Ivan the Terrible, Part II (1958) Poster

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jay4stein79-15 November 2004
Ivan the Terrible Part II, the culmination of Eisenstein's career, is easily one of the most brilliant films of all time.

Nothing - repeat absolutely nothing - in this film is sub-par. The acting, especially the inhuman physical contortions of Nikolai Cherkasov as the Tsar himself, is uniformly excellent. As is to be expected from Eisenstein, the direction is perfect. Eisenstein's compositions create painterly tableaux that can be watched endlessly on pause (especially now that Criterion has issued both Ivans on DVD), allowing the audience to take in the full breadth of this man's genius. Additionally, unlike, for example, Alexander Nevsky or Strike, Ivan the Terrible Part II (and part I) benefits from a smoother pace and better editing, putting Eisenstein's theory of montage to its best use since Potemkin.

For me, however, what two key components of this film set it apart from its prequel and Eisenstein's earlier Potemkin and October.

Those components, as you can imagine, are its more pronounce political allegory and its color sequence towards the end.

Certainly October and Potemkin were highly politicized affairs, both celebrating the Communist victory in Russia. In Ivan the Terrible Part II (and to a lesser extent Part I), the audience bears witness to a moment of challenge wherein Eisenstein becomes critical of the course his country and its post-Lenin leaders have taken. As such, Ivan the Terrible becomes one of the bravest moments in film history and, for that alone, should be commended.

Brilliant as a political critique, the film also represents a dazzling demonstration of how color could be used in cinema. The colorized dance at the end of the film rivals and prefigures the technicolor explosion in Douglas Sirk's 1950s melodramas; furthermore, it reveals that color can be used to achieve specific effects. It does not have to mimic reality; rather it can be used artistically to enhance the mood and atmosphere of the film.

Taken as a whole, the two-part Ivan the Terrible is a masterpiece of Russian Cinema and should be required viewing for anyone with the slightest bit of interest in film. My preference lies with the second part, but both are fantastic moments in film history.
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This is the movie of my life
ritamaduro7 February 2006
Ivan Grosnyy, Part II is the movie of my life; the Part I is also a very good film. It is the masterpiece of Sergei Eisenstein. Unfortunately we can never see the Part III of this meant to be trilogy. The performances (especially Nikolai Cherkasov), the photography, the wardrobe, the scenarios and the shots are the most beautiful I have ever seen in the history of film-making. However, it is necessary to watch the Part I first to understand the history. I suggest to all the people who like this genre of film to see another very good film of Sergey Eisenstein: Alexander Nevsky once again with Nikolai Cherkasov in the main role. I recommend to all the people who want to see these movies to by the Criterion DVD box set, which contains also first part and, Alexander Nevsky. Don't die without seeing these masterpieces.
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Shakespeare could like it
kikuchiyo-112 March 2005
While the first part of "Ivan the Terrible" is unique, stylized and powerful historical chronicle, second part is something more: poignant tragedy of authority. Since boyars poisoned Ivan's wife and his friends betrayed him, tsar remains in lonely. Oprichniki are only people he can trust. Ivan orders to kill some of boyars for instance, then Efrosinia Staricka (his aunt) sets plot against his life. One word gives atmosphere of this film: paranoia. Every character cares burden of fear - about his life, about his political business. Pervasive fear is delivered to us with unearthly dance of shadows, dramatic Prokofiev's score, haunting acting, poetic dialogs, monumental decorations and costumes. Everything looks very artificial but, paradoxically, not false; this film works with peerless emotional strength and brings as much true about authority as Shespeare's best works, being compatible to Maciavlelian theory of authority. There are only few films in history of cinema that so heavily consider problems of power (I'd mention "The Godfather, Part II" and Kurosawa's "Kagemusha" and "Ran" beside "Boyars Plot"). Don't miss. And if you decide to watch this film, I recommend: take great Criterion DVD box set which contains also first part and "Alexander Nevsky", another Eisenstein's sound masterpiece.
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colossus341 November 2004
Ivan the Terrible marks the final stages of the cinema's greatest creative genius: SERGI EISENSTEIN. It is the work of a director, a supreme artist who never ceased in probing new boundires, striking out uncharted paths, and searching the outer limits of his art. In the work, Eisenstein has gone eons beyond his earlier methods of film creation and for the first time approaches a true synthesis of dance, music, poetry, painting, photography, architecture, and all other forms of aesthetic communication.

