Sergei Eisenstein drew on history, Russian folk narratives, and the techniques of Walt Disney to create this broadly painted epic of Russian resilience, the story of Teutonic knights vanquished by Prince Alexander Nevsky’s tactical brilliance.
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What is up with those Germans? It's like they're the apotheosis of evil. Man! This is an incredible collaboration between masters of music and cinema. Is it ironic that Walt Disney, who inspired Eisenstein, was such an Anti-Semite? Weird!
A curious pantomime of a film, as phoney and kitsch as any Disney film, yet with Eisenstein's primal power to impress, thanks to his grounding in the brutal visual simplicty of silent cinema. To think that once I thought this was better than his "Ivan The Terrible"...
It looked incredibly ugly, it's music was rubbish, it's dialogue was absurd, it's acting ridiculous, it's battle scenes seemed amateurish with no scale, the pacing and narrative seemed slapdash - just an utter mess. On top of that it was hyper-nationalistic, sexist and lacked any depth whatsoever (the explicit Hitler allegory hold no depth) , for example the rousing of the peasants had no intelligence whatsoever.
I often wonder what Russian filmmaking would have been like had the Bolshevik Revolution never happened, forcing its artists to only make films in such a manner as to glorify Communism. Even camera styles had to be "non-bourgeois.". But I've always had a soft spot for Soviet propaganda films, and Eisenstein in particular, and this historical epic, while a bit hokey and heavy handed at times, is undeniably glorious.
The propaganda in this film has to be understood within the historical context of its 1938 release date in the Soviet Union, when the territorial threat posed by Nazi Germany loomed large. Substitute Nazis for the Teutonic Knights, and ALEXANDER NEVSKY becomes something more than a thrillingly filmed and scored (Prokofiev!) chronicle of a 13th century event.
This film should first be evaluated for its cinematography. Its clear that patriotic and communist values dominate the screenplay, but I think that neither that nor the politic analogy to the relation between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union undermines the greatness of this production.
Besides, Prokofiev amazing soundtrack and the richness of the wardrobe gives an iconic mark to this film.