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
The film features two color sequences, Ivan eating dinner with feeble-minded Vladimir while the "oprichniki" dance and sing for them and a final shot of Ivan denouncing all enemies of Russia's indepedence and unity. See more »
This second part of Eisenstein's history of the reign of "Ivan the Terrible" is an excellent portrayal of the complex machinations between the famous tsar and his determined rivals, the boyars. The story, the settings, the actors, and the characters surpass even the high standards of Part One. Nikolai Cherkasov is again excellent in his portrayal of Ivan, with even his occasional exaggerations fitting nicely into his memorable characterization of the formidable tsar. Serafima Birman is again quite effective as Ivan's aunt and most bitter rival. As Vladimir, Pavel Kadochnikov gets much more to do than he did in Part One, and he makes good use of his scenes. The character of Vladimir - foolish and timid, but with ambition in his heart - is important to the way that events play out.
The story in Part Two picks up at a low point for Ivan, finding him with few friends and many problems. As the boyars begin to plot, there is less outward action than there was in Part One, but the drama is even tauter and the stakes even higher. The picture is also rounded out by the flashbacks to Ivan's youth, which give an even more complete picture of this complex ruler. (The English nickname 'terrible' does not really convey the full sense of his actual nickname in Russian.)
The early scenes lead up to the lengthy sequence of the banquet and its aftermath, which a masterpiece of psychological drama and effective film-making. The cat-and-mouse game between Ivan and his enemies is complemented by the color, imagery, and other details, and it all leads up to a climax filled with tension and possibilities.
Eisenstein's series on Ivan showcases the great Russian director's distinctive technique, and it is certainly one of the finest of all historically-based movies. With memorable characters, interesting stories, and lots of creativity, both movies are well worth multiple viewings - and this second part is even better than the first.
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