The trials and tribulations surrounding the production and distribution of Ivan have become legendary in there own right. The film drew sharp criticism from Stalin and Eisenstein was forced to publicly announce his ''formalist errors.'' Subsequently, the film was banned in Russia until 1958 and Eisenstein was ostracized for what many saw as a film full of ''excess.'' It took many years before the world would come to realize it is nothing short of his greatest masterpiece.

A true cinematic realization of the ever elusive ''total work of art.'' A concept that originated with the Ancient Greeks and was further formulated by Richard Wagner in his epic masterwork, ''THE RING CYCLE.'' The Gestanmueack or ''intragel work of art'' as Wagner called it was in essence the synthesizing of every artistic medium into a single polyphonic experience. In the 20th century Eisenstein saw Wagner's music dramas as predecessors of cinema; a cinema that synthesized elements of all of mankind's arts into a single majestic, visceral and emotional experience which could transform and transfix the spectator. Together with the world renowned composer, master Sergei Prokofiev, and his lifelong cinematographer Eduard Tisse, Eisenstein labored for years researching and planning out every camera angle, lighting scheme, musical note, costume, color palette, gesture, and perspective; until every scene in Ivan becomes an intricate and complex world of its own. A world where actors twist and bend their forms to the limits of the plastic frame, shadows conceal and light reveals, the musical notes flow with the rhythm and tempo of the visual image and in the famous banquet scene, colors are used by Eisenstein to delve into the psychological states of the character's mind and state of being. It becomes a universe composed so precisely and diligently that every frame is infused with hidden metaphorical and symbolic meanings, and serves to create the epitome of cinematic achievement.

Tragically, like Schubert's great ''Unfinished Symphony'' or the Venus di Milo, Eisenstein passed away before completing the final part of his epic masterwork. What remains of Ivan the Terrible will live forever as a testament not only to the genius of Sergei Eisenstein but also to his unparalleled contribution to the world culture of the 20th century.
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Excellent in Every Respect
Snow Leopard12 May 2004
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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One of the true masterpieces of the cinema...
rnair1 October 2005
This space can't afford me the kind of gargantuan platform needed to speak on Eisenstein's masterwork (both parts) with the sort of attention to detail and passion that the director brings to the story of the Russian tsar. This is the rarest of films that stands as a testament to how cinema can extend beyond an entertainment and exist as a singular work of art and a document that works to expand our knowledge of the human condition. Every frame is rich, every scene speaks far more than any written line or action. The production is a phenomenal achievement in the absolute totality of the collaborative effort; the actors, the set, the cinematography, the soundtrack - every facet of the film-making process has worked to create a seamless connection. While the approach of the actors, the lighting and the choices of camera angles frustrate our standard ideas of what a movie should look and feel like, there is a design here; it is precise and it is brilliant. This is a film for those viewers who, as Eisenstein famously said, read (not just watched) the images on the screen. One of the two or three true masterworks in the history of movies.
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Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible films are two hugely underrated masterpieces
zetes27 April 2001
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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An allegory of power, an analysis of Stalinism
matzoni20 September 2004
Like the first part of the movie "Boyarsky Zagovor" (Conspiracy of the Boyars)is indeed a film about Stalin (who was a great admirer of Ivan the IV.) and the (seem-to-be)mechanics of power itself. The ideology, which is acted out (or reflected?!) stays much the same: one people/one leader is the ideal and necessary state of the (russian) nation, enabling it to take up with the other nations ("the Germans")The terror on the boyars and the elimination of some of them reflects Stalin's paranoiac action on comrades, subaltern party-members with the help of the "oprichniki" (here: Beriya and consorts). For instance, once in the movie, Ivan makes 'one of his best friends' the metropolit of Moscow, but in the same sequence is persuaded by the oprichniki's leader to kill his relevant to make him scared of Ivan's power. Because of this illustration of paranoiac stalinist mechanism, I can't agree on the popular notion, that the second movie is not as good as the first. One more reason: the most startling child actor ever: Erik Pyryev as the young tsar, ordering the chief boyar to be lashed.
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A Sequel That Is Another Masterpiece
claudio_carvalho2 November 2003
In 1564, Ivan, The Terrible (Nicolai Cherkasov), is feeling alone: his wife, friend and great companion was poisoned and his best friend, Prince Andreu Kurbsky (Mikhail Nazvanov) has betrayed him and delivered some Russian cities to Poland. Trying to have somebody to believe, he promotes Archbishop Philip (Andrei Abrikosov) to the highest authority of the church in the city of Moscow. Then, the story presents lot of treason in his court and a great revenge. This movie is so remarkable as `Part I' is. The photography, lights and shadows in black and white are again a piece of art. There are at least twenty minutes in color, and in my opinion t would be better off being only in black and white. The sumptuous scenarios are amazing, plenty of details and very luxury, and the story is a sequel of an epic. The direction and the performance of the cast are outstanding, making this movie another unforgettable masterpiece and highly recommended. However, it is necessary to watch the `Part I' first, otherwise the viewer will not understand the story. My vote is ten.
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It should be in a museum.
dbdumonteil8 August 2001
It's great art.Eisenstein can be compared to Michelangelo,no less.Needless to say,you've got to see part one -slightly inferior to this one,but what does it mean,when you' re watching the seventh art at the height of its terrible powers?-.This part focuses on the feud between Ivan and his aunt who tries to replace him by an effeminate imposter of her choice.Prokofiev music gives the feeling of watching an opera,the scenes in the cathedral recreate a mystery as it was in the Middle Ages as faithfully as you can wish.The peak of the movie remains the banquet,shot in color,thanks to spoils of war film.So stunning is Eisenstein's mastery of the picture that you can hardly exactly tell when the color returns to black and white (which for the final becomes a color in itself)Ivan's last soliloquy might seem aggressive and chauvinistic.But you've got to remember that the USSR were at war at the time ."Ivan" is timeless ,a monument that's as awesome today as it was for its -deleted,because of Stalin- 1958 release.
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Many Eyes, One Land
tedg10 May 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

