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Alexander Nevsky (1938) Poster

Trivia

Joseph Stalin wanted this film to be a propaganda tool to warn Soviet citizens to be wary of German aggression. However, it was rejected at first due to it being "too anti-German", as it came out shortly before the Soviet-German non-aggression pact of 1939 was signed. In 1941, the peace was broken and Stalin reportedly demanded that it be shown in every Soviet movie theater as a rallying cry against the invasion.
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The battle on the ice was inspired by Sergei M. Eisenstein's love for the D.W. Griffith film Way Down East (1920), in which the climax is a chase over a vast river of melting ice heading toward a waterfall.
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Sergei Prokofiev composed the score for the film and re-worked it into the cantata "Aleksandr Nevskiy". In 1995 the music was re-recorded for a VHS and laserdisc release of the film because of the poor quality and bad editing in the original, though the dialogue was left unchanged.
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The actual battle is reflected in both Old Russian and German chronicles, but information about specific details differs. One of the main differences is the number of warriors on the Teutonic side--German chronicles say 300, but Old Russian accounts give the number as 2000. The difference may be because the German accounts only mention the number of Teutonic knights themselves and not their servants, retinues and foot soldiers. Historians are still trying to determine exactly where the battle took place.
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Propaganda 2 Anti-Christianity: the Teutonic knights bear crosses on their capes, pennons and shields; crucifixes borne on rods by knights; the religious figures in the service of the knights and the religious services held; the destruction of the tent after the battle by the Master Armourer; the lack of religious figures and services/ celebrations on the Russian side (despite the crosses on top of the buildings).
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Propaganda 1 Pro-communism/Russia: the call for peasants to rise up and defeat the invaders; the involvement of a woman (Vasilisa) in the army and at the forefront of the struggle; the banishment of the moneyed men (the bourgeoisie) from the town as the peasants arrive; the forgiveness of the Russian people to the foot soldiers of the Teutonic knights (because they were forced to serve the knights).
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Propaganda 3 anti-German/Nazi: the symbol on the back of the gloves of the Archbishop is reminiscent of both Christian symbolism and of the swastika; some of the Teutonic figures closest to the tent chapel display crossed daggers on their tunics reminiscent of a swastika; many of the Teutonic knights carry flags and shields or wear clothes emblazoned with a figure resembling the imperial German eagle (the coat of arms of the Order of Teutonic Knights also incorporate a similar eagle); the Archbishop bears a minimally disguised swastika on his mitre/ headdress during the battle; many of the Teutonic foot soldiers wear helmets reminiscent of the German army of World War II; the treachery of the knight who kills Master Armourer despite having surrendered to him.
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Despite the film's anti-Christian approach, Alexander makes a biblical reference when addressing the Russian people near the end of the movie stating that they " . . . will be Judases all . . . " if they betray the victory just won.
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This film is included in "Eisenstein: The Sound Years", which is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #86.
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