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.
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"...
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.
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.
Excellent cinematography, arguably the single feature that elevates this film. The battle scene is superb given the limitations of the time. The myriad of peasants and knights are delicately characterised and choreographed to give a very realistic feeling to the story. The film also strikes a cord for its accute insight into a perilous era, prelude of one of saddest episodes in XX century Russian history.