The magic of the novel is that it creates God. It creates the place from which you observe, often participate in, and usually judge the events of the `story.'

There's more richness in the approaches than one would at first think, and novels are never about the `story,' always about this engineering of narrative. Film is more restrictive in that the narrator's sense is limited to sight (and sound), but there are also interesting opportunities available to a talented filmmaker that are not there for the writer.

There is an imposed bonding with time: the film artist controls time -- no simple power that. Some few filmmakers also play with the eye. Eisenstein (and very few others) invented a new eye.

The modern eye is based on a fluid camera, one that flies and swoops, that encircles, that slows and freezes. The modern eye finds perspectives that no human observer could. Unfortunately, few living people know how to use this eye well -- I think dePalma is the most accomplished: Sascha Vierny (recently departed) perhaps the most intelligent. But all are slaves to the technology of swooping because it can be done.

Here is a genius of another type of flying eye, the bird's eye. No, not a view looking down.

A bird has its eyes on either side of its head, so can never see the same thing with both. Humans depend on continuous motion to register scenes. Birds depend on many, sequential `stills.' Watch a bird, which is an inherently graceful animal. They are constantly jerking their heads around: getting new `shots.' This is the notion behind Eisenstein's eye.

He'll give a shot, then another from a different angle, then another and another, all from a stationary camera. No shot dwells. The camera dances as a character just as those on screen, but that's not all. He moves the lights, so that a closeup of a scene has the lights in different places. There's an intense choreography of lights and camera that are as compelling (more!) than the action shown. The rhythm of the cuts is the overwhelming clock of the experience.

