Sunday, September 27, 2015

A brief look at Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky

Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein (Сергей Михайлович Эйзенштейн) was an influential Soviet Russian film director. Among his most famous works were his Soviet propaganda films Alexander Nevsky (1938) and the Ivan the Terrible films (1944, 1958). Alexander Nevsky was a depiction of the  Battle of the Ice, which was fought between the Republic of Novgorod (led by prince Alexander Nevsky) and the Livonian branch of the Teutonic knights on April 5, 1242. This historical drama was made around the time of WWI, the portrayal Teutonic knights as barbaric zealots being both a jab at the Germans and the Catholic church. This film is noted for its clever special effects as well as being one of the first films to set the standard of matching imagery with the film score. Some of the film was shot to the film score and some of the film score was composed to Eisenstein's footage. A few of the more notable effects were the attempts to create a wintery environment for a film being shot in the summer, such as painting trees light blue and dusting them with chalk, using sand to create an artificial horizon, and the construction of simulated ice sheets out of asphalt and melted glass supported by floating pontoons that were to be deflated on cue to create the illusion of the ice sheets breaking apart under the weight of the knights according to pre-cut patterns. The film is also remembered for the score composed by Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev (Сергей Сергеевич Прокофьев), specifically the track for the climactic battle fought on the frozen Lake Peipus. Innovation such as this has led to Eisenstein's place in Russian history as one of the most influential film directors of all time.

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