Eisenstein drew on history, Russian folk narratives, and the techniques of Walt Disney to create this broadly painted epic of Russian resilience. This story of Teutonic knights vanquished by Prince Alexander Nevsky’s tactical brilliance resonated deeply with a Soviet Union concerned with the rise of Nazi Germany. Widely imitated—most notably by Laurence Olivier’s Battle of Agincourt re-creation for Henry V—the Battle on the Ice scene remains one of the most famous audio-visual experiments in film history, perfectly blending action with the rousing score of Sergei Prokofiev. —The Criterion Collection
The son of a shipbuilder, Eisenstein chose a career in the arts over engineering or architecture. After W.W. I he worked as a designer and a director in the theater, where he developed his theory of “Soviet realism.” One of his plays was staged not in a theater but in a gasworks. It was inevitable that Eisenstein would gravitate toward cinema, with its natural potential for realism.
His 1st film, Strike (1924), was so inventive and vigorous that it drew immediate attention. The 27-year-old director filmed Potemkin in 2 months. It is remarkable for its maturity and masterly use of camera techniques. Eisenstein was also a pioneer in film editing, and the film is a virtual textbook of this art. In a famous scene, a baby carriage rolls down a long flight of steps while a horrified student watches helplessly from below. The images are intercut and the action slows down, alternating the separate images into one shocking scene. So original was his style that even though it has been… read more
The stilted moments of drama unfortunately undercut this film's qualities. Even rewatching Nevsky now after many, many years, back at college, have past, it still falters when Eisenstein's silent films were completely succinct, pure cinema. It feels like a film where sound technology was completely new, and like a few fIlms I've seen, it hindered the full effect of the final work. Still, there is a charm to Nevsky, and it’s still the creation of Eisenstein, moments where his gifts for visual composition are allowed to shine.
Eisenstein's graphic conflict is so strong when there is no reliance upon internal conflict, although with the removal of political, symbolic and physical conflicts the drama clearly needs the push of a storyteller (rather than an essayist). Incredible moments of dramatic jolt in which backgrounded and large compositional elements ("Church," mountains) clash with variously challenging concepts of the Russian people!
The emotional and technical power of the film outshines the littered scenes of propaganda and insulting childishness, which, hopefully, might be irony on the part of Eisenstein. For me, though, the Teutonic knights dominate the film, even as they lay silent on the ice.
“Alexander Nevsky” is a spectacularly staged 1938 historical pageant about the attempted invasion of Novgorod, Russia by the Germanic Teutonic Knights of the Holy Roman Empire in 1242 and how they… read review