Just as Ivan invents the Russian people, so too does Eisenstein invent the notion of dancing rhythm of film and thus a new narrative perspective, unique to film.
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History is small in front of this film
Dr_Coulardeau15 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This double film is a masterpiece in many ways. It took two years of research before starting to come out of thin air and being filmed. The first part came out in 1944 and the second part in 1945. This means the research was done when the USSR was down under the feet of the Nazis. The first part came out when the tide had turned and the Russians were already advancing in Poland. The second part came out after the fall of Berlin or close before. The political meaning at the time was clear. The first part was singing the praise of the man who unified Russia, just like it was necessary in the war years to reunify the USSR for the last push to Berlin. The second part is slightly different since it was the time when Ivan the Terrible had to face the plots and conspiracy from the Boyars, the nobles and the top echelon church people and he had to defeat them with wise schemes more than just plain violence. That was of course essential after the war to face the various groups of people who could have spoken out of unity now the outside danger was eliminated. But we have to go beyond this immediate and historical value of the film when it was shot. It is a masterpiece because Eisenstein uses rather simple means to produce an epic film whose every scene is poignant, powerful, impressive, etc. Eisenstein uses all the possibilities his know-how and experience provide him with. Of course he uses black and white to play on shade, shadows and contrast so that some scenes are frightening and quite in the line of the big masters of horror of the late 20s, Fritz Lang or Murnau. He uses the body language and the composition of the scenes and setting to make every single square centimeter meaningful and active. The hands, the faces, the bodies are among the best actors of the film along with the actors themselves, quite in the line of what Eisenstein was doing in the 20s, but even better because he was able to use their lips in order to make them speak. The soundtrack is prodigious. He composes a real symphony with voices used in the most dramatic and expressive way, with all kinds of sounds and noise that give a real depth to the pictures on the screen and the voices of the actors, and finally the outstanding music score by Prokofiev: probably one of the best film music ever and that music totally avoids the repetitiveness of the music of the old silent films to create a fully developed universe of its own that amplifies the voices and the sounds and noises. That creates the epic atmosphere the story itself needs. What's more, in the second part, the use of color for two reels of the film shows the force of the black and white reels, and at the same time shows how Eisenstein can use the color of these reels in order to create a different but similar contrast, this time centered on red dominating the various other colors that are essentially, white, black and yellow. The red of these reels becomes the expression of life and at the same time of some oppressiveness coming from some danger that red also designates (and surprisingly enough we cannot find any "revolutionary" meaning to that red, but we may be missing some inside meaning in the USSR of the time). The films have been digitally re-mastered but not in any way changed: we still have the jerky pictures of those days and the blurry sound track of before digital sound (even the music that could have been re-recorded). And it is good because we really have the impression to watch an old film from the 50s. By the way do not believe what the historical presentation of the bonuses tell you, in English, at least in my edition, because it is purely there to pacify those who may see Stalin behind Ivan.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
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pinnacle of melodrama
jimi9924 February 2006
After filming part I of "Ivan" in his classical vein, with his mastery of the silent era still finely honed, Eisenstein had a much different vision for Part II. It is nothing short of his Wagnerian opera, albeit with a score by the master Prokofiev, with all the surreality and hysteria inherent in opera. It is also his most modern film, with the brilliant kinetic color sequence of the banquet, surely one of the most famous and astounding scenes ever filmed. Shot in the dire depths of World War II, in 1944-45, it is like all Russian films passionately nationalistic, but perhaps it was too Wagnerian for Stalin, who hated it, demanded Eisenstein repudiate it, which not only prevented the master from filming the 3rd part of his trilogy, but destroyed his career and health.

For modern audiences, particularly postmodern audiences, the film has the stagy melodramatic acting, pacing and movement of the silent era that videodrones and harrypotters will never appreciate. But out of the melodramatic style unfolds the most emotionally honest drama, however larger than life and on a grand historical canvas.
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expressionism as a the ultimate means to majestic art
atrolleynatrain12 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
part two is undoubtedly the best half. not just for the entrancing colour scenes that flash before our eyes as a most generous gift, but also because the eerier ivan never gives in to the monster he seems to have become. ivan is depicted like a forgiving evil spirit and these opposite natures make the character the puzzling critique to despots and other scum of the sort it is. one of the works of art that has haunted me since i was a teenager and hasn't lost its spell. furthermore, the invocation of the tsar's childhood offers one of the best acting performances of both movies (part 1 and 2): ivan, the young orphan. in a way, we're eventually disarmed through the strange beauty of the boy, already the tsar, already the god-like figure. the love and care deprived angel grows into the grey bearded nocturnal predator with his thugs in black hoods only to concede damnation to his aunt, conceding her a bit of well-deserved distorted muliebrity in the lush portrait of the demented pietá. but both young and adult ivans are truly and deeply the depiction of righteousness, no matter what kingdom, no matter what purposes, and revenge itself takes the frame of sacrificial salvation with the Shakespearian counter-plot against his foes. to sum up, cherkassov's strabismus and thick eyelashes are just superficial baits to a huge masterpiece of film-making.
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about Stalin
Kirpianuscus30 May 2018
The first part was considered as an eulogy. and, maybe, legitimation for Stalin regime. the second part is more than a critic . because it is realistic portrait of the essence of Soviet communism. because, scene by scene, not Ivan Vasilievich is the lead hero but the camarade Stalin. sure, the technical solutions, the genius of Eisenstein, the tension and the use of colors in the last scenes are the pieces defining this film as masterpiece. but the political message is not exactly just a detail. but the clue. the fate of movie is the basic proof. the war against Ivan Groznyy III is the other. for regime, after 1953, maybe, the risks to use the material is too sensitive. because, from the second part, it becomes a manifesto. it is an impressive film. for many reasons. but, in same measure, it is one of the most inspired analysis of the totalitarian regimes. for me, this fact transforms Ivan Groznyy in more than a masterpiece but in a powerfull warning.
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The very peak of genious...
John Red13 January 2002
After a long time of waiting I finally could lay my hands upon the well talked about "Ivan Groznyj". Having seen other known Eisenstein masterpieces prior to this, my expectations were, to say the least, very high. Did "Ivan..." match these expectations?

