Part 1: Written, produced, directed, and edited by Sergei Eisenstein

Cinematography by Andrei Moskvin (interiors) and Eduard Tisse (exteriors)
Original music by Sergei Prokofiev
Production design by Iosif Shpinel
Art direction by Sergei Eisenstein
Cast: Nikolai Cherkasov, Lyudmila Tselikovskaya, Serafima Birman, Mikhail Nazvanov
USSR, 1944, B&W, Criterion Collection (screening courtesy of Seagull Films), digital, 1.37:1, 103 min.

Ivan, Prince of Muscovy, seizes the title “Czar of All the Russias” and proclaims his destiny is to defeat all enemy kingdoms, both in the East and in the West, who are preventing the emergence of a greater Russian empire in the 16th century, but the boyars (aristocrats of the court) and his aunt are determined to stand in his way.

During 1942-1944 Sergei Eisenstein completed the first part of his planned trilogy about the man who ruthlessly forged the various Russian principalities into a grand empire, with Moscow as its capital. IVAN THE FEARSOME was released in 1944, when the Soviet Union was still embroiled in war with the Nazi regime in Germany and embraced in military friendship by the Western Allies. Reportedly Stalin, the “Ivan the Great” of the Soviet Union, loved Eisenstein’s film which had so many echoes of the dictator’s own struggles to acquire and then retain his power over the multitudes in the enormous Soviet empire. Besides the enemies of the West and East, who still denied the right of a Communist political system to exist, Stalin had plenty of enemies within his military and even among the men who surrounded him in the Kremlin. Ivan called on “the people” to prove their desire for his rule, just as Stalin would develop his own un-Marxist “cult of personality” based on the “will of the people.” With the release of IVAN THE FEARSOME, Eisenstein found himself once more in favor with the Soviet dictator, who honored the film with the “Stalin Prize.”  

Part 2: Written, produced, and directed by Sergei Eisenstein
Cinematography by Andrei Moskvin and Eduard Tisse
Original music by Sergei Prokofiev
Production design by Iosif Shpinel and Sergei Eisenstein
Art direction by Iosif Shpinel
Editing by Esfir Tobak
Cast: Nikolai Cherkasov, Serafima Birman, Pavel Kadochnikov, Mikhail Zharov
USSR, 1946/1958, B&W and color, Criterion Collection (screening courtesy of Seagull Films), digital, 1.37:1, 88 min.

Production of the second part of the IVAN trilogy was finished in 1946 but was not released to the public because of Stalin’s displeasure with the depiction of a more bloodthirsty Czar Ivan. Even though he had loved the image of Ivan the heroic founder of Greater Russia in Part I, this new film perhaps cut too close to the bone of the destructive dictator. Since the 1930s Stalin had been conducting purges of those who posed any threat to his complete control over the Soviet Union. His secret police grew in power and could swoop down upon any “enemy of the State” and jail them or make them disappear. A reign of terror kept all dissenters in check. In Eisenstein’s second part of the trilogy, Ivan the Great became “Ivan the Terrible” as he began systematically removing anyone he suspected of evil intentions against his reign. In many ways Part II is the more interesting of the two completed films, because Eisenstein had some pivotal scenes filmed in color. There seems to be less posturing and more acting than in Part I. But both contain Eisenstein’s incredible pictorial genius. Unfortunately most of the footage for Part III was confiscated and reportedly destroyed upon the sudden death of Eisenstein in 1948.


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In 15th century Russia a prince of Moscow names himself Czar of all the Russias and vows to destroy all enemies, both external and internal, in his quest to make Russia a powerful player on the world's stage.
Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 7:30 PM
Attendees: 1 $ 8.00 ea.

Thursday, September 12, 7:30 PM
AFS at The Marchesa
(6226 Middle Fiskville Rd - Click here for directions)

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