan I builds Ivan up as a noble character. We despise the boyars for their flagrant wealth and greed, and we like Ivan for supporting the people. His closest comrades seem like Homeric heroes.
Ivan II develops Ivan's character even further. He may have power, but he still feels alone on the throne. His two greatest friends have left him, one gone to religion and one to the enemy. His immediate underlings, perceived as heroes in Ivan I, have grown paranoid and powerful. They convince Ivan to execute left and right. The only route for the boyars is to conspire Ivan's death.
Ivan II leads up to one of the single greatest climax I can think of. To heighten the effect, for the first time, Eisenstein opted to shoot in color. And as masterful as he was with black and white, he is also with color. The juxtaposition of color with black and white is absolutely amazing.
The only problem with the film is no one's fault. Part II ends, open for the third installment. Alas, Sergei Eisenstein would die before its completion. We're lucky enough to have Ivan the Terrible Part II, for Stalin demanded that it not be released theatrically, believing Ivan to be a portrait of himself. Eisenstein, in fact, never had the chance to see it released theatrically, was never to hear the lavish praise from critics the world round. Here I praise it, hoping that in the next world possibly Eisenstein can know what masterworks he made.
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