Yes, it did. But not just matched them. It actually surpassed these and with its magnificent elegance, fearfulness and malevolent imagery, it outshone any contenders in the field of scenography and images. Kubrick and Bergman almost falls as easy and simple in comparison to this marvelous masterpiece.

Some can claim "Ivan..." to be a over pretentious work, falling by its own weight and volume and that the deliberate overacting by Cherkasov (among others) only helps the fall. Personally I can not agree. The mere force and art of every picture in the film is a perfect collaboration and every detail has its place. Of course one will not tend to notice even half of the details after viewing the film less then four times. It is seldom that I have seen such details and such a power behind them. They work in both the physical and psychological sense.

As for the deliberate overacting I can do nothing but applaud Cherkasov as I am watching the film. Every small movement and every facial expression is planed, practiced and preformed with the utmost brilliance.

"Ivan... part 2" is also better than part 1. Mostly because Eisenstein's now very visible portrayal of Stalin and the history of the Russian leaders ever-present enslavement and despotism over their people. In part 2, all of the Soviet moralism and patriotic messages are long gone and Eisensteins dark and morbid portrayals dominate most of the film.

It is not a mystery why Stalin and the Communist part banned the film. Eisenstein's work reached its very peak in "Ivan..." and it is a real shame that he could not finish it and that he's hand were bound during the making of it. In my opinion it could have been perhaps the greatest film series of all time and I believe that even though the excellence and the sheer brilliance of Part 2, Eisenstein would have made the unfinished Part 3 just as brilliant.
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I haven´t seen anything like this before in my life!!
anton-616 January 2002
WOW!!! Such a film.First of all why did it never came out part 3 I mean it could have been the best trilogy ever made.This was made in 1945-46 but banned for 12 years.It was it because Stalin did not like it at all.Because of Ivan´s secret police and maybe because they also show Ivan as a weak person.He has no friends and that he really suffer for.As historical films I guess they are not better then others but that was not the idea either.

I could never dreamed of that the color sequence would have been as good as this.The whole plot is really superb.You can watch every visual image of this film and just see the art in it.I can´t find nothing that I do not like about these to films,it has a own style.The acting is also powerful and it fit´s in perfectly.

Part two has a very ghost-alike feeling and in the color sequence the red colors is really masterful.This was Eisenstein´s last film he died in 1948 only 50 years old.

This two epics is if you are interesting of a film a treasure.They are some of the best films I have seen because I have never seen anything like this.I recommend the criterion collection box set Eisenstein:the sound years, very much.

Rating: Ivan the terrible parts 1&2 I rate 5/5
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Sympathetic portrayal of a cracked despot (part 2)
Spondonman18 March 2007
Part 2 followed on from Part 1 without a gap – the 2 put together would make one colossal movie. The only trouble being that the last 90 minutes or so would still be missing (Part 3). This has a 16 minute colour sequence near the end plus the last 2 minutes that added a new dimension to the story, and although the spotlighting was a bit ropey it all worked well with the usual fantastic camera angles and ugly brooding people.

Ivan vacillates between doing it his way and relying on Mother Church for help. Either way the plotting aristocratic boyars have to be sorted out for once and for all, this he sets out to accomplish with the help of the Men Apart – his NKVD. In reality Ivan was going mad at this period, the similarities to Stalin still resound. Eisenstein pulled his punches but must have known Part 2 would end up in trouble, which it did – it wasn't released from the metaphorical gulag until 1958, and Part 3 was aborted. Intensely absorbing and startlingly melodramatic by turns it still hasn't got the same energy as Part 1, but that only makes it a lesser classic. Again, it resembles a sedate silent film with sound (with a bit of red this time), the simple tale powerfully told by a master propagandist using sledgehammer symbolism at every turn. Intelligent film-making is hardly the phrase to use – a previous post compared Eisenstein correctly to Kurosawa – very different styles but with the same results.

Wonderful sequel, much better to be watched on the heels of Part 1. At least the people who didn't like that won't watch this and comment adversely on it, right?
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The part of Ivan the Terrible that Stalin did not like
frankde-jong6 August 2020
"Ïvan the Terrible" (1944 and 1958) was made in the second part of the career of Sergeij Eisenstein. It was no longer the Eisenstein of the revolutionary movies ("Battleship Potemkin" (1925) and "Oktober" (1927)) with associative montage and short cuts. It was the Eisentein of historical drama's ("Alexander Nevski" (1938 and "Ivan the Terrible" (1944 & 1958)) with clearly noticable influences of German expressionism and long takes. Mainly due to the beautiful music of Sergei Prokofiev the movie takes on elements of a Wagnerian opera.

In part 2 of the film Ivan, maybe because of the death of his wife, becomes ever more suspicious and cruel. Stalin liked this part of the movie a lot less than the first part. Probably he recognized too much of himself in the character of Ivan and was afraid the moviegoer would make the same connection. Whatever it may be, the film was banished in Russia until 1958, 10 years after the death of Eisenstein and 5 years after the death of Stalin.
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treywillwest7 December 2017
Both of Eisenstein's Ivan films are extremely impressive, though it is part two that makes them a water-shed moment in film, and to a degree twentieth century, history.

Aesthetically, perhaps the most impressive thing about the films is the art direction. That sounds like a strange thing to say about a film as intricately constructed as this one but I'll stick by it. The set pieces are not just impressive, but constitute brilliant and unique works of art in and of themselves. The nightmarishly icon-covered walls of the sets, the gorgeous but sinister props representing stupendous luxury and power, but also id-infused terror, could fill the halls of a major museum and wow in their own right, even if they were not part of a watershed-film.

This is the only one of Eisenstein's films, that I know of, to be composed almost entirely of interior scenes. This gives a very claustrophobic quality, and makes the "leader of the people" seem utterly cut-off from the land and people he represents. The incredible chiaroscuro lighting also leads me to believe that Eisenstein had managed to watch the then only 7 or 8 year old Citizen Kane. Eisenstein's famed close-ups are juxtaposed with Wellsian deep focus and disorienting angles including those of ceilinged sets.

And yes, that sense of detachment is what becomes, much more pointedly in part 2, the work's famed political commentary. Eisenstein had surely been prepared to die when Stalin saw the second film. It's depiction of the leader is unmistakable and, indeed, was not mistaken. Stalin repressed the second film and the planned third installment was never begun. Ivan is depicted as not so much monstrous, but trapped by power. By the second film he is more pathetic than terrifying. A man who is left desperately lonely because he has murdered all of his friends.
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Eisenstein vs. Stalin
gavin69423 May 2017
As Ivan the Terrible attempts to consolidate his power by establishing a personal army, his political rivals, the Russian boyars, plot to assassinate their Tsar.

This film has made it to Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list, as well as many other lists of movies to see before you die. And, indeed, it really is an incredible story of Russia, the Tsar, the church and the boyars (the old aristocracy in Russia).

But what makes the film most notable is not the film itself (though it is good), but its production history. This film upset Stalin himself, effectively banning the movie for over a decade, as well as resulting in the cancellation of part three and essentially ending Sergei Eisensein's film career. As Eisenstein is possibly the greatest Russian director of all time, this is quite a feat.
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great film
adeyinw12 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
In the film Ivan the Terrible Part II, directed by Sergei Eisenstein and M. Filimonova, the main character, Nikolai Cherkasov, allows the piece to be dramatic with betrayal and no success with uniting a people. By having Cherkasov play Ivan, he is allowing himself to bring a little of Sergei Eisenstein's, whose is the writer, life into the film as well. This film that was made in 1959, allowed Eisenstein to use Ivan as a way to tell his good and bad that he has experienced while growing up. In Russia, Ivan was named Tsar, and soon after events were not going smoothly for him as planned. He wanted to unite Russia, but other people had different plans or did not think it could be done. As Ivan grew old with age, his power grew and greed as well. Also, people betraying him grew. His determination for unity and his greed in doing so led to others' actions against him. This caused him to lose his wife and his best friend. In Part II, we are given a better understanding of Ivan's pain and why he does or thinks certain things. His mother was killed just saying a few words to him before the boyars took him away. "Don't trust the boyars." Ivan lived with this for the rest of his life. Ivan's strong determination to unite Russia led to him being THE TERRIBLE as everyone called him. But during the request to come to the church, he declared himself Ivan the Terrible just like everyone else did. That is when people began to worry and the ultimate betrayal came into place, because of fear of Ivan. His own aunt that had betrayed him previously like everyone else in his life, requested to have him killed so that her son could be tsar. Before this thought was even processed in his aunt's brain, Ivan knew his wife was poisoned by his aunt, but did not chose to do anything until his cousin crossed the line and laughed at him in church. The use of Ivan's eyes told it all and that is why Ivan's aunt had to have him killed. Speaking of the eyes. Many eyes on the walls are used to give us the idea that you are always being watched. Not only are they always there, but at times in the same room but at different times, the eyes will change depending on the mood of the people in the room. For example, if there is sadness amongst a main character at the movement, then the eyes on the wall will show sadness. Also, the eyes of the people are used to communicate or express themselves as well. For example, in the opening scene of Part II, the ladies used their eyes at the palace of Poland to show interest either in Ivan's old friend or just to what he was saying. In the book, Ivan the Terrible, it says the following: Eyes in Ivan seem to have a life of their own. They move almost independently of their owners. Up and down, from side to side, slowly and swiftly, eyes draw lines inside the sockets, around the spaces their bodies inhabit, and to the depths beyond" (108). The use of the eyes in this film is what interested me. I have always been fascinated with the use of the body to explain or express something without saying a word. When I worked at an airport in Chicago, sometimes I came across people that did not speak English, so I had to use gestures to communicate with them. When I succeeded they felt helpful and I felt like I was on top of the word. So the non-verbal communication with the characters is what really stuck out for me.
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even more florid and wild than Part I, but just as thrilling
OldAle117 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Ivan returns to Moscow and begins the film in much the same way as we saw him in Part I, consolidating his power and attempting to break the control of much of the wealth of the country by the hereditary landowners, the boyars; the film is subtitled Boyarsky zagovar or "Boyar's Plot", so we know that this struggle will be central to the film. Ivan looks older and more tired, and there is even early on a glint of madness and fear in his eyes. Cherkassov is just as impressive as in the first film and conveys both age and growing paranoia subtly and broadly as the scenes demand.

The intricate plot involves Ivan's growing suspicions of both his aunt Efrosina, who he (correctly) believes poisoned his wife and plots his own death, and his onetime friend Kolychev, who became the monk Philip in Part I. Philip has now agreed to become the Metropolitan of Moscow, essentially Ivan's link with the church -- here we have many opportunities to see the corruption of religion, which no doubt Stalin approved, though the rest of the film obviously appealed less to him as he had it shelved for the rest of his life -- and he is frustrated by what he sees as Ivan's misuse of power. Eventually the boyars get through to him, and in a truly magical and glorious kinetic celebration of dance, music and even color (red-tinted apparently 2-strip film from the Germans) Efrosina's and Philip's plots come together in the person of Efrosina's idiot son Vladimir....

I won't spoil the ending, and will just finish my remarks by noting that the film also contains flashbacks to the Tsar's childhood, showing the justifications for his paranoia and hatred of the boyars as we see how his parents were both murdered at their behest; the young Ivan in these scenes (Erik Pyryev) is particularly notable; and the musical/dance sequences that occupy the last third of the film allow us to see Eisenstein at his Hollywood-gaudiest, a potential director of Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, a mounter of neo-Busby Berkley spectaculars. What films those might have been! It's impossible for me to pick a favorite between the two films; Part I is in some ways closer to an action spectacle, an old 30s serial; Part II is wilder and woollier, more expressionistic and less real but just as involving...for me the progression of Ivan's character is quite believable, the performance of Cherkassov perfectly suited to a man who is aware that he is, in the minds of his people and the limited political conscience of a medieval world, more than a man though far less than a God or an angel.

The Criterion DVD is, like the disc for Part I, absolutely splendid; it's hard to imagine the film looking better than this, or indeed any film from the era looking better.
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"Truly, what pleasure is it to be Tsar?"
Steffi_P8 June 2007
The second in what should have been a trilogy, Ivan the Terrible Part 2 follows on from Part I not only in story but in style. Eisenstein approached the Ivan the Terrible films from a traditional theatrical angle appropriate to the subject matter. As others have commented, this was his equivalent of a Shakespeare adaptation.

If anything, Part 2 is even more baroque and stylised than its predecessor. The opening scene – the defection of Kurbsky - is Eisenstein at his most operatic, with exaggerated acting that flows along with Prokofiev's score. But it's totally cinematic too, with spot on editing between facial close-ups, giving us an impression of the allegiances and hidden thoughts at play here. Eisenstein never really stopped thinking like a director of silents, and although the Ivan films are quite wordy they can be read and understood purely as visuals.

The first scene is also the lightest and happiest, which seems unusual – after all it's a scene in which Ivan's best friend is betraying him and going over to join his enemy – but in the context of the whole picture perhaps it's not that strange. While Ivan the Terrible Part 1 was a great study of the power of a charismatic individual, part 2 focuses more on the loneliness and insecurity of a powerful figure. The majority of part 2 is incredibly dark and eerie, full of disturbing imagery. Ivan is ageing, he's widowed and he trusts no-one. Eisenstein still makes him vaguely sympathetic, but more as a tragic figure than a conquering hero. So it makes sense for Kurbsky's betrayal to be so bright and jaunty – this is the world Ivan has lost. Of course, it's fairly likely that Eisenstein was himself feeling stifled by the Soviet regime, and perhaps the subtext here is that he secretly longed to do a Kurbsky himself!

Part 2 includes a short colour sequence in the film's climax. This serves to show off a hypnotic dance routine, a magnificent set piece which forms a backdrop to Ivan's final act of retribution against his enemies. The picture quality is terrible here (No Technicolor in the USSR!), even worse than early two-strip Technicolor. It's very fuzzy, and only the blues and reds show up boldly. Eisenstein takes this on board however, and uses red and blue to create a "hot" and "cold" look respectively, using the two colours as he used light and dark in monochrome.

Although they are very similar, I prefer part 2 somewhat to part 1. Whereas part 1 was more a collection of episodes, part 2 is a more complete, singular story. As a little side point, Ivan the Terrible part 2 should perhaps be classed as a musical. There are several musical numbers, two are in the context of the film, but the other is a genuine case of a character bursting into song, like a medieval Russian Julie Andrews. And why not? The musical is a cousin of the opera, and the border between opera and cinema is incredibly close in this picture.

Sadly, this picture was banned by the soviet state and part 3 (which was already in production) was axed. Purportedly this was because the highlighting of Ivan's iron rule and his use of spies and secret police was thought to be an attack on Stalin's government, although I think the real reason might have been more personal. Stalin looked upon Ivan as a role model, and may have taken offence at the portrayal of the Tsar as a paranoid, decrepit old man (Like Disney, Eisenstein often drew upon animal characteristics; some have compared the middle-aged Ivan to Disney's Big Bad Wolf, although I've always thought of him as looking more like a vulture). Whatever the case, we are on the one hand very lucky that Eisenstein's swansong has survived intact, yet on the other hand unlucky that the concluding part of the trilogy never saw the light of day, as it would surely have been another classic.
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Proof of Contributing Historical Origins, Precedents for NeoCons
globalgoodwill24 June 2006
There is more than a passing resemblance to the easily-recognized ideological mantrums (and nostrums) of Cesar's Rome, Napoleon's French Revolution, Hitler's Third Reich, and modern day Myanmar-style dictatorships. It is worth remembering here that Bush II has been quoted as an admirer of Hitler in this regard; however, he had not yet seen Ivan the Terrible at the time of his remark.

Sergi Einstein, Film Creator and Director, represents here the forces of enlightenment having finally penetrated the Art and Craft of cinematography, in the same tradition of today's Aung San Su Kyi in Myanmar, who penetrated the socio-economics of dictatorial politics became a martyr for Burmese political democracy, or Martin Luther King who became a martyr for religious integrity in America. Each penetrated the art and craft of the "media" with their message of enlightenment in their own time, and each was subsequently both lionized and martyred by the pallid posturings and inaction of the surrounding civilizations of their own time.

The film today continues to serve as a brilliant expose of the psychotic "magical thinking" and egotistical self-delusion behind the ageless struggles for political and religious righteousness and supremacy, from neocon ideological "crusades" to terrorist socio-economic "jihad" in the name of destiny, righteousness, and, yes, even god, and clearly demonstrates the historical failure of concomitant collaboration between religious theological and political ideological "purity" to mask the ulterior pursuit of base self-aggrandizement in the all-seeing eye of history.
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